As we mentioned in a previous article, my favorite fat orange feline is making a comeback. No, I’m not talking about Garfield; I’m talking about Heathcliff! You know, the cat born on the wrong side of the tracks in the bad part of town. Often referred to as a copycat, Heathcliff was actually created about five years before Garfield, and he is still alive and kicking. In fact, his 1980′s cartoon has been re-syndicated on some stations such as This), he has a DVD coming out later this year, a live-action/CGI movie coming out next year, and an animated television series coming out soon after that. But first, he is making his return to multimedia via video games, the first of which being Heathcliff! Frantic Foto for the DS.
Brought to us by the same folks who made the similar Foto Frenzy: Spot The Difference, Frantic Foto is a spot-the-differences game using over 120 of Heathcliff’s weekday newspaper comic panels. Many of them are in their original black-and-white form, but there are also quite a few that have been colored for a bit of variety. As you would surely expect from a game of this nature, you are tasked with comparing near-identical images and spotting five differences. The premise is very simple to understand and you have likely played any number of similar games at the bar/pub, in the newspaper, or on your computer. They can be boring or fun depending on your mood, but in general, I personally tend to enjoy the challenge.
Aside from having the added charm of Heathcliff, Frantic Foto doesn’t differ much from other games like this. Upon starting the singleplayer mode, you will be instructed to hold your DS like a book so you can view the pictures side-by-side. When you spot a discrepancy, you simply tap the offending area with your stylus and it will be circled in green. I was initially worried about the accuracy, but it’s spot on. Only once or twice did I have to try again because my tap was registered incorrectly. Anyone who plays these games regularly has got to admit that that’s pretty impressive.
While you play, little stars will occasionally appear on the screen, which I mistakenly assumed were hints of some sort that were perhaps trying to give me an idea of the general area of a specific difference. After having no luck with these for several rounds, I finally consulted the manual and realized that you simply click on them to earn bonus. Not being one who cares much about high scores, I found this slightly disappointing, but at least it reminded me of the days from my childhood when manuals were crucial helping you understand how to play a game. See, back then, we didn’t have tutorials; you either used trial and error or you flipped through the manual until finding your solution. It’s a bit silly to see this as a positive thing, I know, but I always appreciate a bit of nostalgia.
Although there’s not much that can go wrong when designing a game like this, I did find one major flaw: it is far too easy. Perhaps I should clarify that somewhat because some of the images are rather difficult and there are times when a difference can be incredibly subtle, such as a missing strip on Heathcliff’s tail or an extra blade of grass. That adds a nice hearty challenge, but I was disappointed to discover that should you exhaust all of your lives, you will simply start over where you left off without even suffering so much as a penalty to your score.
And to make the game even easier, you have four items at your disposal: the magnifying glass that reveals a difference, the milk bottle that reveals all differences, the fish that temporarily freezes the clock, and the hourglass that resets the timer. All of these are in limited supply, although you will periodically have a chance to earn—and thus replenish—an item. With Frantic Foto being forgiving to a fault, the only real motivation to keep playing is your own desire. I don’t need any extra incentive because I’ve spent most of my life gaming just for the sake of the experience, but I realize that isn’t enough for many people.
I suppose it doesn’t matter much given the above, but there are three difficulties, each containing 40 levels (as you play each one, its picture will be unlocked in the included gallery). Every 10 levels, you get to play a minigame called Waka Health. It is basically Whack-A-Mole but with mice in trash cans. Each time you hit a mouse, you get 100 points. Hit Heathcliff, however, and you lose points as well as time. I can’t say whether or not you need to get a certain amount of points, but upon completing this minigame, you should earn an item. If you could lose the game, these items would be crucial to your survival. On a more positive note: completing Waka Health for the first time will unlock it in the menu so you can play whenever you want.
In addition to the singleplayer mode, there is also a multiplayer mode in which you can play competitively against another player, which requires each of you to have your own copy of the game. This is understandable, but it may be difficult to find another person who owns this game. Heck, I currently don’t know anyone who owns any of the same games as me. And let’s face it: as much as I have always loved Heathcliff, he’s not exactly a hot item these days, so his games aren’t likely to be in demand until the movie comes out next year. As such, I was unable to test the multiplayer mode for myself, but online videos suggest that it is basically the same as the singleplayer but with the added bonus of having some competition, which is sorely needed.
If you ever need a break from the main game, the developers have included a nice little color book mode. There isn’t much space to work with if you have a small DS, but you can either draw your own pictures or color in the ones that are included. It unfortunately draws over the lines of the pictures and it doesn’t have an eraser tool, but it is still a decent way to kill time. You could say describes Heathcliff! Frantic Foto in a nutshell. There isn’t anything that necessarily makes it stand out (although I am oddly fond of the music), but it’s a good way to kill time, especially if you like Heathcliff. It could use a bit of polish here and there, but for $15, you really can’t go wrong.