In the realm of gaming there are two things that will make fans groan collectively more than anything, licensed properties and games aimed at “kids”. While there are certain exceptions to the rule this combination usually results in an abomination of interactive entertainment. To their credit The Game Factory has been on the opposing side of this with most of their releases bringing titles that actually work towards the audience they are aimed at; and for that I applaud them. Rarely does a game company understand that kids realize what a good game is and what a cheap cash-in is. Garfield’s Nightmare mixes some classic platforming action with a recognizable avatar and delivers another solid title for gamers of the young persuasion.
The premise of Nightmare is simple; Garfield decides to over-indulge on some late night snacks that do not agree with him, thus causing a series of bad nightmares. Each level follows the gaming playbook step by step offering up a lava level, a snow level, and other passé environments that work well with the concept.
Nightmares rarely make sense in real life so why should they be any different in the game world. This does detract from any kind of story the game tries to convey, but to be honest you will likely not notice the absence of narrative. It is sad that only Jim Davis’ loveable fat feline makes an appearance as fans would surely like to see some cameos, but alas this game isn’t aimed at long-time readers of the comic strip so once again no harm, no foul.
The core game is broken down into standard platforming action with a nice break in the monotony with some touch screen mini-games. What is peculiar though is that outside of these diversions the main game doesn’t utilize the touch screen or stylus at all. The game uses the traditional d-pad and face button combo, which works surprisingly well.
The levels are varied enough that you will rarely get bored in an area, and there are several hidden paths that will allow you to earn bonus coins and donuts. Everything at play here is pretty standard; you hop on enemies to defeat them and collecting 100 donuts grants you an extra life, but as we always say re-inventing the wheel isn’t always necessary, sometimes you just need to know how to steer.
While the platforming is particularly enjoyable the mini-games are a little less exciting. You earn one each time you defeat a boss and they consist of Spider Phobia, where you collect coins while avoiding, well spiders of course. The second is called Tap A Pet, which is a form of Whack A Mole and the final one is Midnight Morsel where you attempt to catch donuts while avoiding bombs. None of these are even remotely interesting which is sad as they are the only portion of the game that utilizes the specific features of the DS.
Probably the most impressive aspect of Nightmare is the visuals. It never ceases to amaze me what developers can squeeze onto that tiny DS cartridge. Each level is amazingly detailed sporting some impressive polygons and the characters all look great, especially your main protagonist. The camera is also done extremely well with the ability to look up and down with the triggers which eliminates cheap deaths from not being able to judge a jump correctly.
Sound wise the game feels a bit on the empty side. The score is silent most of the time and sound effects are pretty much absent. The interface is simple enough and as I said earlier the camera system is remarkably well done, but a lack of great sound and music is a bit disappointing.
Garfield’s Nightmare is a safe and predictable platformer that is surprisingly well done. The controls are simple enough for anyone and the game never makes you feel like an idiot while still remaining a good challenge. There are some nice hidden areas for more advanced gamers, but the main quest is a bit on the short side. Seasoned gamers can blaze through in one sitting but for small ones with a love for everyone’s favorite fat cat this game will entertain more than it will frustrate, and that is a winner in my book.