Multiplayer party games have really shined during the COVID-19 pandemic. From the viral sensation Fall Guys to indie hit- Phasmophobia and Among Us, these games have been a fantastic way to hang out with friends at a distance and also enjoy some quality gaming time “together.”
Lunch A Palooza from Seashell Studios is a 2-4 player fighting game that aspires to grab your attention like the aforementioned games, but this game is best served as a quick appetizer before moving on to something more filling.
Setting the table
The premise behind Lunch A Palooza is simple: you want to be the last food standing in a five lives fight to the end.
Lunch A Palooza offers four different game modes. Main Course: the free-for-all variant, Side Dish: 2v2 or 3v1 team-based battles, King of the Cloche: a King of the Hill mode, and Royal Buffet: appear as a random character every time you respawn.
There are four unique foods to choose from: a hamburger, an ear of corn, a meatball, and a bundt cake molded blob of Jell-O. These characters all have their own way of attacking. The hamburger banzai drops on top of its opponents, the ear of corn spins itself into a frenzy and creates a close-range popcorn explosion, the meatball spins itself like a Sonic spin dash, and the Jell-O has a mid-range cube attack – the most effective attack and the favorite of mine.
There are three arenas from which to choose, and all of them deliver their own quirks. Four new characters (pizza, sushi, doughnut, and ice cream) can be unlocked, as well as three additional arenas, when predetermined milestones are achieved.
When I first saw Lunch A Palooza, I thought the game could be a nice complement to my favorite party game: Gang Beasts. What makes wacky physics-based games like Gang Beasts, Octo-Dad and Goat Simulator so much fun is that the controls are incredibly responsive. While Lunch A Palooza appears to emulate Gang Beasts on the surface, there is no pizza underneath the toppings.
Disappointment quickly set in when I realized there is no option for online play to be found. Outside of forced social distancing pandemic times, this may not exactly be a deal-breaker, but when I can’t gather with people, opting to play an offline multiplayer-focused game is a tough hill to climb.
I figured as long as the AI is competent that the game could provide some single-player excitement. I hopped into my first match as a hamburger. It was clear after about 30 seconds that Lunch A Palooza is severely undercooked.
In Lunch A Palooza, there is one button designated for attack: a quick button press causes a weak attack, a longer hold on the button enables a strong attack. Attacking feels like a crap shoot. There is no rhyme or reason to attack strength in practical use. The button either registers immediately, or there is a noticeable delay. The game needs pinpoint controls when a match lasts anywhere between 30 seconds and 3 minutes.
The button that is supposed to grab your opponent never worked. A speed-reading class would be needed to keep up with the hint screens before matches start up.
There are power-ups like aluminum foil that acts as a shield against attacks and power-downs like a rotten fish head that scrambles your controls. These items randomly drop in the field of play, but none of them have much of an impact.
The amount of times that a character is eliminated within five seconds of spawning is aggravating. I would just go back to online dating if I wanted to get rejected that quickly with no reason.
There is no health bar, only an indicator of the number of lives remaining, and to test a theory of mine, I was able to win a match by hiding in a corner and letting the CPU eliminate all other characters on the table. It felt like a kid winning his hurdles race because all of the other competitors ran in the wrong direction.
I recruited my girlfriend to play a few rounds of Lunch A Palooza with me, as the game is meant primarily to be played in couch co-op. I did not want to unfairly judge a multiplayer game for a poor single-player experience.
The poor control issues are only compounded when everyone playing has the same issues.
It took three matches before she decided she had enough. When I asked her what she did not like, she told me there was nothing that she did like.
We started off by trying the King of the Cloche game mode. This mode has characters chasing a piece of cake around the table and vying to hold the position long enough. Right off the bat it was evident that the mode wouldn’t have much staying power. The first person to the cake only needed to do a quick attack to blow the opponent off the table. The few matches we did of this mode lasted about 45 seconds each.
The most enjoyable part of playing multiplayer was a weird glitch that happened in the middle of a Royal Buffet match that gave us a good laugh. My character was knocked off the table to lose a life. When I respawned, my girlfriend controlled her own character as well as mine. I was locked out of the game for the remaining time and watched her fight herself. Both characters moved in the same direction and could not get any closer together as they danced around the table.
Oddly enough, she still lost the match.
When the best part of a game is a glitch, work needs to be done.
One part of the meal that deserves to have its praises sung are the levels themselves. From an Italian restaurant to an 80’s pizza parlor/arcade to an airplane, these stages are varied and aesthetically pleasing.
In Pixel Pizza Paradise, the matches take place on top of an air hockey table. This changes into a foosball or a pool table if you place a quarter into the corresponding slot.
In Fright Flight Deluxe, the wrestling happens on top of tray tables and airplane seats. This plane is going through the worst case of turbulence that I’ve seen since the movie Alive.
Every level has its quirks and disembodied objects trying to knock the food onto the floor.
If the same amount of work went into the gameplay as it did into the character and level design, Lunch A Palooza would be a much more enjoyable game.
The Final Course
The idea for the game is an absolutely great one, but it needs to be much more polished. The character models and their accompanying backstories are funny, but there is no depth beyond that.
The music, while quickly repetitive, is fun, fast-paced, and frenetic. It sets the table for a frantic time.
If Seashell Studios goes back to the kitchen to rework their controls to provide a tighter experience, I would think about taking another bite.
This is a game that I would only recommend for very young children that cannot grasp the concept of gameplay.