The Game Factory is making the most of their Garfield licensing rights, and are following up their GBA title with a game based on the new movie. Garfield 2: A Tale of Two Kitties moves up to the GBA’s successor, the DS, but still retains the same Garfield charm. With this release, Game Factory proves that they can use the DS hardware, if not yet exploit its full potential.
I haven’t seen the film, but from what I can garner from the levels, the game itself does not span the entire movie but makes up a small portion of it. Specifically, it takes place while Garfield is trying to reach the palace of Prince XII. Even though it happens within that limited space, the game is by no means small—it is comprised of 22 levels, most of which are rather extensive. The size and variety of locales is impressive, considering this game was produced on a limited timetable, to coincide with the DVD release of the movie.
I found the first couple of levels easy, but they are really minor tutorials for the rest of the game, which increases in difficulty and complexity. A small menu is displayed on the top screen, showing Garfield, and his current destination and collectibles as his thought bubbles. The gameplay itself is presented on the touch screen. I would have like more synergy between the two screens, to have them working in tandem and with more function from the top screen, but what Game Factory has presented works well and gets the job done.
Most of the stages are side-scrolling, but in 3D, which adds the element of depth. Garfield can be leaping up the catwalks of a building, only to jump around the building’s curved surface and have the camera pan with him. Similarly, running along the ground is not limited to a straight path; occasionally Garfield will run toward the screen to change directions and explore a new area. It’s a bit disconcerting at first, but gamers will get the hang of it quickly.
This sense of exploration plays a small role in some of the levels, up to the point where players can make a limited choice of Garfield’s direction. When the adventurous cat comes to a figurative fork in the road, two small paw prints appear in the touch screen. Tapping either one will set Garfield off on a new path, and the player can come back and choose their previous path at any time.
The platforming is pretty much traditional, with a few twists thrown it. Garfield is decidedly agile for such a chubby cat, and can jump higher than I expected. Getting the timing right with his jumps takes a bit more practice than in other games, because the initial jump must be executed to get air distance, and then direction and length of the jump should be handled. To explain it in simpler terms, Garfield kind of half-floats once he’s in the air, giving him a satisfying, “springy” feeling appropriate for a cat.
Garfield is given nine “lives” for each level, which really amount to hits that he can take. They don’t really come into play until the third level or so when hazards start appearing. Roving porcupines, steam from vents and falling debris can all decrease Garfield’s hit points, and losing all nine hits sets you back at the beginning of the level. The combat in the GBA title was a bit quirky, and Game Factory has remedied this by removing it entirely—avoidance is the only policy when it comes to bad guys. There aren’t that many hostiles to begin with, and I personally like the change. Without the confusion of punching or kicking, the platforming is all the much tighter.
There aren’t any real goals along the way, such as flipping switches or finding secrets, but each level is littered with food, collectible for a high score. Navigating the labyrinthine levels is a goal in and of itself, and finding a way past all the obstacles is satisfying enough. Progression is mainly vertical, with high chasms and tall tree branches dominating the scenery. Leaping back and forth from hanging sheets, clinging to wooden boards with Garfield’s claws, and riding moving conveyors was all very comfortable. At some points I was even reminded a bit of the Prince of Persia games, which shows the skill of Game Factory’s developers—clearly, they know platforming.
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