The last Garfield game that I subjected myself to was Garfield and His Nine Lives, a 2D GBA platformer that left me excruciatingly bored. The collision detection was incredibly poor, Garfieldís arsenal of moves was limited to a few meager attacks which were too difficult to land, the level design was amateurish and the game made absolutely no use of the library of source material that preceded it. Mostly, I hated the game because Iím a life-long Garfield fan and it just didnít live up to my expectations. Naturally, I was a little skeptical to give another Garfield game a shot after how disappointed I was with Nine Lives. But, Iím glad that I did give Garfieldís Nightmare a chance because while it still suffers from some of the faults that hindered Nine Lives, Nightmare would still be a solid 2D platformer even if it didnít have Garfield as the main character.
Much like Nine Lives, Nightmare takes absolutely no advantage of the source material, but the premise is much better than Garfieldís previous adventure. Instead of having no storyline (and thus no justification for Garfieldís adventures), in Nightmare, Garfield eats a bad late-night snack and suffers a series of nightmares. These nightmares put Garfield into booby-trapped castles and lava-filled wastelands where heíll do battle with ghosts and even poisonous mushrooms. Thereís not much in storyline beyond the original premise, but thatís okay: nightmares rarely make sense, so itís alright that Garfield hops and trots through random areas. It might not be much of a plot, but it does its job.
Sadly, this is another Garfield game that doesnít manipulate the license at all. Clearing the game doesnít let you play as Odie and characters like Pookey and Nermal donít even make appearances. I would have really like to see them appear and it could have worked: Garfield could have had to rescue his beloved stuffed animal and a giant Nermal could ruin his day. It would have worked, but apparently the developers arenít as well-versed as I am with Garfield.
Despite the thin plot and the lack of utilization of the source material, Nightmare succeeds because itís a good side-scrolling platformer. Using 3D environments with a side-scrolling camera, itís a breeze to move Garfield around colorful, vibrant environments filled with all kinds of challenges. Enemies are abundant and exploration of the generally large levels is encouraged with lives and mini-games as rewards for intrepid explorers. My particular favorite area was a complete nightmare set in an old castle. Garfield must travel through the entire medieval structure, dodging ghosts while he lowers draw bridges and climbs up towers to collect donuts, pizza, and coins. The levels are amazingly big for a game of this nature, featuring lots of hidden areas for you to explore. Better still, if you collect enough coins, you can access hidden mini-games that really increase your stock of lives if youíre successful.
Better still, instead of being limited to kicking and ramming his enemies, in Nightmare, Garfield can simply jump on his foes heads in typical platformer style to eliminate them from the scene. There are even a few minor puzzles, like climbing to the tops of towers to hit switches to open gates and moving boxes around to get to higher ledges that Garfield canít jump to. These portions help break up the action pretty well and the target market (presumably young children) should find some challenge.
As I previously mentioned, Nightmare is even good looking. The side-scrolling camera, combined with the 3D environments, is really easy to work with, so thereís never any fighting with the camera or issues with judging the distance of your jumps. The actual environments are diverse and well-designed. Unfortunately, by the end of an area the look of the environments does get a little repetitive. The audio is completely forgettable, but never negatively affects the experience.
The only real fault is how short this game is. I cleared it in just a few hours. Granted, Iím an older gamer and not a part of the target market, but I canít imagine even youngsters taking more than 4 or 5 hours to get through this. Despite this, what limited time you do have with Garfield is actually surprisingly entertaining, and though it doesnít really use the source material very well, this is still a good 2D platformer that platforming fans should check out, whether they like Garfield or not.
Eight out of ten
- Looks great
- Plays a lot better than other Garfield games on the market
- All-around solid platforming
- Short, even for a "kids" game
- Forgettable audio
- WHY WON'T THEY USE THE LICENSE FULLY?!