The Muppet Christmas Carol: Spirit of Giving Review

Published: December 20, 2023
Categories: Feature, Reviews

If you’re like me, you’ve dawdled on buying your holiday gifts once again. Christmas seems so far away, and then after two and a half weeks of opening advent calendar boxes, I suddenly realize that we’re less than a week away from the big night. Not only that, but I’ve realized that I’ve dawdled on writing my ToughPigs holiday article, which I guess is less relatable but still important.

Luckily, the Walt Disney Company and Funko are here to help me kill two Marleys with one stone. You see, last year was the 30th anniversary of The Muppet Christmas Carol, so Disney celebrated by remastering “When Love is Gone” and finally putting the full film on Disney+. However, I couldn’t help but notice that 2022 didn’t bring us a ton of Christmas Carol merch. Thankfully, things have changed this year, and Disney’s been bringing us some fun Christmas goodies. A lot has been said about the Christmas Carol Funko pops, but less has been said about Funko’s other new Muppet product. I’m of course talking about their new card game, the easy-to-say “Disney The Muppet Christmas Carol Spirit of Giving Game.”

In fact, so little has been said about this game that even I forgot it was coming out. I heard about it, thought to myself “well, I’m gonna have to buy that,” then forgot again. Then, when doing my last minute Christmas shopping at Barnes and Noble, I saw it at the checkout line, and added it to my basket of discount Criterion Collection Blu-Ray discs. So now I know everything about my purchase. Was it worth it? Well, it’s maybe not as good as a remastered Mulholland Drive, but Spirit of Giving is a cute little stocking stuffer. I mean, one for one thing, the price is right, at around $8 USD. Hard to complain with Muppet merch that costs less than a discount Blu-Ray copy of Mulholland Drive.

So first of all, Spirit of Giving looks great. The game contains cards with art of Scrooge, the three ghosts, and most of the major Muppet characters who appear in the film. They’re bold and bright, and honestly wouldn’t look too bad as wall art if you really hate the card game but always wanted to have a nice picture of Bean Bunny on display. The images have a storybook style reminiscent of Luke Flowers’ work on The Muppet Christmas Carol: The Illustrated Holiday Classic. Here’s the problem though: Luke Flowers did not contribute to the game. The art isn’t quite his style; the characters are stiffer and the watercolors aren’t quite as nice. If you look at the images below, which show first the card game then an image from Luke’s book, you can see what I mean. It kind of bothers me to do “Sorta-Luke-Flowers” without actually getting the genuine article. Not only that, but the game does not credit its artist or game design team anywhere. Both of these things are pretty standard in game design these days, so it’s kind of disappointing that Disney and Funko didn’t do this.

So all that is kind of off-putting, but not exactly a dealbreaker. Let’s talk about this as a game though. The Spirit of Giving is a fairly simplistic set-making game. The goal is to collect Christmas presents, which you earn by matching either three of the same Muppet or three of the same color card. Each player has some face up cards and one hidden card. Every turn, you draw one card and switch it with either one of your cards or one of your opponents’. If you make a match, you earn one of the presents, which are worth a variety of points. The main strategy of the game is knowing when to help your opponent make matches; by leaning into the “Spirit of Giving,” you give your opponent points but end up receiving higher-value presents in return.

Over time, as more ghosts are drawn from the deck, you start being able to take more actions on each turn. This increases the strategic options each turn as well. Personally, I like how the game grows in complexity over time. It made it easy to teach to people, which is always a plus when you’re playing a new game. However, even when all three ghosts are in play, your options are never overwhelming. Also, because play is so simple, every turn is short. You’re rarely not doing anything. This means that, overall, the game is simple and extremely quick.

But of course, the game is also too quick to really be interesting. There’s nothing super Muppety about it and not really a ton of depth to the gameplay. My family and I played this game at a Hanukkah party, and we all felt like it was over before it even began. This most likely isn’t going to be Your New Favorite Game or Your New Holiday Tradition, but it is definitely going to be a fun thing to have around at parties when you need a fast way to pass the time between other, more exciting events. For instance, you could shuffle up some Muppets and play a round or two while waiting for Christmas cookies to bake, or during an intermission between watching The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Family Christmas. I’m sure I’ll play it again, but I’m not exactly rushing to.

Despite the disappointments, I don’t regret buying Disney The Muppet Christmas Carol Spirit of Giving Game. It’s a fine little trinket, especially for someone who likes The Muppet Christmas Carol as much as I do, but it’s quick, simplistic, and has some unfortunate art choices. Ultimately, I think we can agree: it’s cute, but it’s no Blu-Ray of Mulholland Drive.

By Becca Petunia

Click here to buy Mulholland Drive on Blu-Ray on the ToughPigs Discord server!

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