Sunday, 5 February 2017

Garfield: Big, Fat, Hairy Deal (The Edge, 1987)

Designed and written for the Commodore 64 by Stephen Cargill. (This has not been divulged anywhere, but it's an assumption based on information in other versions.) Music by Neil Baldwin and sound effects by Jas C. Brooke. Released by The Edge in 1987.

Converted and released for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST and Commodore Amiga in 1988: Design and programming by Stephen Cargill, with additional programming on the Amiga version by John Jones-Steele. Amiga and ST graphics by Jack Wilkes, Amstrad graphics by Mat (Sneap, perhaps?) and Spectrum graphics by Neil Strudwick. Amiga music and sound effects by David Whittaker. Released by The Edge in 1988.



The first of many games featuring everyone's favourite overweight feline was expected with some enthusiasm in 1987, and not only because the first attempt for the Atari 2600 was cancelled three years prior, and the second computerized version of Garfield wasn't a game at all, but a cartoon studio of sorts. The company to take over the first Garfield game to actually be released was The Edge (currently Edge Games), later to become more known for their enforcing trademarks relating to the word "edge". But at the time, The Edge were still known to produce some pretty good games like Bobby Bearing, Fairlight, Brian Bloodaxe and Mindstone. So, when Garfield was announced, there was promise of high quality cartoon graphics and an adventure worthy of Garfield's name, and these promises were even fulfilled to some extent. Having a beloved cartoon (or comic strip) turned into a computer game was still somewhat of a novelty at the time, so it didn't bother too much that the game was practically a modified version of Pyjamarama. Deeper within the surface, though, Garfield's first proper game proved to be a more brutally aggravating game for some than what one would have expected from a Pyjamarama variant, and has been considered either a lost opportunity or a wasted effort by many. My experience of the game has been woefully limited to the C64 original so far, so this entry is not just an attempt to prove that it's still a rather playable game, but also to educate myself and others like me of the differences between all five versions of one big, fat, hairy computerized deal.

As of writing the starting bits of this article in late January 2017, the original game has a score of 6.5 from 54 votes at Lemon64. There was no rating for the Amstrad version at CPC-Power, but the review at CPC Game Reviews had a score of 5 out of 10. The score at World of Spectrum is the highest one of the lot, having a very respectable 8.09 from 25 votes, so I'm definitely looking forward to trying that one out. Out of the two 16-bit versions, the Atari ST version has the higher score of 6.6 from mere 10 votes at Atarimania, while the score at LemonAmiga is a woeful 5.18 from 28 votes.



With the earlier reference to Pyjamarama, you already know Garfield's first game is an arcade-adventure. This means, you need to walk around, do some light platforming, pick up objects and take them to certain places to exchange them for other objects and solve a series of puzzles in such manner, with the ultimate goal of saving your girlfriend, Arlene. In order to achieve your goal, you need to not only interact with other familiar characters from the Jim Davis' comic strip, but also you need to take care not to overexert yourself or eat something inappropriate due to reaching a critical point of starvation. You can only carry one item at a time, and there are only so many items you can consume without any danger of interfering with puzzles, so not only is a map of the game highly recommended, as is usual in these kinds of games, but also a very specific route and order of picking up and exchanging items.

This is precisely why Garfield's BFHD is so little liked. Even the quite necessary, yet fun ability to kick Odie and Nermal around doesn't save the game from the fact that it's very unfair due to Garfield's apparent ability to digest just about anything. The good graphics and soundtrack (where available) do help to keep the game entertaining for at least the time it takes to see everything, but the puzzles are rarely logical and the time it takes to map and calculate the routes for the more important part of the game really takes away from any lasting appeal the game might have. Sorry to say so, but there it is. However, Big Fat Hairy Deal is still one of the more memorable Garfield games, if only due to its graphics and sounds.



Obviously, there is no point in bringing the 16-bit versions into this section in any other manner than just showing the loading screens, but that's plenty enough. It's the 8-bit tape loading times that might be of some interest to all you 8-bitters out there, so let's get on with it.

