Of all the things that people are nostalgic for in 2019 – I didn’t think Garfield Kart would be one of them. In fact, I’m not convinced it is at all. And yes, Garfield Kart – Furious Racing is not the first time the lasagna-loving tabby and his friends have found themselves behind the wheel. Whether it needed to happen or not though, it has, so the real question becomes – is this latest entry into what can now technically be called a franchise any good? The short answer is no.
Actually, that’s the long answer as well, but let me preface that with another question. What makes a good kart racer? Is it exciting track design that’s fun to master? Accessible yet tight driving controls? Is it a varied and interesting selection of power-ups? There’s a reason that the genre has long been dominated by the likes of Mario Kart (although we were blessed this year with the excellent Team Sonic Racing), it has all of that and more. Garfield Kart, on the other hand, does not. This is a kart racer that not only does nothing inventive to try and carve out a space for itself within the market, but it barely manages to get the fundamentals right.
Now, I know that all sounds harsh, but in a strange twist that I’m not even sure is legal in the field of video game review writing – I actually have a counterpoint to my own criticism of the game. Garfield Kart – Furious Racing feels a lot like the old cartoon tie-in games of the early 3D console generations, and I kinda dig that about it. Is that a reason to fork out $40 for a violently average game? Not at all. But there has to be somebody out there with a very specific pining for a very specific breed of half-baked, franchise-milking PS2-era kart racer played through the filter of modern technology, and I just want them to know they might be interested in this.
For everyone but that one guy though, Furious Racing has almost nothing to offer that isn’t better somewhere else. Soon after booting up the game and bearing witness to the high-school-PowerPoint menus and nightmarish character models, it’s clear that this game was made with about as much care as Garfield himself would apply to anything that isn’t lasagna. A barebones and unexciting suite of modes further exemplifies this. Sure, everything is accounted for – single player races, grand prix and time trial, as well as both offline and online multiplayer – but it’s less “Come check out this exciting mode!” and more “This is what the design brief said we had to include.” And, as you can imagine, the online servers are about as devoid of people as my ninth birthday party.
The most critical thing in all of this though, and the biggest crime that Garfield Kart commits, is that the racing just isn’t exciting. Again, all the pieces are here, they just don’t make for a compelling whole. The driving model is competent enough, but lacks any real sense of speed or skill. The tracks don’t help; they’re all flat, uninspired circuits with no memorable or exciting turns or any semblance of verticality or variety in their layouts. The item selection gets by on being a total facsimile of other, better racers, trading shells and banana peels for things like lasagne and pies. Don’t get me started on the Kart engine sounds, either. I can still hear the petulant whine, screaming their demonic hellsong into the center mix of my soundbar until I wished, wished that the migraine their sounds induced would escalate into a full-on aneurysm.
In a genre where all you need to do to be even average is to copy what everyone else is doing, Furious Racing somehow still fails at doing that. It just isn’t fun. It really begs the question: Why go to the effort of making a game with the Garfield license, in a certain genre, if you’re not going to use said license or genre in any kind of interesting way? Was there a Garfield Kart-sized hole in 2019’s release slate? I’d argue no.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro // Review code supplied by publisher
- Artefacts Studio
- PS4 / Xbox One / Switch / PC
- November 5, 2019