The bar for franchised game tie-ins is a moving target, but it’s rarely above sea level. Often, it spends time in the Mariana Trench. I’m lucky in that the franchises I love started as games, so the games are usually pretty good (or in the case of Pokémon, “Yes, it’s the same thing, but I bought it and it was okay the last 5 times so I guess I’ll do it again.”)
There are exceptions, of course, coughMagic:Legendscough but on the whole, I don’t actually play many games based on “Things I liked when they weren’t games.” I’m much more likely to buy a shirt because you wrote Undertale on it in comic sans, than I am to buy a game because it has LeBron James, or Rick and Morty in it.
All of this is a lead up to say that my expectations for Garfield Kart – Furious Racing were low. Very low. And while the game does exceed my expectations, the fact that it doesn’t crash constantly and runs on my Ultrawide monitor at all is already miles above what I expecting. My expectations were right next to the funny looking fish with the glowing bulb attached to its head.
Garfield Kart – Furious Racing is a a cart racer based off the Garfield comic strip: the fat orange cat who hates Mondays, loves lasagna, and made its creator Jim Davis a fortune. As a child, I actually liked Garfield if only because a cartoon where the cat actually wins made me happy. A a teenager I thought it was incredibly stupid, and not actually funny. But a stronger understanding of how syndication works, and how easy it is for a comic strip to get kicked from a paper at least makes me respect the effort it must take to tell 20+ years of mildly inoffensive “jokes” and not upset anyone.
Anyway, the theming is skin deep. Garfield Kart is fairly straightforward cart racer. If you’ve ever played any Mario Kart, you’ll pick it up quickly. If you haven’t played any Mario Kart, well, it’s a cart racer, so you’ll pick it up in like 5 minutes tops anyway.
Mechanically, Garfield Kart isn’t hugely technical. Press a button to go forward, toggle your drifts on curves to get a mini-turbo, and hit item boxes for consumables. The consumables range from a lasagna (a single use speed boost), to two variety of pies you can throw at your enemy (one type homes, the other type you have to aim). And it wouldn’t be Mario Kart without an item to royally screw the first place player. In Garfield Kart, that’s the UFO: a trio of three alien spaceships that fly ahead on the course, lay down tractor beams, and grab the first person to pass through.
Strangely enough, the UFO is fairly good for illustrating perhaps my biggest gameplay gripe with the game. Once a player ends up in first place, it’s incredibly difficult to catch them. A lot of the speed loss in Garfield Kart comes from crashing into other carts, and once you get ahead, it’s incredibly easy to just chain mini-turbos. And because of how item rolls work, it’s unlikely that the second place player will get the
red shells homing pies they need to close the gap.
Outside of that, we have the actual racing tracks. Garfield Kart has 16 tracks, all of which are fine. There’s a fair amount of asset reuse between them, but that’s not really a big deal to me.
What is a slightly bigger deal to me are the bugs. Garfield Kart is mostly stable, but has a fair number of bugs. In the 10 hours I’ve played, here’s a sampling of what I’ve seen: 1. Item display from item boxes not updating, and showing you as having an item after you’ve used it. 2. Cart collisions acting inconsistently. 3. Netcode resulting in other carts clipping into you, and launching you through the ground. 4. Hitting geometry at weird angles can easily result in carts getting stuck tilted up at 90 degrees, and unable to move. 5. AI getting permanently lodged on rocks.
Garfield Kart isn’t a bad game. It’s effectively just a low budget Mario Kart clone with a more boring theme, fewer tracks, and less polish. And while I would normally say “Just go play Mario Kart,” what sets Garfield Kart apart is its price point and system.
See, Garfield Kart regularly goes on sale for about a $1.50, a price at which you can buy 10 copies, send them to all your friends, and have an amusing cart racer to play with everyone for under $20. Compare to Mario Kart 8, which is $60 for the game alone, and another $50+ for each controller, and all of a sudden Garfield Kart is an absolute bargain.
So yes, while I do recommend Garfield Kart, it’s a conditional recommendation based on having 3-4 other folks to play it with, and spending about as much as a Snickers bar per person on the game itself.