Garfield’s Wild Ride iOS Review

The problem with licensed games is prescience. If I sit down to play a ninja turtles game, I expect martial arts fighting, pizza jokes, and some excellent compadre-style cooperation, and if the experience is altered even a little, I’ll be taken aback. Garfield’s Wild Ride, iOS and Android game based on the lovable oaf of a cat, does nothing remotely similar to a Garfield comic strip. The once lasagna-loving tabby cat is transported into a Jetpack Joyride-like, side-scrolling runner, where the goal is survival and the collection of coins, and nothing feels Garfield-esque. I’d be willing to forgive the developers if the game had the addictive ingenuity of Joyride, but Garfield’s Wild Ride is nothing more than a misplaced use of a license on an obvious market cash-in.

The player controls Garfield as he races through a suburban backdrop. From the right come hurling objects, such as UFOs and giant flies, which have to be avoided or Garfield falls and dies. Duh. In the air, players avoid stationary blue, green, and red tiles that are dangerous…because tiles are dangerous, I guess; and then there are boxes and police cars stuck to the ground that also deter Garfield’s path. Along the way, gold coins appear, which can be used at the shop. Shining gold boxes (with question marks, Nintendo. Copyright infringement? Yeah, I was thinking the same thing…) provide random boosts, ranging from a giant Odie for Garfield to ride, a skateboard, a superhero flying ability, and a coin magnet. These are powerful, yet lack variability. Besides the coin magnet, all boosts give Garfield extra strength and speed…and that’s about it.

Garfield's Wild Ride screen 1

Gameplay is simple, and odds are, you’ve experienced the mechanics before. Essentially, it’s a stripped-down version of Jetpack Joyride with less electricity. Because of this copycat-style flow, Garfield’s Wild Ride feels contrived in the way Avatar was terrible out of theaters. The magic of an innovative design like Joyride is lost and replaced with the illogical plugging of a license people still care about. There is no revival with Garfield’s Wild Ride; there is only irreverent use of a nostalgic product.

A certain amount of an iOS game’s ability to entertain involves addictiveness. Garfield’s Wild Ride is somewhat addictive, with a level system pushing gamers to replay. Essentially, each level has three missions, which need to be performed during a run-through. Some are creative, like “Run 1000 meters on the skateboard,” giving players an incentive to hunt for those boosts, while others are simply dumb. “Run between 600 and 999 meters”? Why would you reward players for dying on purpose? In the end, these missions do nothing for the overall purpose of the game – which is to get as far as possible – and really only add an unnecessary reason to replay.

Garfield's Wild Ride screen 2

Some of the addictiveness comes from the store, where players can use their coins to buy outfits for Garfield and new backgrounds, though other games use this feature with much more bravado. The outfits are pointless, feeling off base on a character like Garfield, known for his free-fur stature. And then the new backgrounds, incredibly desirable after multiple plays on the boring suburban landscape, cost far too much. At least ten hours of gameplay are required to earn enough coins for one landscape, and with four available and two more upcoming, that’s just too large a hill to climb.

And then there are the trophies. Oh, the trophies. Purchased with the lasagna pieces found scattered throughout, these are found in the store. After being purchased, they sit on a shelf. Now, what are the trophies? What could these beautiful pieces of lasagna be expended on – making absolutely no sense, because why in the hell would Garfield give up his lasagna? Gold statues of Garfield. That’s it. There’s nothing to do with them, nothing to improve their worth. They’re simply bought, and then sit there. It is this kind of pointless store system that makes Garfield’s Wild Ride a licensing disappointment at its finest.

Garfield's Wild Ride screen 3

The working parts of the game are the graphics and the music. The roaming aspect of a side-scrolling game is tough to nail down, and I’d even admit that Jetpack Joyride looks fuzzy at times. This game consistently looks great, and Garfield shines through the 3D suburbia in the background. The music is fun and jovial – the kind of a thing you’d expect in a Garfield-licensed product – and was probably the only thing holding me back from quitting early. In truth, it’s worth it to run as far as you can, if only so that fun soundtrack can keep up the beat.

Garfield’s Wild Ride can’t overcome the licensed app blues. Whether you play this on an iOS or Android device, it’s probable that the experience will be underwhelming, if not frustrating. It takes the beauty of Garfield ─ the delightful laziness that’s kept him alive for years ─ and dumps it in a world of a different kind of beauty. The dissonance of this creation and its forbearers is the fulcrum with which disappointment will arise from Garfield fans, and no one can blame them, because Garfield’s Wild Ride is the kind of thing you just want to forget. And forget we will. Let’s go eat some lasagna.

4 out of 10
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