At some point, someone should explain the cultural relevance of Garfield to us. We’ve never met someone who really, really likes Garfield, and the only copies of the books we see are old. It feels like Garfield is someone whose time has passed, yet here we are reviewing the second Garfield game on the latest generation of consoles. And – we think – they’re both aimed at children, so someone believes there is a next generation of Garfield lovers.
If you’re a Garfield fan, we apologise. But it raises a question that Garfield Lasagna Party doesn’t answer. Who is it for? We assume it’s for families, but there are hard edges of complexity and backstabbing that, at least in our case, were too sharp for our children to stay interested. But we can’t see nostalgic adults picking it up either. It’s got a mountain to climb.
Very broadly, Garfield Lasagna Party is a party minigame collection. We’ve had some good examples in the genre recently – Rabbids: Party of Legends and Cake Bash being the first to spring to mind – so there’s immediate competition. And Mario Party casts a reasonably large shadow over proceedings.
There tend to be two types of party minigame collection. There are the minigame compendiums that just let you play the games willy-nilly. And there are the collections that adopt a board game approach, chucking you and a few mates onto a Game of Life-style board, wheeling out a minigame after each round. Garfield Lasagna Party opts for the latter, which immediately puts it into close competition with Mario Party.
Lasagna Race is the main event of Garfield Lasagna Party. The objective is to collect the most lasagnas, and that means rolling a die, moving a number of spaces on a game board, and triggering an effect based on the space that was landed on. Coins are won or lost, and they can be spent on numerous shop spaces on the board to purchase food. That food can then be used on any player’s turn, including your own, to disrupt shenanigans. Chillis reduce the number on a dice and burgers add to them. Erasers neutralise the effects of a space.
Even in Mario Party, the inclusion of a board game meta is a bit marmite. It’s a whole lot of padding, and you can spend the majority of time rolling dice and negotiating spaces, rather than actually playing the damn minigames that brought you to the game in the first place. In our house, we’ve mixed opinions but, on balance, we would probably prefer a game that spun a wheel and just played some games. Luckily, with Garfield Lasagna Party, you CAN actually play it that way. The board game stuff is purely optional.
But it’s there as the first, default option for a party, so we should probably dive in. And it’s just not that great. There’s only one map layout, which is the first glaring issue. You can’t switch things up and try a different map, so you’re stuck with what is effectively a circular loop with three branching paths. It’s not exactly edge-of-your-seat stuff. There aren’t any landmark themes, squares or characters, either. In Mario Party, we’re used to the board developing over the course, and teleports, bombs and other hijinx as we try to earn our stars. Here, the board is static and unremarkable. It’s more Ludo than Mousetrap.
It’s also extraordinarily slow, and has a tendency to be crueller than other games of its type. As mentioned, you can play items on other players’ turns, but that just extends the playtime. You have to wait for everyone to scan their items, choose what to apply and then observe their effects. It slows down an already too-slow genre.
But a killer for our younger players is the misanthropy. There are so many ways that you can stuff up other players, thanks to the item system, and there’s a fair number of negative effects on the board too. We had a seven-year old who would get nobbled by a bad item, land on a bad space, and then lose a minigame and that was it, she’d sulk off to play Roblox on the tablet. Mario Party has had similar problems in the past, but this felt more acute.
The board game stuff received a thumbs down from the family (although I quite liked the item: they meant I was paying more attention to other players’ turns, but, hey, I got outvoted). The boards aren’t why people pick up this kind of game, though, and it’s purely optional. What matters most is the minigames, and they’re a mixed bunch.
Garfield Lasagna Party has thirty minigames, and we’d put them into three, roughly equal piles. The first pile is the ultra-familiar, the minigames that we have played countless times in pretty much every minigame collection. There’s the one where you ride on giant balls and try to knock others out of an arena. There’s the button-basher, as you try to out-bash your opponents in a certain timeframe. And there’s the rhythm action one, where you tap out a sequence of moves. If we had a penny for every one of these we’ve played, etc.
The second pile is the broken games. These are minigames that might have been fine on a whiteboard in the designer’s office, but are plain wonky in execution. A large majority of these are in a third-person view, and Garfield Lasagna Party can’t manage to pull them off. A snowball fight is so inaccurate and flubbed that we barely knew what was going on. A Luigi’s Mansion-style hoovering game doesn’t seem to want you to succeed. A keep-the-flag game has you spamming the buttons without really taking the flag. There’s a sizable list of games that just don’t feel right on the sticks.
And then there are the games that are genuinely inspired. A hot-potato game where you try to get rid of a bomb is vastly improved by doors opening and closing at random. There’s a game that reminded us of Spy vs Spy, as we all hunted the same house for three items. And another game had us racing around a restaurant for ingredients, but those ingredients would only reveal themselves in flashes. It was part memory game, part Diner Dash.
It’s as mixed a bag as it sounds, and we soon developed favourites and games that we never, ever wanted to play again. Lucky, then, that Garfield Lasagna Party has two additional modes – Lasagna Challenge and Lasagna World Tour – that dispense with the board game and instead opt for a player-chosen playlist, or a randomised playlist. Feasibly, you can play just the games that tickle you.
A final note on something that Garfield Lasagna Party’s not so hot on. Mario Party and My Singing Monsters Playground do something that all party games should do: allow the player to test and explore the minigame in a safe environment before they play. Often this is a glorified lobby, and it works a treat. In Garfield Lasagna Party there is not only a complete lack of this, but the instructions are often not fit for purpose. We genuinely had no idea what we were getting into from some tutorials.
Garfield Lasagna Party is not the first party game that we’d direct you to. It sits somewhere below the average thanks to its slow board game mode, which desperately needs more than one layout to keep things fresh, and a collection of minigames that are as mixed in quality as Garfield’s own comic strips. If you’re a family of Odie fanatics then sure, go to town, but everyone else can – and should! – try out Cake Bash for about £30 less.
You can buy Garfield Lasagna Party from the Xbox Store