COMMODORE 64: 3 minutes, sharp
AMSTRAD CPC: 4 minutes 27 seconds
ZX SPECTRUM: 3 minutes 54 seconds

Loading screens. Top row, left to right: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum.
Bottom left: Commodore Amiga. Bottom right: Atari ST.
Long before 1988, even Amstrad coders had learned to make properly faster tape loading schemes, so the difference to the fastest loader isn't nearly as humongous as it would have been a couple of years prior to this. Perhaps it even seems a bit stranger to me, that the Spectrum tape version's loading time is closer to the Amstrad one than the C64 one, but there you go. Not that this has any bearing on how well any version compares to the other. However, the loading screens can tell you quite a lot about how well the graphics are going to compare, although as usual, the loading screens will not be part of the overall Graphics scores.



I cannot recall how I must have imagined a game about Garfield would play before I actually got around to it, but I do remember how surprised I was to find out how many different things you could do with Garfield. Not that all of the things you could do were actually useful, but still, having a cat walk on all his four paws should be a given for a game with a cat, even for a cat like Garfield. The only real use you have of the regular walk is, that it consumes your energy in a slightly less speedy manner than walking on your two rear paws. So, imagine my surprise in finding out after having played only the C64 version for about 30 years or so, that the C64 version is the only one of the lot, which features the regular four-pawwed cat-style walking. I guess it was removed from the other versions to keep them simpler, and also to keep any practically useless features out.

Because switching your walking manner on the C64 is done by pressing the fire button when not walking, this would suggest that the controls might differ in some other ways as well, so let's take a more detailed view of the controls:

Up and any up-diagonal = jump (into direction)
Left and Right = walk
Down = pick up or drop an item
Fire button, C64 = switch walking manner
Fire button, others = kick
Left and Right with fire button, C64 = kick
Left and Right with fire button, others = halt movement
Down with fire button = eat/use an item (eating only works on the C64 version when hungry enough)

So, you have a hunger meter, which suggests when you should be around some food. When the hunger level is high or low enough, depending on how it is displayed in each version, Garfield has a tendency to eat whatever he's holding, so be sure not to carry any quest item when the snack attack occurs. In addition to the hunger meter, there's also a stamina meter. This is where things get more off-balanced, because in the C64 version, the stamina meter is really your primary concern, because when your hunger meter goes to zero, your stamina (or what's left of it) drains away quicker than Garfield can eat lasagna, and running out of stamina means Game Over. The SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions still have the stamina meter, and similarly, the game will only be over when you get sleepy enough, but your hunger level has no effect on stamina. In the AMIGA/ST version, there is no stamina meter at all, and the hunger meter has been replaced by a general energy meter, which only depletes when you take "damage" - in other words, are in direct contact with either the giant rat in the cellar, or Odie when you're not carrying the aniseed balls. Also, even if you do need to go to sleep in the AMIGA/ST version, it's not Game Over straight away, but instead, Garfield takes a nap and time passes by more quickly. And yes, instead of having just one life to complete your mission, you have a time limit.

Explaining more of the inner workings of this game requires revealing at least some part of the game's plot proceedings, so if you're not inclined to read some hints at this point, too bad. Basically, the items required to complete the game are almost exactly the same in all versions, and there are nine of them, even though you can complete the game with just eight in most versions - the ninth object merely offers a possibility for a shortcut. For reasons unknown to me, the SPECTRUM version can be completed with just four items, if you're quick enough, but you do really have to be quick. Of course I'm referring to the giant rat puzzle here. The same trick doesn't work in any other version, although you can actually kick the chest open even without the required rat repellant item. In any case, there are plenty of freely edible items laying around the game map.

As with most arcade-adventure games, Garfield becomes infinitely more playable once you have a map of the whole game drawn up, or if you want to go the modern way, downloaded. The thing is, though, the only map I have found from the internet so far is based on the Spectrum version, which, while offering the exact number of rooms as the C64 and AMSTRAD versions, differs slightly in layout. The AMIGA and ST versions have a lot more rooms in their maps, mostly due to the much larger sewer maze, and the layout is even more convoluted, if not exactly arbitrary, than on the 8-bits.

Still more confusingly, the only real goal you have in the C64 version is to save Arlene from the City Pound. The other 8-bit versions have a completion percentage meter, which will reveal that there are more things to accomplish than just saving Arlene, although that one is the most important one, and having saved her, the ending sequence/screen will automatically activate as a result in all versions. You can gather some extra score by doing some Garfield-like activities, like sharpen your claws on the couches, kick Odie and Nermal a lot, and eat plenty of food items otherwise unrelated to the plot. It has yet to be confirmed, whether or not getting a 100% completion will affect the grandness of the ending sequence, and I'm afraid I don't have the willpower to attempt finding it out.

