Garfield: Lasagna World Tour Review
Many of us fell in love with the sarcastic, moody, overweight and downright hilarious feline way back when. Jim Davis created one of the most beloved comic strip characters in history in the late ‘70s, and Garfield has been making us laugh for decades since; that simple comedy has certainly withstood the test of time. Unfortunately, the good name of this fat cat has fallen flat in recent times, what with several lackluster movies and even worse video games. Unfortunately, Garfield: Lasagna World Tour doesn’t reverse the trend, and while it might be fun for an hour or two, it’s a flawed production that doesn’t have anywhere near enough flash and accessibility for the average Garfield fan. In this era of amazing technological achievements, we weren’t expecting something with super high production values and a finely honed gloss, but this is a bit too sloppy and a bit too frustrating to be considered worthwhile. As is normally the case when evaluating Garfield-based entertainment that isn’t the comic strip these days, we come to the conclusion that Lasagna World Tour falls well short.
The graphics really aren’t bad for a PS2 game, but they’re not exactly impressive for a late-era title on the aging machine. Blast! does attempt to input some appreciated detail into the environments, and the backdrops are surprisingly diverse during the adventure, but that’s where the positive feedback ends. The clarity leaves a lot to be desired, the level design is okay but often confusing in later levels, the jagginess and blurriness is in full effect when zooming in for a close up look at your surroundings, and everything always appears too dark. We understand the need for some drama and ambiance in any game, but we’re talking about Garfield, here. His adventure doesn’t need dark overtones; he’s the lazy, wisecracking cat who only reluctantly moves, and it’s typically in the direction of food. Granted, that concept doesn’t make for an invigorating interactive experience, but the graphics simply don’t convey the comedic side of Garfield. We really weren’t smiling or laughing when playing – and we really should’ve been – and the visuals go a long way towards cementing the atmosphere. It just doesn’t work in this case.
The sound isn’t much better; the repetitive soundtrack is instantly forgettable, the voice acting (mostly just limited to Garfield himself) isn’t very good, and the sound effects are limited and generic. It’s actually odd that Blast! decided to provide us with a very serious setting and then slapped on a bunch of cartoon-y sound effects, which means the contrast is exceedingly strange. The music kinda fits both, despite being very repetitive (especially when a particular section is quite long), but there’s not a whole lot of imagination or innovation behind it. You’ll soon grow tired of the sound, and long before you grow tired of the gameplay, which may or may not be a major hindrance. And perhaps we’re just being biased as we recall the good ol’ days of that Saturday morning cartoon, “Garfield and Friends,” because we really didn’t like the voice of Garfield in this game. It sounded forced and fake, and we just couldn’t stand listening to that cat talk. It’s unfortunate, but that’s our feeling on the matter. The rest is of the sound, the whole way ‘round, is just plain “meh.”
Essentially, you couldn’t really have a simpler action/adventure game, but it will take some brains to progress through the single-player quest. You will find that within the first hour of play, you’ll have to really examine your environment to solve whatever puzzle presents itself by using costumes, tools, and your steadfast buddy, Odie. But we’ll just get the basic controls out of the way first: you move around with the left analog stick (big surprise, yes?), control the camera with the right analog, jump with X, attack with Square, whistle to Odie with Circle, and execute a desired special command with Triangle. You can also use the R1 and L1 buttons to change the trajectory of whatever you’re throwing or…kicking. Yeah, there are times when you can toss a bone to Odie, and you have to aim where to throw, and other times when you actually kick Odie and again, you aim before booting. For the most part, the controls work quite well; they’re both quick and responsive, and if it weren’t for the troublesome camera, they’d probably represent the highlight of the game.
It’s the camera that really puts a damper on the whole adventure, just because it can be very erratic and almost always sits too close to Garfield. If you’re in a tight corner, the camera will suddenly zoom in for an ultra close-up, and you effectively lose the ability to control the camera for a few seconds. It’s weird and annoying. Furthermore, depending on the level design, it can be tough to aim a bone toss or a dog kick due to the camera being suddenly limited in its movement. It’s one of those drawbacks you just have to become accustomed to, but even when we did, it remained a significant shortcoming that never righted itself. At the very least, though, the base controls really do work fine, even if they are a touch slippery at times. Garfield lumbers along with a herky-jerky, overly dramatic stride, and even though he can clamber up ledges, it’s often hard to gauge distance in the game. How high is that ledge…? How far is that leap? The camera rarely helps in answering those questions, and it’s easy to over- or underestimate such things.
The story itself seems tacked on and almost unnecessary: Garfield hears about some sort of contest and the winner gets a lifetime supply of – you guessed it – lasagna. There are two shady characters behind the whole thing, though, and Garfield encounters them more than once throughout his adventure. Sadly, this includes several sections that simply don’t function well; the first involves Garfield going toe-to-toe with a big dog and button prompts flash up on the screen very quickly. The avid, veteran gamer won’t have any trouble, but the younger crowd not used to the controller may have a lot of problems. One other part, where Garfield has to ride Odie to safety through the streets while the big blue foes give chase, is just plain poorly implemented. You’re running towards the camera so you only have a split second to react to obstacles, and while not overly challenging, it’s still not the right way to go about it. More bad development decisions would follow, but at that point, we expected them.
Garfield: Lasagna World Tour is prone to many drawbacks and errors, and it’s just not all that entertaining. This is one of the funniest, most amusing characters in comic lore, so why didn’t any one aspect of this game make us smile? Why didn’t we have a good time? It goes well beyond the iffy premise, poor camera, ho-hum plot, and mediocre technicals; it has a lot to do with the very simple fact that this didn’t feel anything like Garfield. It’s like they took his body and transplanted it into a standard action/adventure game for kids; Blast! retained nothing of the Davis charm. That’s a sin, as far as we’re concerned, and it’s the single biggest reason why we couldn’t enjoy ourselves. Besides, considering the target audience for a title like this, it’s even more bizarre to have Garfield running around in a dangerous, ancient Egypt setting, swatting snakes with leaping spin-kicks. …what’s that about? On a more personal note, there aren’t many out there who are bigger fans than Garfield, and I was actually looking forward to kicking back with my favorite comic strip character.
Unfortunately, I got a double-edged sword in terms of my expectations: I did expect lackluster technical aspects, but I also expected a fun, bouncy little adventure. Instead, I got nothing like that, so I ended up with a concept that didn’t fit the spirit of Garfield, and while the controls and design should be commended to a point, the rest is just too boring and flawed to bother with. Oh well. I can always go back to his books.
7/14/2008 Ben Dutka