Review – Garfield Lasagna Party
2022 will be remembered as a notable year in video game history, both in terms of developments, killer titles, and industry shaking news. This was the year that Elden Ring made a serious play for the attention of all, and Blizzard showed that you can always, always destroy a franchise through greed and incompetence. Steam Decks made it into more hands than ever, VR expanded wildly, the three major consoles all put out amazing exclusives, and promises from years ago finally came to fruition. It will also be the year that I’ve played more awful games than ever before due to the nature of things, because I foolishly let myself be open to getting hurt. I was rewarded with a couple of solid blows to the heart, with games like Garfield Lasagna Party.
Garfield Lasagna Party felt like it could swing either way when it came into my life. On the one hand, it’s a Garfield game. I know that people ironically fawn over Garfield Kart, but no one was laughing when Garfield Kart: Furious Racing was released because companies can’t tell that sales are memes. On the other hand, a take on the digital board game genre is never a bad thing: it can turn out quite good, and be a new source of enjoyment.
Mario Party is one of my go-to titles with friends and family, and there’s always room for improvement. Heck, the recent Sumiko Gurashi: Minna de Rhythm Party is silly fun, both cute and challenging, so why not imagine a different brand can make a great game? Plus, I read an insane amount of Garfield as a child and even loved the cartoon (U.S. Acres was fantastic), so I was fairly hopeful I could find something fun in this rather on-the-nose game about gathering lasagna.
The objective of any Lasagna Party is as such: get the most lasagna by the end of the turns. That’s it. You get lasagna from many, many different means. The most straightforward way to do this is to simply win the minigames that crop up after everyone’s taken a turn. If you’re trash at minigames, don’t worry! You can also get lasagna by the following means: moving around, winning it on a big wheel, losing minigames (even the losers get some), and just generally existing. See, the way to make sure everyone cares about getting lasagna is to devalue it to the point of commonality: if you can get the same amount of lasagna by landing at start versus coming in second in a minigame, why waste time in being good at rolling a ball or slicing a pizza? You can simply be lucky with dice!
Many people don’t think of the expanded Garfield universe when it comes to characters, and neither did the developers of Garfield Lasagna Party. You can choose from Garfield, Odie, Nermal, or Arlene, whose name I had to look up three times because I kept forgetting it. Want to play as Jon, the veterinarian, or some kind of Garfield variant? Too bad, you get those four and that’s all!
In theory, this should mean that attention to detail that should have gone to the characters instead goes to the board, but that’s also a hopeless opium dream that I chase like the ghost of my dead Victorian wife (I miss you, Lady Arestra Villanesto). You get one board, which I guess is set in Garfield’s backyard, the quintessential place you think of when you think of Garfield. Sorry, I didn’t even know Jon had a backyard: I was just marveling that he had a house with a big enough crawl space to hide all the bodies of runaways he’s collected throughout the decades. You have one board, there’s a bunch of random spaces (some with lasagna!) and that’s pretty much it.
As far as the board game strategy of it goes, Garfield Lasagna Party is fairly simple: roll as much as you can as often as you can. If you get coins, pick up items that can seriously affect the game in different ways. Some, like the banana peel, are pretty incidental: for the price of two coins, you eliminate one space from an opponent’s roll. But if you get an eraser, for example, you can remove the effect of a space an opponent lands on, effectively making their turn for naught.
There’s a countermeasure to each of these items: a hot dog adds a bunch of moves to your roll to improve movement, and the hamburger prevents your roll from being messed with at all. If you happen to land on a lucky spot with a super dice, you then can roll up to ten spots in a single turn, which is a huge mover and can make things go really fast. Or at least, it would be really fast, if the game wasn’t insistent on thinking you had the memory span of a Post-It.
For a game with no character special moves or variant in the board, you’d think things would go quickly, but Garfield Lasagna Party takes an EXORBITANT amount of time to explain and re-explain everything. When an item is used, a massive banner covers the screen to tell you what it does, even if you’ve seen it twenty times before. When it’s someone’s turn, you have a dedicated amount of time where the players can decide if they want to use an item or not. Before each round, you find out who’s in the lead. After each minigame, you find out who’s in the lead.
