It's getting late and our legs, arms and parts of our brains are failing rapidly. With the remnants of the greasy pizza swirling in our stomachs and the alcohol quickly running out, we fire up the last game of tonight's festivities - Viva Pinata: Party Animals.
Colourful though Rare's pet/garden simulator was when it appeared on Xbox 360 last year, it didn't ignite the gaming public as the developer had hoped. It was more a problem of a over-bearing gameplay system than the bright zany characters that inhabited the world. Obviously there's more mileage in the Pinatas, hence their being transposed to the more kid friendly market of party games. The wedding of the two isn't a bad choice, and there's much to like about what that union's given birth to.
Coding duties are being handled by Krome Studios, who recently did a solid job of rebooting the Spyro franchise for a younger audience, and who has carried over the experience and knowledge to craft Party Animals. It's another solid, if unspectacular job. Its went to great lengths continuing the visual flair established by Rare in the original game, expanding it past gardens and out onto Pinata Island, were the different breeds stretch their legs in a mix of fifty mini-games interspersed between a set of races.
Gameplay is split into point-accruing rounds (the number of which can be toggled on the main menu) for up to four players. Races divide the screen into four equally-sized segments, while the mini-games take place on a single main screen. The player with the highest score come the end (or as Krome would have it 'total candy-oisty') wins.
The developer has sidelined the majority of Piņata species to spectators for the different events, stripping the character select screen to a manageable eight characters (three pairs of which pull off the old Ken/Ryu swap, the male/female divide replacing red bandana/blonde hair). They're also the main characters in the animated series, a choice obviously to please fans and play the success of one off the other.
It's been designed to be accessible to the younger market, but this is a really enjoyable experience for gamers sharing their favourite pastime with their kids. The game is something the console has been crying out for. Yes, the racing in it is simple, (point to point races along winding race tracks that are impossible to fall off) and plays as a Mario Kart-Lite with speed boosts and item collections. Yes, the mini-games are the usual mix of rhythm-action, shooting and button-bashing. There are no statistical differences in the characters...but this kind that will introduce a new audience into the world of the Xbox 360.
With any other characters, the game would feel soulless, but say what you will about Viva Pinata, it had charm. And that charm carries over to Party Animals, charm that'll please both adult and child alike. This is never going to be the game that sets the world alight or is a critical success - but it is far from a cheap cash in like many party games, and might just prove the right direction for Rare's misjudged franchise.
Limited four-player fun.
- Bright, colourful graphics.
- Humorous mini-games.
- Good laugh with four players
- Races limited - could have been expanded.
- No really flexible customisation options.