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CONSOLE: Nintendo DS DEVELOPER: Shin'en Multimedia PUBLISHER: Game Factory
RELEASE DATE (NA): June 28, 2007 GENRE: Platformer
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

Must be a Monday.

Jim Davis is a name you should be familiar with, especially as a Random.Access reader, with your distinguished high level of intellect. Jim Davis, the farmhand turned comic artist whose strip, Garfield, is an introspective look into the life of a man struggling with world he does not understand. The epitome of self-criticism and reflection. Or rather, it WAS that.

In the early eighties, Jim Davis realized Garfield merchandising could make him some mint, so he created Paws Inc. This marked the beginning of the Garfield character being turned into a money-making machine, during which time the original message of the Garfield strip was lost.

After this, Garfield was a strip about a fat orange cat who hates Mondays and drinks coffee. Jim Davis was no longer writing a comic about himself in the form of the main character Jon Arbuckle; he was writing comics about Garfield in order to make quick bank. That's not to say Garfield doesn't have its merits, but long before I was born Garfield was an entirely different beast of a strip. You, of course, knew all this, being an intellectual.

Once the animated series Garfield & Friends was created, and a whole new younger audience was introduced to Garfield, many video games followed. They are #notmygarfield. Some were good quality titles, such as Garfield: Caught in the Act. Some were reasonably decent, such as Garfield: Lasagna World Tour. Most others were horrendous, like Garfield's Labyrinth or Garfield Kart. The orange cat has continued to be popular throughout the decades since Paws, Inc. was founded, and one surprisingly decent video game appeared almost out of nowhere for the Nintendo DS, the simply titled Garfield's Nightmare.

It was developed by Shin'en, a German development studio made up of ex-demo sceners from Abyss. Their sound engine, GSX, is an excellent piece of audio middleware used in over 100 video games. Garfield's Nightmare uses the updated DSX sound engine, with some excellent musical compositions that I can still hear in my head right now while I'm writing this review.

The story of Garfield's Nightmare is the absolutely weakest component, so let's get this out of the way first. You see, there is no story. Garfield eats too much food, passes out, and has a nightmare. To leave the nightmare you'll have to collect four broken alarm clocks. Garfief, what happened to the alram clock? I ate those food.

Gone are the days of Jon Arbuckle philosophizing over the location of his mislaid tobacco pipe. Garfield stories just aren't the same anymore. Did Jon ever give birth to that litter of puppies?

The story is merely a means to explain the gameplay, which has no bells or whistles; it's just functional and basic. This gameplay is about as rigid a platformer as you're going to get. It's precise, but that's a good thing. Garfield moves slowly, but you're always in control. There's no momentum; just letting go of a direction brings Garfield to a complete halt. Any mistakes you make are simply on you. It can't be argued otherwise. On the ice levels you don't even skid anywhere, and I appreciate that immensely.


Why would Garfield STORE pizza and not eat it?

Each stage consists of pits, platforms, obstacles, hazards, and enemies to avoid. They're set in one of four archetypes: haunted castle, prehistoric volcano, a Jack and the Beanstalk style cloud world, and frozen tundra. Each stage is lengthy and contains several checkpoints, an impressive feat on the Nintendo DS considering the levels are formed of 3D geometry. These stages are so long that they often feel like they start to drag, a joy it is then to be able to close the game up into sleep mode and save between each level.

Jumping on enemies will defeat them and they will drop a coin. If you perform a butt stomp on an enemy, they will drop two coins. These coins can be spent to open doors that lead to bonus stages, where Garfield can grab some extra lives. These stages are purely optional and sometimes only contain a single life; that's just the luck of the draw, I guess. You'll collect way more coins than you ever need. I had over 450 at the end of the game, and they aren't worth anything except gaining entrance to bonus levels. I also had over 20 lives. So much for Garfield being a cat. He must be a squirrel.

At the end of an area, you will face a boss enemy, which in typical fashion can be defeated by jumping on it after it has performed an attack pattern. When each boss is defeated, they will give you the aformentioned broken alarm clock, this game's MacGuffin. To wake Garfield from his nightmare, you need to fix his alarm clock. The game itself never tells you that, but that's how it is.

At the end of this mundane platforming experience, Garfield wakes up from his nap, and learns this valuable lesson: "You can't go questing on an empty stomach."

The ending really raises more questions: the TV in Jon's lounge shows the game's events, so presumably Garfield didn't really have a nightmare or somehow the events of his nightmare were broadcast to the TV. ——

——Also, a photo on the wall shows Garfield and all the enemies and bosses from the game standing together, which begs the question are we still in Garfield's nightmare? Or were we even in it to begin with!?

Garfield's Nightmare is such a basic platformer it's barely even enjoyable, but yet it's functionally fine with nothing I could possibly raise as a concern. It is as safe and simple as a game can get. It's so hard to recommend because it just isn't fun to play, and yet, there's nothing "wrong" with it.

I guess it's just as boring to play as the comic strip is boring to read.


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