Since I mentioned kicking Odie and Nermal a lot in the last paragraph, it should probably be pointed out, that this act of relative violence is directly related to exhancing items in each character's inventory. Kicking Odie and Nermal makes them drop their currently held items, but any item they come across next will automatically be picked up by the character with nothing held in their inventory. The 16-bit versions differ here, by giving Odie the chance to switch items with Garfield any time the two are in contact with each other; Nermal outright refuses to give up any item in his possession until you've kicked him multiple times, making interaction with him both more violent and more impossible to deal with, if he picks up your lamp by accident. Speaking of which...

Once you get into the deeper parts of the sewer system, if the flashlight is not in your possession, you can not see anything - and I do mean anything. In all the 8-bit versions, you can at least see a dark outline of your head moving around in the darkness, so you will notice when you go through doors and such. While this is more of a graphical matter, it affects the gameplay enough to necessitate its mention here. What I'm trying to say here is, the way to solve the Nermal puzzle is to get Odie to pick the mouse up once Nermal releases it, and then avoid contact with Odie once the mouse is in his possession, until you get out of the sewers. It cannot be solved in any other manner, because unlike in the 8-bit versions, there are ladders in the sewer, which you will need to climb.

Another curious thing, if not precisely a problem, in the 16-bit versions is the starting screen. Well, not the starting screen itself, which is basically a place for you to try out the controls, similarly to the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD title screens, but the way you start the game. You walk left or right and out of the screen to pick your starting point. Going left will start inside the house and going right will start outside the house, which will make starting the game on the right foot a bit of a problem, since the first thing you really need to do is easier to achieve by starting inside the house. If you didn't know how the starting of the game was affected by your choosing either side of the screen in the AMIGA and ST versions, I would imagine you would be a bit thrown off by the sudden revelation. At least I was.

Finally, let's take a look at the other keyboard controls, without which the game might become awkward at such time as depicted above, which we're all trying to avoid. First, the "Quit to title screen" key in the AMSTRAD version is ESC/CTRL; in the C64 version it is RESTORE, and on the 16-bits it is ESC. Happily, there's a pause button in all versions: H for SPECTRUM, RETURN for AMSTRAD, SPACE for C64 and the 16-bits. In the AMIGA and ST versions, you can also toggle music and sound effects with F1 and F2 during play, while the C64 version only allows you to switch between music and effects in the title screen with F1 and F3.

In the end, we can clearly see that the 16-bit versions were made as an expansion of sorts to the original game, and while there is no completely conclusive evidence of such, I believe the C64 version was the original due to the unique design choices. Usually, when you see a game getting converted from the 8-bits to the 16-bits, something of the original's feel gets lost in translation - usually something regarding controls. This case is no different, but happily, it's neither as bad as you would expect. To balance the inconvenient sewer maze, as well as the weird game map layout, the 16-bit conversion team has added some other bits into the game that were perhaps intended to make the world of Garfield larger and more immersive, but are practically inconsequential, so I can't say they got it very right in the end. The SPECTRUM version works well enough, but due to certain missing graphical elements, certain parts of the game seemed a bit more confusing than on the C64 and AMSTRAD versions - otherwise, I had no real problems with it. In fact, I thought Garfield was less cumbersome to control in the SPECTRUM version than on the C64; quite the opposite from the relatively slow AMSTRAD version, really. Therefore, the Playability results are as follows:




Making a game based on a comic book or a comic strip tends to be a double-edged sword. In a way, it's easier to get things that were drawn in the first place translated into pixelated graphics, but the downside of it is, you do need to go about it very faithfully indeed. Garfield the game also had the disadvantage of appearing after the comic strip (since 1978) had appeared in cartoon form for many years already (since 1982), so the game's graphicians and animators had to go about their business more diligently to get the animated Garfield right.

Title screens, left to right: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore Amiga/Atari ST.

The lack of a properly flashy title sequence or even a screen starts the game off with the wrong foot. If you have never seen the early Garfield TV specials, the title sequences are always flashy and have a dedicated theme song. I guess having such a big title sequence on an 8-bit game would have been too much to ask, so it's understandable that they went with something less difficult and memory-consuming, but I did expect a lot more from the 16-bits, and in a way, was given even less than on the 8-bits.

