Nov 1, 2007
A delightful treat for those open-minded enough to give it a try, the original Viva Pinata surprised us with its addictive garden cultivating gameplay. Unfortunately, if you're looking for anything even remotely similiar in Viva Pinata: Party Animals, prepare to be surprised again. Although Party Animals retains its predecessor's visual appeal, the similarities between the two end there. In fact, Party Animals seems to be the opposite of the original Viva Pinata in just about every way. The original Viva Pinata is a serene, thoughtful, totally open-ended solo experience, while Party Animals is collection of past-paced one-note minigames that are best enjoyed with friends.
Up to four players compete in a series of party-style minigames and races, like Mario Party but without all the extra board-game nonsense. Each competition consists of a mixture of challenge events (minigames) and cartless cart-style races (Pinatas don't need carts to tear up a racetrack - they just hoof it). The challenge events are what you'd expect out of a collection of kids' minigames - candy collecting, hot potato, and dancing/rhythm games all make an appearance. The 40+ minigames are all certainly competent and are sure to please the kids, but quickly become stale for less casual gamers, even despite the commendable variety of challenges.
Overshadowing the less fun challenge events, the races are where Party Animals really shines. The tracks are fun and varied, with playful themes and bright, cheerful environments. Of course, lots of devious power-ups are scattered throughout the tracks to thwart opponents, like sticky honey to slow other pinatas down and Flutterscotch wings to help you fly past the competition. Secret shortcuts also appear in every race, many of which are cleverly hidden.
Pinata voice acting is thankfully kept to a minimum, as the only voices are those of the two Pinata commentators who give play-by-plays of the minigame action. We prefer the tranquility of the non-talking pinatas in the original game to the obnoxious voice acting of the TV show, so it's a huge relief that Paulie Pretztail and Fergie Fudgehog's annoying yammering is nowhere to be heard. Even still, announcer Pierre Parrybo's ultra-French outbursts start to grate after awhile.
In the end, it feels like just another collection of minigames for kids, albeit a polished one. Without the facade of familiar pinatas, Party Animals would be generic as hell. Somewhat ironically, it's exactly the kind of game we were expecting would spawn from the crappy kids' show before we were surprised by the originality of the first Viva Pinata.
We miss the delightful juxtaposition of inbreeding and pinata smashing amidst cheerful garden tranquility. Yes, as much as it pained us to smash sick Whirlms for the greater good, that's part of what set Viva Pinata apart from the rest of the kiddie crowd. Fans of the original should avoid this one - kids will enjoy it, but Party Animals doesn't have the heart or charm of its predecessor.