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Garfield Kart: Furious Racing – Good Things Come to those who Pay

I've gone on record as unironically saying that 2015's Garfield Kart could be one of Steam's best kart racing games if its performance issues were fixed. They have and haven't been. On the one hand, the 2019 release of Garfield Kart: Furious Racing fixes them in addition to improving the art style and graphical fidelity, but on the other hand this could be seen as a £12.99 patch, a patch that's more expensive for the Nintendo Switch version.

Worse still is that the original and debatably broken Garfield Kart remains on Steam with its dire frame rate which makes 100% completion virtually impossible, endless load times that can kill progression, and no means of showing it off. Where I might ordinarily forgive such things if it means the original can be played on older systems, it didn't work on a high-end for the time system so I have little hope for it being better on a computer or laptop of lower specs. "In with the new" is typically preceded by "out with the old".

For reasons still unknown publisher Microids continues to call this a sequel over a year later, which would imply new maps, characters and unlockable items, but is for all intents and purposes a remaster. The word 'remake' could be generously applied if we look at the coin system used to buy items being scrapped, and all content barring gold-tier alternatives of unlockables being available from the get go. My theory is by calling this a sequel Microids think they can skirt criticism of releasing a remaster too soon. If only that was that was their biggest worry.

Furious Racing still has problems of its own. At 50cc, the lowest and slowest difficulty, the game's perfectly adequate. The speed is fast enough for the tracks not to feel drawn out (though Mario Kart Tour has spoilt me for wanting a 2 Lap default in karters now), and the differences in character, vehicle and accessory stats are at their most visible. However due to the longer races it means the liberal use of powerups from the AI is increased. You'll get time to tear your hair out in frustration learning that counters are nigh impossible, and it's best to put as much distance between your rival racers before being splattered by a homing pie (ooh matron), abducted by aliens or put to sleep.

At 100cc-150cc the game's unique problems begin to show. It seems that throughout the overwhelming amount of meme reviews and creepypastas on the forums some feedback managed to shine through. Either that or Microids and I are of one mind: the gravity of the original game was a bit too strong if I memory serves, so they've decided to allow cars to glide after a jump. At great speeds, like the ones you'll experience in the aforementioned difficulties, this does more harm than good almost all the time. Oftentimes you'll rocket so far into the sky that the game forcibly returns you to the track, like a Lakitu in Mario Kart except without anything to tie it to Garfield. It's best you don't get hung up on the lack of Garfield inspiration in the game. Just look at what happened to those who did: they wrote gibberish reviews on Steam.

Sometimes you can avoid the wacky physics by being pessimistic about ramps which are more bad than good as air time costs you speed and control, and sometimes you'll accidentally strike a jagged bit of road that will launch you into a dead stop, and you'll have to make a score-killing three-point-turn to escape it. Strangely the final time trial in Loopy Lagoon seems to rely on one exploiting the physics in such a way to get a gold medal (more on that later), and there's one puzzle piece I've spent just under two hours trying to get for a final achievement for this same reason. The puzzle pieces still unlocking unfunny pictures of Garfield in different costumes unrelated to the level they were unlocked in.

Despite this the physics don't affect the powerup with the most necessity: the spring powerup. You can launch it behind you as with three other items for other drivers to collide with, or you can use it to give yourself a jump to get onto otherwise unreachable platforms for shortcuts and puzzle pieces. It's also a guaranteed counter to the homing pie and aliens, provided the game decides you didn't clip their flying saucers and hold you in their grasp for the fun of it.

As fun as the time trials are to partake in, and have made me a lot more appreciative of how good or bad a track's design can be, I find it baffling how anyone's supposed to get the platinum medal times before the first patch fixed a lot of the 'respawn' glitches users exploited. A lot of world records from speedruns of the game relied on those, especially the final and most frustrating level of them all. Given the physics issues I wouldn't be at all surprised if they weren't tested and the developers guesstimated what a pro player's time would be like.

The reason for partaking in time trials if fun isn't reason enough, is to get upgrades for one's spoilers. By getting a gold medal players can unlock an upgrade available for use in 150cc mode, as each part has its potential limited by the chosen difficulty. This is particularly handy if you're going for what the game and I disagree on, a "perfect combination". Rather than try to optimise the best kart-karter combination the game gives you clues: colour-coding all the items to give you an even greater boost for going with a specific combination. I like this idea in theory as I spend far too much time complaining about racing game stats being confusing at best and frustrating at worse, but then this just begs the question of which combination is best. As it turns out, Odie in his Woof-Mobile with a Elasto-Hat and Cyclobone Spoiler. I say that in case anyone is interested in this game and wants some (mostly) easy achievements.

It's fairly easy to exhaust all of the content. In just 9 hours I'd done everything, and spent the last two hours trying over and over to get a puzzle piece so I could put this game behind me without any temptation to come back to it in the future. While the game has online multiplayer for some reason, it shares the same fate as its 2015 version: its peak was less than 200 players at any given moment, and we can't say how many who are currently playing are actively looking for matches. Those who fail to learn from kart racer history are doomed to repeat it.

If you plan on playing Garfield Kart at all, Furious Racing does it all better. The wonky-to-horrendous physics are only present on higher difficulties, which I'd sooner take over falling through the floor, the controller deciding to not work and several maps simply being able to load or run properly. If you're looking to get this on the Switch, don't. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still good.

Ending on a question, do you have any favourite licensed racing games you'd recommend? My favourite is Looney Tunes Racing on the Playstation One. Fantastic controls, great powerup system, awesome music and very clever bonus missions to do.


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