What all the versions have in common, is the copyrights and credits display at the bottom of the screen, although between the five versions, there are three different fonts and text sizes used for the messages, the C64 version having the least intrusive text bits. At least you will be happy to know that the text thing at the bottom is actually of some use during the actual game, since it shows Garfield's thoughts on things he encounters. Aside from the text bits at the bottom, the title screen consists of various different things on different versions. The C64 version shows the sound options at the very top, just above the huge The Edge logo, then some more text and an animated Garfield sprite (walking in one place towards left) at the bottom, just above the credits scroller thing. The AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM versions show a small window of some area in the game, in which an interactive Garfield is standing, waiting for your input, and joined almost immediately by a stupidly jumping Odie; and additionally, you get the options for both versions and the bottom half of the screen exactly what you will see in the game. In the AMIGA and ST versions, there is no proper title screen: what you get instead is an interactive Garfield standing in front of a huge, full-screen-width sign saying "Garfield", and below the action screen is all the things we will get into under the next picture.

Detail differences from random street screens, left to right: Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Amiga/ST.

So, before going into the location graphics, let's focus on the information panel first. First of all, the hunger and stamina meters. In the C64 version, they are shown as bars draining away, and the four differently coloured parts of it are meant to give you some idea as to when you're supposed to be focusing on finding food or getting rest. In the AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM versions, the bars get filled instead of drained, and there are no indicators as to when the meters are full, but at least the SPECTRUM version goes by the same colouring system as the C64 version for both meters - the AMSTRAD version has a different colouring system, but only for the hunger meter. The AMIGA/ST version only has a general energy meter, which is portrayed by a pile of pizzas - very fitting for the game.

Apart from Garfield's default posture, the AMIGA and ST versions offer no graphical differences whatsoever. You can tell it's an ST screenshot, if Garfield is looking forwards in a slightly upward angle. In any case, the 16-bits put their graphical capabilities to good use by using as many colours as possible in the context. Every character has been coloured appropriately according to their cartoon counterparts, and you can also see a lot more focus on getting more of each character's expressions and suitable animations included for different actions. The C64 and AMSTRAD versions suffer from a slight lack of clarity on the otherwise nicely animated multi-colour sprites, but the relatively high amount of colour compared to the SPECTRUM version is commendable. However, if you're into the old monochrome comic strip style of graphics, then the SPECTRUM version is not a bad option either, particularly as it has more animated bits in it and all the characters look better in hi-res than in multi-colour lo-res graphics.

Some of the more interesting rooms from Jon's house, top to bottom:
Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore Amiga/Atari ST.

In the previous set of pictures, we had Garfield placed in a couple of random sidewalk screens. As you can see, the monochrome hi-res graphics in the SPECTRUM version allow for much richer background details. Of course as usual, though, it's arguable whether nicely drawn colourless graphics are better than not quite so tightly pixelated colourful graphics. The C64 and AMSTRAD versions have some nice colours all over the game, but once you manage to get out of your house, the lack of detail and variety in background graphics is shocking compared to not only the 16-bit versions, but the SPECTRUM version as well, although not in such gigantic proportions.

Getting back to the colours on the two colourful 8-bits: it is a truth perhaps grudgingly acknowledged by the C64 community, that the AMSTRAD palette is for the most part much more suitable for cartoon-based graphics, which require vividity and high contrast, so it goes without saying that the CPC version has the better colours of the two. On the other hand, the action screen's size in the C64 version is notably bigger than in the AMSTRAD version, and there is no notable drop of framerate whenever Odie or any other moving creature is on the screen, unlike in the AMSTRAD version. I have no idea whether the Amstrad version is considered any sort of a technical achievement, but perhaps I have to remind you, as I sometimes need to do, that the point is not to compare each machine's architecture and technical capabilities, but how well the game actually runs without any relevance to the machine. Perhaps the CPC would have been better suited to another straight Spectrum port.

