NextGen Take - Garfield Lasagna Party

Ooey gooey mini-gaming goodness



By Paul Hunter

Like most kids in the 80s, I was naturally drawn to everyone's favourite orange cat, Garfield. He hates Mondays, loves being lazy, is extremely sarcastic and has an intense passion for food—especially lasagna, pizza and hot dogs. How could you not love the little furball?

About a year ago, Microids signed a deal to bring three new Garfield games to the market and the first one has already arrived: Garfield Lasagna Party. I knew I had to check this title out, if for nostalgic reasons alone, but the hilarious lasagna-filled trailers and Twitter memes pumped up my anticipation even more.

Taking a page out of Nintendo's Mario Party series, this new Garfield title packs 32 mini-games and a classic board game mode where the objective is, of course, to see who can collect the most lasagna. For those hungry for a new party game, is the new Garfield game a gourmet four-course meal or yesterday's leftovers? Let's take a look, here are three things I liked about the game...and two I didn't.

Liked: Colourful and Charming Visuals

Garfield Lasagna Party nails its cartoony presentation, from the bright and cheery intro to the playful 3D models. I was completely enamoured by the visuals, which brought back memories of watching Jim Davis' famous Garfield and Friends Saturday morning cartoon way back in the early 90s.

Joining Garfield in this party game extravaganza is his best friend Odie, his recurring love interest Arlene and his frenemy Nermal. All these characters look wonderful in 3D, with their bright orange, yellow, pink and muted grey colours, and they're animated well, too. There's lots of excellent 2D artwork to boot, including the in-game scoreboard and some rather snazzy tutorials featuring a huge hand-drawn Garfield taking up nearly half the screen.

The mini-games likewise have enticing visuals filled with a mix of vibrant eye-popping colours and muted, soft, inviting ones. I've been playing so many mature titles lately full of dark and dreary environments, so it was a nice change of pace to spend the last week playing one of the brightest and most uplifting games I've spent time with this year.

Liked: Most of the Mini-Games

As mentioned, Garfield Lasagna Party includes 32 mini-games, the majority of which I thought were fun to play. Some of the better mini-games are, perhaps unsurprisingly, similar if not directly borrowed from Mario Party. Examples are Perfect Profile where you need to press buttons to have your character perform specific poses shown on the screen or Dog Panic which has you racing while jumping over or sliding under various obstacles. The most direct game lifted from Mario Party though is Snowball Effect, which puts all four players on giant snowballs with the goal being to smash your opponents off a circular platform. Even though some of these mini-games weren't exactly novel, there's no denying their fun factor.

The great news is that Garfield Lasagna Party does contain plenty of new mini-games that are actually very enjoyable and perhaps the best games in the entire collection. There's a simple-yet-challenging mini-called called Catch It where the idea is to grab toast the instant it pops out of the toaster. The twist is, there's only one toaster with all four players standing around it—so everyone is competing to catch the same toast. Other fun, original mini-games include Spring Cleaner where everyone scrambles to sweep junk out of their designated quadrant and Tick-Tock, which is essentially a game of hot potato inside a home with various rooms—and the room doors randomly open and close on a timer. Oh, and there are some fast-action versions of golfing and fishing that I thought were great fun as well.

Liked: Playing Multiplayer with the Family

Garfield Lasagna Party features four-player local multiplayer (no online, unfortunately) and it's really the way to play this game. It seems obvious that a party game is better with others, but this one really has a lot of mini-games that shine when everyone is playing together. That's mainly because in many of the mini-games you're directly interacting with other players, like in Roll the Ball where everyone in a backyard full of snow has to try and roll the biggest snowball possible. Or there's the mini-game Super Cat that's analogous to Snake where all four players run around in an enclosed space and leave a trail, which you have to avoid hitting. Games like these are hilarious fun when playing together with friends or family.

Didn't Like: Lasagna Race Mode

The centrepiece mode in Garfield Lasagna Party is Lasagna Race Mode, which presents a cheerful and colourful game board resembling The Game of Life. To start, you can choose how many turns the game will be (with the default ten turns taking about 30 minutes to play), plus you can choose the number of players and AI difficulty.

