Viva Piñata: Party Animals Xbox 360
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Krome Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Viva Piñata: Party Animals is a cross between a Mario Kart style racing game and a party game featuring some of the charming characters from Viva Piñata that can be played either as a single-player, offline multiplayer or an online multiplayer game. The game has over 50 party and racing games and supports up to four players online and offline. Given how lovable the characters from Viva Piñata are, you would think that having a party game based around these characters is a good idea but an odd game design and a lack of mini-game variation lets the whole thing down.
There are two ways you can play Viva Piñata: Party Animals. You can either choose to Play at Home or Play Online. When choosing to Play at Home you can choose to play either play a practice round or short, medium, long or custom length game. With the short, medium and long games you are getting a fixed number of mini-games and races. Naturally the custom game allows you to set the number of races, the number of mini-games per race (the mini-games are called challenge events) and whether you want to race forwards or backwards on a race circuit. You can also choose whether to enable to 'Keep the Game Close' which essentially allows even those in last place a chance to still win the game.
Viva Piñata: Party Animals has been designed in an odd fashion for a party game. The way it works is that you have a race followed by a specified amount of mini-games then another race and so forth. Should you finish in a good position in the race, you'll earn bonus points that are applied to the points you earn in the following mini-games. This naturally places a greater importance on the races. The races are Mario Kart in style. The four piñatas will race, on foot, from the start line to the finish line making use of all kinds of weapons, speed boost pads and temporary power-ups to enable them to get ahead. The races aren't especially challenging however unless you're playing against human opponents.
There are some disappointments with Viva Piñata: Party Animals. The choice of playable characters is meagre. You can pick from Hudson Horstachio, Fergy Fudgehog, Paulie Pretztail or Franklin Fizzlybear. As a cheap way of giving you eight characters to play as, female equivalents of each character have been included so you also have Hailey Horstachio, Francine Fudgehog, Petunia Pretztail and Florence Fizzlybear. There were over sixty different piñata in Viva Piñata so why aren't there at least twenty different piñata to choose from? Whichever piñata you play as makes absolutely no difference to how the game plays, which is also disappointing. Most of the mini-games are just slight variations from each other and this really hurts the experience. Whilst it's always good to acquire achievements without trying too hard, Party Animals gives you plenty on the cheap. The first time I played the game I opted for a short game and came away with 115 Gamerscore points without even trying.
Whilst the game has its problems, you can't argue about its presentation. Graphically the game is just as charming as the original Viva Piñata. In fact it's quite possibly the best looking party game to date. Party Animals does offer subtitles but they are disabled by default. With the subtitles enabled you'll receive subtitles for all of Pecky Pudgeon and Pierre Parrybo's (essentially the commentators) comments and from comments made by your character when outside of the events. The instructions for all of the races and mini-games are shown in text, as are the controls. The game manual also gives brief descriptions of each mini-game type.
The idea behind Viva Piñata was certainly a commendable one but the game hasn't turned out as good as it could have. The races have perhaps too much importance and the mini-games really lack variety. Throw in the disappointment of only having a handful of piñatas to play as and the fact that whichever piñata you pick doesn't have any bearing on the game and you have a game that disappoints. Playing against the AI isn't really that inspiring and the game, like all games, is best when played against human opposition. The real problem is that the game is a full price title and there's not enough here to justify the price tag. The ability to play online is welcome but even that can't hide the fact that the game is shallow. Unless you're looking for a simple, child-friendly game for your Xbox 360 this Christmas you're probably better off waiting until the price has come down.