As for the actual location graphics... well, it's difficult to gather any real idea on how Garfield's home town is actually structured in the cartoons and comics, so I cannot comment on that too much, but the 16-bit versions have a more realistic way of portraying everything in the town. But I suppose the only real point of consideration in mapping the town in the first place is functionality. The only way the AMSTRAD version's location graphics have been improved upon the C64 original is, that they added some foreground ornaments to some screens to help mapping the maze-like streets and back alleys. I'm more concerned about Jon's house, however, because that's such a big part of any Garfield comic and animated show. In my opinion, the most important elements that are part of Garfield's everyday life, and should be included, are: Garfield's bed, the TV, a couch, Jon's bed, the catflap in the back door, kitchen (particularly the fridge) and the dining table. The 16-bit versions have no TV anywhere in the house, the 8-bits don't have Jon's bed, and Garfield only has his blanket, which is only useful for snack attacks. Oh well, you have to make do with what you've got.

Shops, top to bottom: Hardware, Butcher's and Health Food.
Versions, left to right: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore Amiga/Atari ST.

For me, the weirdest thing about the game was always the shopkeepers, because in all three shops, the man behind the counter is always the same old man with a weird constantly scared expression on his face. And this is true for all the 8-bit versions. For the 16-bits, they finally were able to make the shopkeepers look like proper individual characters, so I guess the cloned 8-bit shopkeeper must have been a memory-related issue. In a way, it's funny in an absurd sort of a way, that all the shopkeepers look the same, but you do like people to be individuals - even virtual ones.

Another strange thing about the game's graphics is proportions. The sizes of all the animal characters compared to all the human characters is occasionally just plain silly on the 16-bits, although the proportions on the 8-bits isn't too much better. Sure, the game is based on a cartoon, but the proportions are not even nearly this badly skewed in the cartoons. Too bad, because the Edge did a great job otherwise on the 16-bit graphics in particular, but this is, at least in my book, such an amateurish mistake to make in graphics. Still, if you don't concentrate on it, it doesn't bother you that much, as you don't really need to interact with human characters all that much, and the otherwise brilliantly pixelated and animated artwork which you could almost believe came straight from Jim Davis' hand gives the 16-bits enough headway to keep them well above the 8-bits.

The cellar with the Giant Rat, left to right: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore Amiga/Atari ST.
The game has no actual main antagonist, but if you wanted to count something as one, the giant rat in your cellar would probably count as one. Then again, Odie is a nearly constant annoyance draining your energy away, but then you need him for a couple of things, so he can't be called an enemy in that way. Anyway, the giant rat's appearance is mostly what you would expect, and is animated to run back and forth in a frantic pace; only the C64 rat looks more like a formless blob, unless you focus on a single frame and carefully examine the weird brown mess of a sprite. For a long time, I thought the two larger white areas within the brown mass of matter were the creature's eyes, but only lately, I've realized, they're the rat's ears. Only after figuring that out, I realized the giant C64 rat is some sort of a weird body-builder/hunchback kind of a character with long drooping hands and short feet. Once I figured the giant C64 rat's shape out and realized that it's actually supposed to be a rat instead of a formless blob monster, I started wondering, why on earth did they paint him brown instead of, say, dark grey, like the floor? Well, the AMSTRAD version's take on it might explain it: all the background elements are dark red, and the rat is grey, which makes the background look a bit more bland than in the C64 version. The SPECTRUM version has a slight darkening effect on the room, and the AMIGA/ST version looks as light as the room above. Speaking of which, you enter this room from the rightmost room in Jon's house on the 8-bits, while on the 16-bits, you enter this room from the gardening shed.

In the sewers without a light, top to bottom: Amiga/ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum.
While the Giant Rat room (cellar) leads to the sewers, there is an alternative entrance therein: the 8-bits have it between the Butcher's and the Hardware Store's entrances, while the 16-bits have it in the Park, behind some bush - which we will get to soon.

The sewers pose a unique problem within the game: the lighting, or lack of it. If you wander deeper into the sewers, you will find it nearly impossible to navigate through the rooms due to the darkness, or if you're playing the 16-bit versions, you can drop the word "nearly" from the equation. It doesn't help, that the 16-bit sewers are much bigger, and consist of ladders and holes you need to climb through instead of just doorways, so having a flashlight with you is a necessity. In the 8-bit versions, you can get through the area without a lamp with some luck, but getting the clockwork mouse from Nermal is less certain.

