In addition to being a popular comic-strip character, Garfield is a merchandising powerhouse. He has been featured in scads of successful books and DVDs, and, of course, his likeness has been used in suction-cupped plush toys that you can attach to your car window. Now, we have Garfield's Fun Fest, a Nintendo DS game released in association with a DVD of the same name, and like the animated film on which it's based, this game is aimed squarely at the younger set. Although it has colorful, cartoony visuals, there's not nearly enough substance to Garfield's Fun Fest to make it worth anyone's time, regardless of their age or level of interest in Garfield.
Garfield will eat anything, even a chocolate chip cookie floating in midair on a plate suspended by a balloon.
The story is so strange that you expect Garfield to wake up at the end of it. Garfield and his pals head off to the annual Grin City Fun Fest, a performance competition for comic-strip characters. But when they arrive, Garfield's girlfriend, Arlene, is swept off her feet by a grotesquely anthropomorphic cat named Ramone. Suffering from heartbreak, Garfield loses his sense of humor, so he sets out to find Freddy, the famous funny frog, to drink some of his magical funny water before returning to Grin City to win back Arlene and claim the title of Fun Fest champion. Unfortunately, this surreal story isn't told in a compelling way. There's just a series of still images accompanied by lines of text that dryly explain the events of the plot. It's also totally unfocused--characters sometimes show up for one or two panels, serve no real purpose, and then disappear from the story. Worse, there's no humor to it, no jokes or punch lines--nothing funny whatsoever. A few video clips or voice samples from the cartoon on which the game is based would have helped bring Garfield and the other characters to life. Children deserve better storytelling than this from their games.
Garfield loves to eat, and Garfield loves to sleep. The game's platforming levels are designed around these two characteristics, so at least it demonstrates a solid understanding of its license. In the platforming levels, you walk, jump, and climb your way around an area, find a few scattered items, and then seek out your goal. In most cases, Odie, Garfield's canine patsy, tags along behind you automatically, and you can hop on Odie's back for a quick dash that lets you reach otherwise inaccessible areas. As you wander around, Garfield's energy plummets rapidly. To help counter this, there are pieces of food all over the levels, and each food item you scarf up restores some energy. You'll need to munch on something or other frequently, or Garfield will run out of energy altogether. Should that happen, he'll immediately start napping, and you'll take control of Odie, who must then track down one of the alarm clocks in the level and bring it back to Garfield before he himself runs out of energy.
Patrolling the areas are enemies large and small, from spiders to dogs to mail carriers, but a quick swipe or two of Garfield's paw is all it takes to make them disappear in a puff of smoke. The biggest challenge in these areas comes from finding the items you need before you run out of energy, but after you play them a few times, you'll have them memorized, and then there's no challenge at all. The game controls just fine, but there's nothing the least bit interesting about the level design or gameplay. It's all straightforward, serviceable, and thoroughly ordinary. You get the sense that the makers of the game wanted to keep things simple so it would be accessible to children, but they erred too far on the side of caution.