Being the showcase mode I fully expected it to be a total blast but as you play the issues start to surface. For one thing, this mode is very slow with long die rolls and sluggish animations, but the worst offender is the item system that lets you hold back other players or give yourself a boost.

The way it works is this: as you roam around the board you'll collect coins, which can then be cashed in for different items at the in-game store. Beneficial personal items you can buy include a hot dog that adds two to your die roll, a hamburger that adds five or a sandwich that protects your roll from other players' items. You can also purchase offensive items as well, like a spicy pepper that reduces an opponent's die roll, a dead fish that makes a player reroll their die and an eraser that eliminates the effect of the square an opponent lands on.

On the surface, these items add depth and strategy but in practice, it just makes this mode more of a slog. And that's because after each player rolls their die, everyone has ten seconds to decide if they'll use items or not. Multiply that times dozens of die rolls and it amounts to several minutes of idle sitting each game. And even worse, players will tend to 'gang up' on the current leader by throwing them nasty item after nasty item, while largely ignoring the other players, which just seems cruel and unfair.

The other big issue with Lasagna Race Mode is its severe lack of content. While Mario Party typically gives you several different boards to play, each with an interesting setting and aesthetics, this game gives you just one board. That might be tolerable if the board at least had randomness to it, like how in Mario Party when suddenly game-changing events and enemies appear on the board, but nothing of the sort happens in Lasagna Race Mode. It's one static board that never changes, which can get repetitive fast. If the mode perhaps had unlockables after each game, like new characters or items, that would extend the replayability; but again, none of that is included here.

The one saving grace is Lasagna Challenge Mode where you can practice your favourite mini-games without the board game mechanics. This mode lets you dive right in and start playing the mini-games, which are by far the best part of this package. You can also go to Lasagna World Tour Mode to set up a tournament to play a predefined number of mini-games. Again, great fun with family playing local multiplayer.

Didn't Like: A Handful of Mini-Games are Broken

Of the 32 included mini-games, at least three or four of them are terrible, if not completely broken. Coincidentally, the majority of them are ones that place you in 3D areas, with the game engine simply unable to properly handle 3D gameplay.

There's a vacuuming game where you need to suck up flies and spiders with a Luigi's Mansion-type vacuum, but the camera is unwieldy and it's way harder than it should be to gauge how far back you need to be to suck up those critters. Then there's the snowball fight mini-game where you need to pack snow and chuck snowballs at your opponents, but the aiming is horrendously frustrating. The worst mini-game though is one where you need to precisely cut a pizza such that each slice contains exactly three pepperoni. What makes this mini-game so frustrating is it's nearly impossible to rotate your analog stick to get the right angle—the controls are just not precise enough.

The real stinker that compounds the issue is the game's AI is either incredibly proficient or dull as a doorknob. Even if you put the game's difficulty on easy, you'll see Nermal or other opponents slicing pizza slices to perfection, meanwhile, you'll be struggling with the sluggish controls. The same goes for the bug vacuuming game, I remember the first time I played it I managed to suck up 20 bugs while an AI Arlene got over 70. The funny part is in 9/10 mini-games the AI can be easily defeated, but for whatever reason, some mini-games have huge AI difficulty spikes.

Once again the good news is by going into Lasagna Challenge Mode you can ignore the handful of truly awful mini-games and only focus on the ones that offer tons of fun.

The Verdict

Garfield Lasagna Party is a solid mini-game collection that won't knock off the kings like Mario Party or WarioWare, but still offers enough that families should get a real kick out of it. The majority of the 32 mini-games are fun to play, but it is too bad the main board game race mode doesn't deliver. Stick with the challenge mode though, which lets you play mini-games of your choice, and you're bound to have a great time.

Final Score: 7/10 - Good


Garfield Lasagna Party details

Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Balio Studio
Publisher: Microids
Genre: Party Game
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)


A key was provided by the publisher.