In a strict graphical sense, though, the most interesting thing about the sewers is how well and gradually the reducing amount of light has been dealt with. Naturally, the 16-bits have a more naturally decreasing lighting effect that ends up in complete darkness after the third gradient - you can't even see the info panel. The AMSTRAD version is the only one from the 8-bits, in which the info panel darkens along with the action screen, although like in the other two 8-bit versions, you can still see something even in the darkest form of darkness - in this case, you see everything that is white by default. In the C64 version, the first sign of darkess is everything turning various shades of blue, and there's only one darker shade of some actual visibility before the action screen turns entirely black, apart from the outline of Garfield's whiskers. In the SPECTRUM version, the darkening hasn't been dealt with in as subtle manner, because it's practically impossible with the Spectrum palette, but at least the first bit of darkening is basically just grey mixed with black for every other pixel.

The park area, left to right: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga/Atari ST, ZX Spectrum.

Solving the final puzzle happens in the park, which is next to Jon's house. In the AMIGA/ST version, the park has been extended to a second screen, and the background details offer a clue for using another new item in the 16-bit conversion. On the 8-bits, the park area consists of a single screen with not much more than trees - and in the SPECTRUM version, there's a man in a booth, although you can also summon a bird to appear on the screen with the correct puzzle item. The bird is visibly circling over the area on the 16-bits, making the puzzle more evident there. You will have to find your way further from there, because as usual, I'm not going to spoil the ending for you.

Game Over screens, left to right: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Atari ST/Commodore Amiga.

It's obvious, really, which versions have the best graphics, so I'm not even going to repeat the 16-bit versions' merits. For the 8-bits, though, we might need a small recap. The SPECTRUM version has very nice monochrome hi-res graphics, but has some awkward colouring decisions in the sewers and some bits lack some required details. At least it doesn't slow down too much with more than one moving character on-screen, like the AMSTRAD version does. The one point in the AMSTRAD version's advantage is the machine's palette, which is more suitable for portraying cartoony graphics, but in addition to the slowdowns with more action on screen, the action screen itself is much smaller than in the C64 version. All in all, the C64 and SPECTRUM versions offer about as much pros and cons against each other, so they'll have to settle for a tied spot.




In addition to having the style and animation necessary to be replicated from the cartoons, the Garfield in motion also had established a distinctive sound five years before the first game version of Garfield's adventures had come to exist. Even though you cannot hear samples of great and late Lorenzo Music (1937-2001) or the other regular cast, you would expect to hear similarly groovy and bluesy music that you hear in the cartoons.

In a way, and against quite a few odds, our expectations are met. We are treated to a single theme tune originally written by Neil Baldwin for the C64, that plays throughout the game on a loop. Happily, it's an upbeat tune with two parts and memorable melodies, that lasts for just over four minutes as it fades out. Although it's not precisely an adaptation of any song heard in Garfield's cartoon specials up to 1987, it has a similar uplifting and uncomplicated feel that some of the songs in the cartoons have. The AMIGA and ST versions have the same music, with admittedly more precision in the chord arpeggios, but they both lack a certain impact and finesse that the original C64 tune exhibits, particularly during the fade-out sequence, where the flute-like instrument (later changing to the more guitar-like instrument) plays a couple of different kinds of phrases on the C64 and the backing group performs the occasional drop - the AMIGA and ST versions only have a clear loop of the two main bars at the end played on a single melodic instrument that doesn't feel much like any particular instrument.

Along with the main theme tune, the game features the famous bit from the Dragnet theme whenever you enter the screen with the giant rat. The AMIGA and ST versions play it instead of the main title theme, and restart the main title theme when you enter another screen, and the C64 version only plays the Dragnet bit when you have chosen to play with only sound effects. Also, when you're playing with only sound effects on, the C64 and 16-bit versions have a small "Here's Odie!" tune, which can get a bit annoying, because he's almost constantly following you around, and the little ditty plays every time Odie enters the screen.

Unfortunately, the SPECTRUM and AMSTRAD versions were not blessed with any sort of music at all, and the sound effects leave a lot to be desired, as you will only be hearing infinitely repetitive tapping of Garfield's feet, and nothing else. As these two versions demonstrate, there isn't much of use for a sound effects-only option, if there are no proper sound effects, so happily, the C64 version does have more than just the two little annoying ditties I mentioned above. Of course, you get Garfield's walking noise, which is similar to what you hear on the other two 8-bits, but additionally, you get Odie's bouncing noise whenever he's on the screen, and a quick little "dwibb" sound for picking up an item, so the C64 version is certainly much more equipped with sounds than the other two 8-bits. The 16-bits have a similar library of sound effects as the C64 version, but instead of a sound for picking up items, you get a swishy sound for kicking. So, apart from the little nuance differences in the theme tune, the C64 and 16-bit versions are fairly even.




