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CONSOLE: Game Gear DEVELOPER: Novotrade PUBLISHER: Sega
RELEASE DATE (NA): 1995 GENRE: Platformer
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

Caught with his trousers down at a flea market.

I've written about Garfield before for Random Access, having reviewed the middling Nintendo DS title Garfield's Nightmare. In that review, I explained how Garfield was turned from a popular comic strip into a multimedia franchise along with extensive merchandising. In the early eighties, Paws Inc. was founded and along with it, what made Garfield unique was cast aside. His design altered, the focus of the comic strip changed, and the birth of the Garfield "brand". Overnight, Garfield made so much money for Jim Davis and all the failed former farmhand had to do was crank out another Garfield comic of dubious quality and watch the money PAW in.

Sufficed to say, video games followed. In the early nineties, Garfield: Caught in the Act scrambled its way onto the Sega Genesis. This 16-bit platformer featured game code written by SEGA themselves, with artwork hand-drawn by Jim Davis (a similar situation to the Genesis version of Aladdin, where the animation frames were drawn by hand and then painstakingly digitized into game sprites). The Genesis version reviewed at just above average at the time and was considered by many outlets as an unoriginal platformer.

The Game Gear version, however, was coded by Novotrade (they ceased operations in 2006 - a fitting punishment), and suffers considerably due to the limited hardware of the Game Gear. All of the animations have been significantly shrunk, the sprites contain awful dithering and the backgrounds are a garbled mess. Considering all this, somehow the game still manages to contain some sturdy platforming goodness even though it is very limited in scope.

The story of the game is refreshingly clever. After an altercation, Garfield and Odie manage to break their owner Jon's television. Garfield repairs the TV set but does so without using all of the parts. The missing parts cause an enemy named The Glitch to appear, who sucks Garfield into the television. The only way to get out of the television is to defeat The Glitch. Because the main villain of the game is the embodiment of a game glitch, all issues, mistakes, and problems encountered by playing the game can be explained away as "The Glitch did it". The shoddy controls? That's because The Glitch made it that way. Sloggy game speed? The Glitch wanted to make things harder for Garfield. Those dithered sprites and messed up backgrounds? Just blame The Glitch.


You're a mean one, Mr. Glitch...

Garfield must navigate through eight "levels" (these are made up of several parts), simply making it from left to right and occasionally defeating an enemy. At the end of an area, a battery is collected in order to continue. Garfield can collect stones which can be thrown in an awkward arc motion - these are your primary and *only* method of attack. Otherwise, Garfield's only other abilities are jumping, or dashing by pressing a direction twice. He can climb onto platforms and carry himself across ledges, which you'll need to do quite often because the level design is horrendous. Due to the gimped framerate of the Game Gear version (which we can just blame on The Glitch, right?), performing a dash jump can be quite difficult. Though you'd swear you pressed the jump button at the right time, the game will insist you did not.

Between levels, if you've found a collectible shaped like Arlene's face, you can play a mini-game where you wreck Jon's house for extra lives. Otherwise, the game stays rather consistent with only the background changing. In the other versions of this game, Garfield's appearance changes with each world. The limited Game Gear version does not include this feature. What the Game Gear version does include is two of the "lost levels" from the download-only Sega Channel version of Garfield: Caught in the Act. As far as the level count is concerned, the Game Gear version is the winner, featuring a whole 8 levels compared to the Genesis' 6 levels, and the Windows version's 7 levels. Why you'd want to play this gimped version of an already mediocre platformer is anyone's guess, but maybe you're just a Garfield mega-fan who has to play them all.

Thankfully, the game developers accidentally (?) left their debug menu in the game behind a very simple button combination. Well, either that or The Glitch caused a tear in the fabric of reality. If your curiosity really is too much to bear, you can access it by pressing 1, 1, 2, 2, 1, 2 on the pause screen. You can see everything the game has to offer in just a few minutes, then move onto something far more important, like laundry.

Sorry, Garfield, it looks like you're trapped in there for good.


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