Viva Pinata: Party AnimalsESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer - Krome Studios
Publisher - Microsoft
512 KB to Save Game
Online Multiplayer: 2-4
Approximately three months ago several of us 'game-boyz.com' staff had a
chance to attend the Microsoft Holiday Preview event in Vancouver, BC. While there we had an opportunity to try out Viva Piñata: Party Animals for the Xbox 360. We only played the game for about 10-15 minutes and overall the quick races and mini-games seemed alright. Nevertheless, at that time I recall thinking, "I hope there is much more to the game than this". Well, after having played the game for several hours I have discovered that my initial thoughts were right.
Viva Piñata: Party Animals is meant to be a social party game and it certainly stays true to the theme. The game is a radical departure from the original Viva Piñata, so if you are expecting a sequel or continuation of the original be forewarned you will be sadly disappointed. Granted, all your favorite characters are back such as: Fergy Fudgehog, Paulie Pretztail, Franklin Fizzlybear and Hudson Horstachio. Yet, at the end of the day, this one simply fails to live up to the stellar original Viva Piñata game which was released for the Xbox 360 about a year ago.
The visuals in Viva Piñata: Party Animals are very good and there is plenty of eye-candy to see as the game is rich in color and character design. When seeing the game in action the game manages to get really busy at times, but they are still very appealing and engaging. The following really stood out for me:
- The Piñatas look superb and are readily recognizable for fans of
the TV show and original game;
- The environments are rich in colour and certainly add to that Viva
Piñata atmosphere; and
- The opening movie is lots of fun and will have your little ones
singing that Viva Piñata song for hours;
Overall the visuals are arguably the best selling feature of the game. The characters look just as good as they do in the cartoon TV series. The same bright and vibrant themes used in the original game are back this time around. Granted you will not get Halo 3 or Gears of War type detail, but that is not what Viva Piñata is about. It is a simple game with straight forward and easily recognizable visuals. The environments themselves are also very solid as they feature bright colorful landscapes and locales. During the races it can get a little crazy at times with so much going on, however the game suffers no noticeable slow down and runs at a rock solid frame rate. Overall, the visuals are appealing and work very well for this game.
As far as the sound is concerned, Viva Piñata: Party Animals is satisfactory and is about what you would expect this type of game. The soundtrack features that high-paced action music you typically hear in those 'kart' type games. It's very fast and action intense. The music does have a tendency to get old and repetitive in a hurry but it does manage to match the visual and play style of the title. The in-game character voices on the other hand are quite humorous and will have your kids chuckling quite a bit. Granted it's very goofy, corny and clearly aimed for the younger crowd, but I have to admit it is well done. The Piñata's all seem to have their own personality in the game and the developers did a wonderful job with some of the dialogue. Even the comments the Piñata's make after a race are quite funny as they comment on their position in the standings. The game’s sound effects are also well done, but again are what you expect in such a game. Everything from the explosions, to the bumping of other Piñata's, to grabbing of power ups, these are sounds that you have probably heard before. Overall the game’s audio is good but don't expect anything incredibly original or innovative here.
I am thinking it's not a good sign when your five year old daughter says she would rather play a Spider-Man game after only 20 minutes of playing Party Animals. Sadly, not much long after, I was ready to play Spider-Man with her. Overall, I think the idea of a Piñata Party game is good, but something went wrong with the execution. To the games credit, there are moments and some of the mini-games are fun, so there is some entertainment value in the game. The problem is there really isn't much in the way of originality and you get bored quite quickly. As I was playing the game I thought to myself: “haven’t I played this before?”
When you first give the game a spin a mini featurette pops up, which is
quite entertaining by the way. After the opening song and dance is complete, the game takes you to a menu where you are given an option to play either an online game or a 'play at home' game. From there you can choose the number of players you want to participate. In fact, to join a game at any time all you do is pick up a controller and hit the 'A' button and you are ready to go. This is where the party aspect of the game kicks in as it is very easy to jump in and join a game. After you join in you pick one of the famous Viva Piñata characters to use in one of the game’s tournaments. Up to four players can participate in a short, medium, or long tournament. If you don't have any friends to play with right away the AI controls all the other characters. Should a friend enter the game they control one of the other characters while the AI picks up the rest, and you can mix and match real-world players and computer AI for a full slate of players. Events include a mix of races and mini-games. After an event is completed you are given points for finishing first, second, third or fourth. These points are carried over from event to event and establish the overall point standings. After going through all the races and mini-games the player with greatest total of points wins the tournament.
Party Animals includes more than 40 mini-games and a dozen foot races. When entering a tournament the races and mini-games are predetermined, so it is essentially the luck of the draw as far as which events you get to play. It would have been nice to have an option to custom tailor a specific tournament’s event list, but sadly Party Animals does not give you this option. In total there are six types of mini-games and within the mini-games there are variations within each type. The games are very straight forward and easy to pick up. Games include such types as staying in the spotlight, bumping out other Piñata's and gobbling up candy, apple-eating contests, drinking and burping contests, catching falling letters, and whacking funny creatures on a boat to name a few. Some of these events are pretty fun and made me laugh at times, but they can get old in a hurry. In terms of the difficulty, some of the events did not pose too much of a challenge and I found myself kicking some serious butt. However, in some of the other events the AI was amazing and I had no chance to win. So overall I would say the difficulty of the mini-games is a nice balance as you won’t win every one hands down. On a somewhat negative note, I did find myself getting bored with a lot of the events in a hurry and given this fact, and the earlier noted response from my five year old daughter, I question whether this will have any replay value for Viva Piñata's younger gamers let alone the more mature one.
Along with the aforementioned mini-games, Party Animals also includes some races. These are fun but not without their share of issues. They very much remind me of Mario Kart and several other kart based games which we have all played throughout the years. Basically you line up against your three other opponents and off you go until you reach the finish line. Finishing first is all about the power ups and boost pads. Your ability to navigate your Piñata will have little to no bearing on whether or not you win the race. Power-ups are all over the place and in action some are pretty entertaining. For instance, some of the power ups feature the ability to slow down your opponent or you can launch a missile to blow them up. At first the races are fun, but just like the mini-games you may find yourself wishing you were playing something else in a hurry. In a typical 'medium' length tournament you do approximately three races while the rest of the events are mini-games. After about the second race, you may very well have had enough. For those achievement hounds out there I should note that I managed to score about 100 achievement points in about 10 minutes worth of gameplay, so this games ability to earn achievements may also be an enticing factor to play it.
This game can not only be played with others in the comfort of your own gaming room, but you can also take the battle online. However, after attempting to do so I wish you all luck in actually finding an online game to play. For some reason whenever I went into quick play it could not find a game. The games that I did find and got to play all ran pretty smooth without any significant slowdown or hitches. All of the same options offline are available online as well.
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