Handheld gaming is more than a compromise of power and portability. Whether it’s the ability to play anywhere, multitask or hold an entire console in your hands, it’s a special experience consoles have never replicated. In a world where high resolutions and teraflops reign supreme, we take a look at a portable relic every month and reflect on what makes it memorable. Be warned, spoilers may occasionally populate these articles.
Few cartoon characters have been shamelessly merchandised as much as the lasagna-scarfing Monday-hating cat known as Garfield. Just about consumer item imaginable has its own Garfield incarnation, including a few things that are definitely not meant for children (Google at your own risk). Among these myriad collectibles are some video game crossovers. Turning a character who’s life consists of eating and sleeping into a video game hero is a lofty goal, but this was attempted on Sega Game Gear with Garfield: Caught in the Act.
Across all the different media Garfield has occupied none of his tales are known for having elaborate plots. This is fine, he’s a simple cat who isn’t concerned with much more than lasagna and his teddy bear Pooky. This would make for a boring game since the main physical activity in which Garfield participates is kicking Odie off the table. To save him from a mind-numbing game a convoluted plot needed to be developed to take Garfield to more interesting locations. While Garfield is watching TV he’s startled by Odie, and as fat jokes are a running gag in Garfield, his mastodonian weight crushes the TV. Garfield decides fixing a TV is an easy task that requires neither training nor tools as he promptly reassembles the television, throwing the unused dozen or leftover parts behind the couch. The parts form a technological abomination called the Glitch that zaps Garfield into the television, where he needs to fight his way out.
The idea of placing Garfield in different scenarios comes from a book called Garfield: His 9 Lives. Caught in the Act isn’t based on the book as the stories are completely different. The book showcases Garfield in different incarnations at various stages in history, such as a Viking called Garfield the Orange. Nevertheless, it’s hard to claim that the book was not influential in the game as both take the lazy housecat out of his suburban dwelling and place him in perilous predicaments. While the two entities are very different, anyone who’s interested in Garfield: Caught in the Act will likely find some amusement from His 9 Lives.
Garfield travels through a variety of different scenarios, though despite what some clever pun-based level names might suggest, he remains the same Garfield he was before he got pulled into his TV. He begins his TV career going to the prehistoric era in the Cave Cat level, but some of the other shows he stars in are Curse of Cleofatra, Bonehead the Barbarian, The Castle of Count Slobula, Revenge of Orange Beard and Catsablanca. The levels involve platforming while traversing many environmental hazards. Each level design is based on a theme, which is pretty self explanatory based on the name. In between levels there are bonus stages where the player can try to earn extra lives which is done by destroying as much property as possible in Jon Arbuckle’s house.
Garfield: Caught in the Act is a straightforward action platformer. The levels have puzzles to overcome but they aren’t terribly complicated, an example of these would be pushing and stacking totems to give Garfield something climb to a high enough height to clear a well. Of course, maybe if he ate less lasagna he might be able to run and job over his barriers like a regular cat. Garfield can swap at his enemies at melee range or throw rocks at the ones he’s too lazy to get close to. Some fights require unorthodox approaches, such as prehistoric Odie. In that fight Garfield needs to use a seesaw to launch rocks at the dinosaurized dog.
Garfield: Caught in the Act is a solid action platformer. It’s not a must play title by any means, but its simple gameplay makes it an accessible title and Garfield has the ability to remain cute no matter the act in which he’s caught. The story is pretty much nonsense but the developers needed some excuse to put Garfield into fun gaming environments and to that end they succeeded. Garfield has been merchandised to death, but at least his venture into gaming ended up being a source of enjoyment. It’s unclear how likely it is for the lasagna cat to end up in any new games, but at least he found a good home on Game Gear.
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