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Big, Fat, Hairy Deal - The Atari Times

Big, Fat, Hairy Deal

Garfield finds his way to Atari
by Matthias Jaap

August 22, 2002
It is quite surprising that new games for the Atari VCS2600 keep popping out on a regular basis but it shows that the console has still a huge following today. Being the only console that survived the great crash of the video game market in 1984, the VCS not only has a huge library of released titles but also of unreleased ones. These unreleased games are usually discovered by accident and even if they are not finished, VCS fans welcome every addition to the line of discovered protos. Some of these protos have a great brand name: Lord of the Rings, Tempest and Garfield. Garfield was presented on the Classic Gaming Expo 1999 and many thought that the game was a hoax because first artworks appeared in April. But the game was finished to a certain degree in 1984.

Garfield was programmed in 1984 by Steve Woita. Steve was responsible for the first VCS game to feature speech synthesis. His games also had a title screen which was not a common thing in VCS games. While he was programming Garfield the Tramiels took over Atari. He wanted to finish Garfield first but they decided to concentrate all development efforts on the computer line so he was laid off and Garfield was never finished.

The playable prototype was lost for fifteen years. When it was discovered, the people at the CGE archived the ROM image and asked the creator of Garfield, Jim Davis, for his permission. He agreed so everyone can enjoy another comic game.

The introduction screen shows a very nicely drawn image of Garfield. In fact, it looks like it could have been from a superior console. The green shades at the top and bottom of Garfield look also fine.

Garfield is a jump 'n' run game which consists of several screens. When our favorite cat reaches the end of a screen, the next screen is displayed. Surprisingly, Garfield is very awake and jumps instead of going slowly. He can jump to the left and right and move down to avoid flying objects. The first picture is harmless: Garfield jumps on the garden fence at night while flying hamburgers (!) do their nightly patrol. The same hamburger also appeared in Steve Woita's previous game Taz and is very tasty for Garfield if he manages to catch one. Although the hamburger is as big as his head, he opens his mouth far enough.

The second picture is more difficult. Instead of the hamburger, a flower pot is flying. Garfield can not eat the flower and a collision costs one life. Progressing to the third screen is not that difficult if you move carefully. Garfield is one the roof of his home. Light is burning in the windows and Odie pops out of the chimney. If Garfield avoids him he will reach the first and second screen again.

After that, the fourth screen is displayed. Garfield sees Nermal but he cannot be avoided. If Garfield touches Nermal he will reach a very strange screen. This screen looks like the first one but the fence is replaced by a series of Odies.

Game speed increases after completing the first screen but if you are only keen on a good score you can simply stay at the hamburger screen. The graphics show that the game was designed to be a 16K cartridge. Every character is drawn to be recognizable. The best looking sprite is Odie but the animation of Garfield is also good. The VCS rainbow effect is used in the game to make the game look more colorful. The house looks a bit strange because the house top is much bigger than the rest.

Unfortunately, there is not much sound except some beeps. It would have been interesting if speech synthesis was planned for the final version. So far, I have played four Garfield games. While the Mega Drive/Genesis Garfield is still the best, the VCS game version might appeal to Garfield fans, too. There is also an Atari ST game featuring Garfield which has great cartoon graphics.

Garfield - Big, Fat, Hairy DealThe first game Garfield - Big, fat, hairy deal is an action-adventure. Garfield walks, opens the fridge, eats and collects items. The aim of the game is to find his girlfriend Arlene. On his journey he will meet many of the other characters including Odie. You can even kick Odie and Nermal. The Garfield computer games were programmed by The Edge and they were specialists in cartoon games. While the first Garfield game was set in the same world as the comics, the second game was completely different. Garfield A Winter's Tail is an action/sports game. Garfield has to do some skiing to reach food. Although it is not certain if Garfield would do that. The game has excellent graphics, too.

Less known is a Garfield program for the ST: Garfield Construction Kit. It is an old public domain application written by the same programmer who wrote "Van Gogh III". Both programs were written using GFA-Basic and Van Gogh can be used to create graphics for GCK. GCK allows you to create a Garfield screen in ST low. You can choose between different backgrounds and then place objects (food, table etc.), Jon, Garfield, Nermal and Odie on it. There are also various comic bubbles to choose from. Each graphic can be mirrored and flipped. Once everything is finished you can view the image and play a X32 tune along with it.

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