These little moments are stretched out and bloated through sluggish, boring animations that aren’t even separate from the game. If it was some kind of cutscene, I might almost forgive the developers for wanting to really show off the sick Garfield animation they put together. Instead, it’s just the same character sprites, gesticulating and moving with no emotion or thought behind them. It’s almost like watching mascots at a cheap theme park try to act out a scene with their goddamn blank slate heads. You can clutch your oversized skull and stare at the ground, but you’re still constantly smiling because you have no soul, so I don’t really buy your sorrow at being in last, Odie. Maybe don’t be trash at the game next time!
Right, the minigames. The core of Garfield Lasagna Party are the minigames, and, sweet pasta Jesus, there’s a lot of them. I appreciate that the time and ideas that should have gone into better game design or getting a single voice clip somewhere in here was passed over in trying to find which games from Mario Party they could properly rip off without getting sued.
Sure, some of them are semi-original: grabbing the toast that pops up from the toaster was definitely different, even if it was just to see who would push A the fastest. Trying to match notes along with a badly conducted orchestra, well, alright, I suppose that could fit in anywhere and be in nearly any game. But standing on a giant ball that rolls around and trying to knock other people off the island you’re on? That’s not just a well-known Mario Party game, it’s literally one that’s a gif meme that everyone and their mother has seen. Considering how many people have tried to rip off Garfield over the years, I guess I was just surprised to see him ripping off someone else.
Also, some of the games are just objectively not good. Some of them are perfect for the party atmosphere: roll up the biggest snowball, keep your side of the room cleanest, even be in possession of the Golden Lasagna the longest. But trying to do fractional math on a pizza with just the joystick to move a single pizza cutter for a series of strokes? That was not fun and also frustratingly difficult since I couldn’t calibrate the cutter properly. The AI was on easy and yet Nermal could effortlessly figure out how to make sure three pepperonis wound up on each of six slices. He should have stayed in Abu Dhabi, this is nonsense.
Plus, it’s really hard to win if the game glitches out and prevents opponents from losing a minigame! In one competition, you need to run around a gated area, trying not to collide with your opponent, the fence or the gradually lengthening streak of color behind you (think competitive Snakes). Well what in the name of pizza flavored fuck am I supposed to do when Odie glitches outside the fence and can run forever, unfettered by the rules of man or kings? When I watch him pass through Jon like the ghost of a being he is, showing that I am a victim of the constraints of society and he is now an evolved being, one who cannot be stopped by something as simple as logic or law? WHAT THEN, GOD??? Well, I ran into the fence and lost. Only two lasagnas for me.
As just a collection of minigames and vaguely Garfield-adjacent ideas, Garfield Lasagna Party has moments of charm, some light enjoyment, and not much else. A short game takes a staggeringly long time, there is zero warning or preamble before the game ends (so be sure to pay attention to the turn counter) and nothing can be unlocked, upgraded, or adjusted other than AI difficulty and having vibration on or off. I think this is something that a real Garfield fanatic (I know you exist, I’ve seen your Volvo) will want to pick up, but they’ll want a physical copy to proudly put on their shelf.
This is something that I cannot see a logical reason for anyone who isn’t a fan of the orange cat purchasing. The minigame competitive scene is already chock full of great choices, and Garfield Lasagna Party isn’t one of them. It’s somehow both too long and too short at the same time, with minigames and animations running overtime, and gameplay being terse and light. The music is forgettable, no sound effects evoke the sensation of excitement, and I cannot stand knowing that you can get third place by losing every single goddamn minigame and just being lucky with rolls. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys getting whiskey drunk, but are tired of letting your rage not have a target, good news: I’ve found you an outlet.
Cartoonish graphics that have no innovation or pizazz in animation, combined with a overly generic board means that I couldn’t find anything worth engaging with herein.
It’s a series of mini games connected with a board, unless you do the game mode without a board. Mini games vary from okay to terrible, and you can win without ever winning a single game. Grand.
Music wasn’t offensively bad, but it was also pretty standard and forgettable. No voice work, no superb sound effects. Plays just as well with no sound.
When the game just kept dragging itself out further and further and the whole thing ended with a whimper instead of a bang, I truly felt I had wasted my time.
Final Verdict: 3.0
Garfield Lasagna Party is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Garfield Lasagna Party was provided by the publisher.