Garfield's Big Fat Hairy Deal is not a masterpiece by any means, and it only really serves the purpose of introducing Jim Davis' beloved fat feline into the realm of computer games. Due to the game's rather unfair stamina and energy balancing system and the admittedly cat-like illogical puzzles, it became little more than an irritating footnote in gaming history, but for perhaps exactly these reasons, people still remember it more than it perhaps deserves to be remembered. So, it's somewhat of a case of "any publicity is good publicity", really. As for the purely mathematical scores based on each version's placings in each segment here, the overall results are:

1. COMMODORE 64: Playability 3, Graphics 2, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 8
2. ZX SPECTRUM: Playability 4, Graphics 2, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 7
3. COMMODORE AMIGA / ATARI ST: Playability 1, Graphics 3, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 6
4. AMSTRAD CPC: Playability 2, Graphics 1, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 4

Whether or not these results are accurate, really matters very little, because the game offers little in terms of pleasure. My personal nostalgia for the game has to do with the music, as well as being one of the games I failed to complete back in the day even with a walkthrough and a cheat mode. Now, though, it's a different matter entirely, and I can safely say the 16-bit versions offer the best cartoon experience, while the SPECTRUM version offers the least problematic gameplay. But I can't say, which version I actually prefer anymore.

I confess to have never had the inclination to trying out all of the Garfield games, particularly since there are so many Flash games and other cheap little titles aimed for the very young demographic. However, there are only a very few Garfield games made before the year 2000, if you want to keep it retro. The Edge had another attempt at a Garfield game in 1989 with "Winter's Tail", which is basically three mini-games with a wintery theme. Being universally declared as the worse of the two Garfield games from the Edge, I decided to just mention it here at the end of the comparison of their first, more accepted game. While "Winter's Tail" doesn't actually play out as a sports game, two of the three mini-games are about sports-like wintery activities, namely downhill skiing and ice-skating. The third part is a platformer set inside a chocolate egg factory.

Garfield: Winter's Tail (The Edge, 1989) - Left: ZX Spectrum, Right: Commodore 64.
The other two Garfield games from before 2000 were primarily made for consoles. Also in 1989, the first of these two was made by Towa Chiki for the Japanese 8-bit Nintendo console market - a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer (surprised?) called "Garfield no Isshukan: A Week of Garfield", which, at least setting-wise has more in common with Big Fat Hairy Deal than Winter's Tail. People might be generally more familiar with the other game, "Caught in the Act" by Sega, also released under the title "Garfield in TV Land!". It was released for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive and Game Gear, as well as the Windows platform of the time in 1995. Although it's yet another platformer, the mostly surreal setting give it a nice twist, and the various mini-games keep things interesting. While I cannot claim to be a fan of any of these three Garfield games, Caught in the Act just might be the most recommendable one of the lot, unless you want something more traditional and based in Garfield's own home and its immediate surroundings. In that case, A Week of Garfield could well do the trick, but it's a brutally difficult game that only gives you one life, lots of enemies, very little in terms of weapons, and all the items you need to collect are always hidden from plain sight.

Above: A Week of Garfield (Nintendo Famicom, 1989)
Below: Garfield - Caught In The Act (Sega Genesis/Megadrive, 1995)

In other words, Garfield's adventures in gaming haven't been very successful, and I honestly cannot recommend any of them with a good conscience. If you are new to Garfield, and find yourself suddenly interested to dig deeper into the whole thing, I suggest you start with the earliest animated TV specials or the comics from around the same time. The "Garfield and Friends" series was personally a huge letdown, and the earliest comic strips can be compared to the early Simpsons sketches - they're awkward to look at, and the comedy isn't as fine-tuned. If you're not a fan of Garfield from earlier experience, you might still enjoy Dan Walsh's genius Garfield Minus Garfield comic strips, modified from Jim Davis' originals.

That's it for now, see you next time with something completely different! Thanks for reading, bye!

1 comment: