Garfield’s Escape is a game that practically writes itself: It takes a plot that would have worked with either the old or the new cartoon shows and wraps it around a running/ jumping game. Throw in some cutscenes and unlockables with authentic original art from Paws, Inc., and there is plenty to appeal here to Garfield fans or even just children. Unfortunately, the game itself just doesn’t come together very well, and players young and old are likely to feel disappointed in spite of the game’s greater potential.
The story is simple: Tired of having to clean up after Odie’s muddy runs through the neighborhood, Jon orders a robotic pet-cleaning machine that follows the signal of a collar. Eventually– if you’re good enough to unlock him fairly early on in the game– Garfield gets in on the act, and the two pets run all over the house to evade their cleansing pursuer.
“I’m a dog! I’m a dog! I’m a dog! I’m–“
Gameplay is a 2D side-scroller with 3D-modeled graphics that look like they came straight from The Garfield Show (not to be confused with Garfield and Friends, which ran through the late 80’s and much of the 90’s). As Odie (or eventually Garfield), you run through the house nonstop, hopping over footstools, leaping over armchairs, sliding under tables, jumping to overhanging cords, and taking alternate routes downstairs.
But the problem comes in how you perform those five actions. Each one is assigned to a different button, and those five buttons are spread across the screen, with three on the right and two on the left. You only need to do one action at a time, but in addition to the split-second timing needed to avoid obstacles at high speeds, you must also make sure you’re able to press the right button at the right obstacle (though a few allow for more than one choice, with one earning more points).
The kitchen is where the lasagna happens.
This might not be so bad in itself, but the buttons are small, clustered together, and not very responsive. When playing on the iPhone, we frequently found ourselves touching the button and receiving no action for our troubles but a crash. Things work well enough during the tutorials, but once you’re out in the ‘real world’ of the game, they go downhill depressingly quick, made all the worse by having only two lives with which to work.
Overall, Garfield’s Escape feels like it has the potential to be good, but falls short of the mark on the iPhone, asking perhaps too much of the player and not delivering enough. If it delivered more functionality with fewer buttons and those buttons were more responsive, it could be a winner. Instead, it’s just a big fat hairy deal.