Developer: Ravenscourt / Square Enix
Publisher: Anuman Interactive
Review Platform: 3DS
Release Date: August 11, 2015
I thought it was a mistake when I saw this game.
It couldn’t actually exist. There’s no reason for it to be a real thing; no event, or pop culture phenomena to justify why the (alleged) time, money, and manpower was funneled into this game.
And yet, I could pick up the game. I could insert it into my 3DS, signs that confirmed that–yes, this game was real by all accounts and measures. And yet, why?
So perhaps it was the natural masochist within me (I did just play through Superman; The New Adventures to completion not long ago), but I decided that my purpose here was to play this game. Play this game to its limit to perhaps understand the “whyness” of it all. Who knows, maybe it’d even be refreshing fun.
But we’ll get to that.
Garfield Kart is basically a $30.00 re-packaged Mario Kart clone with vastly less interesting characters. That’s the long-story-short of this. Now, that isn’t necessarily the worst diagnosis—Mario Kart has a very solid, simple structure to it that has been cloned endlessly before (Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is even a recent example of a clone improving upon their predecessor in a lot of ways). In that sense, there’s a solid foundation in which Garfield Kart is built upon, but there’s not much else going on here.
Granted, I wasn’t expecting this game to reinvent the steering wheel—the only reason I checked it out in the first place was out of morbid curiosity—but that doesn’t mean that the title still couldn’t have been a sleeper hit and surprised me. Instead you’re left with just another racing game that fails to justify its existence.
The thing is, if this game manages to sound vaguely familiar to you, it’s that it was released two years ago as an iOS/mobile game. You would think that perhaps some Garfield time sensitive event was happening now to explain why this game was being ported now, but no. There’s no explanation for any of this, leaving the decision to be even more confusing, and the product essentially being a mobile port that feels like one. The game was unremarkable as a mobile game priced at $1.99, and so allegedly upgrading all of that and charging fifteen times as much inherently becomes problematic. It doesn’t even offer anything beyond local multiplayer (not that I’d expect an online community for Garfield Kart to be the most thriving one).
You’ll spend your time in Garfield Kart navigating through four different cups, each containing four courses apiece with the standard 50cc/100cc/150cc options. These courses contain the generic visual, scenic differences that you’d expect from a racing game. Hey, we’re in a desert! Now we’re in a snow world! Woah, a jungle! Believe it or not, there’s a deep lore to Garfield’s history with a myriad of comics, TV shows, specials, and movies that they could have pulled locations from. Even if all of this looks pretty enough with a nice cartoonish edge to it all, these still feel like they could be courses from any racing game.
While on the cartoonish aspect of the game, the aesthetics are one of the areas that the game performs the most adequately in. Garfield Kart looks and sounds perfectly delightful, with plucky, playful music complimenting a friendly presentation to the graphics. The 3D experience isn’t the best that the system’s provided, but it’s present and works to a satisfying degree, even if that isn’t hard to pull off for a racing title.
As far as everything else goes, Garfield Kart drives firmly down the middle of the road. There’s nothing remarkable going on with the extra modes that the game offers beyond the Championship Circuit (Quick Race, Time Trial, and Daily Challenge). There are nine characters at your disposal–unlocking them through the various Championship Cups–Garfield, Odie, Jon, Nermal, Arlene, Ganondorf, Squeak, Liz, and Harry.
See, I had to slip Ganondorf’s name into there just to make that roster remotely exciting! No wild swings are being taken here with most of these characters resulting in a sigh, but hey, maybe I’m wrong and there’s a super big Harry fan out there who’s going to be in heaven.
The game also offers a deep dish of lasagna’s worth of collectables that you can customize your kart and racer with. Customization and freedom is always a good thing, but this more anything else feels like a result of this game originally being an iOS/mobile release. In that sort of environment, all of this useless flair is re-purposed as pay-for content to prolong the experience. Now it’s all just there, and while it’s not hurting anyone, it ends up feeling a little frivolous ultimately.
If there’s one saving grace and real inspired element to single out from the game, it’s in the form of one of the projectiles that you’ll acquire will racing. The UFO item is essentially the title’s “blue shell” equivalent from Mario Kart—it homes in on the player in first place and unfairly jams up their race. The difference with the UFO is that the racer is presented with three of the invader, with two of them freezing you, but one being harmless. The idea of turning this item into some sort of shell game where you’re not always damned is a great idea and something that would actually improve Mario Kart.
While it’s disappointing that Garfield Kart feels exactly like the sum of its unglamorous parts, as far as unnecessary “question mark” games go, there are much worse ways to waste your time. This review may confirm that the game actually exists and isn’t just a mirage that you’re seeing in the store or a glitch in reality, it might as well be. It could flicker out of existence and the gaming continuum would remained unchanged.