IGN Review of Viva Pinata: Party Animals
Earlier this year Microsoft dropped what many considered to be the biggest bomb of 2007 at the Electronics Entertainment Expo, otherwise known as E3, in Santa Monica, California. What was the earth shattering announcement, you ask? Well, it came during Microsoft's press conference, the few hours during the show when every eye would be on the Xbox 360, and the Big M chose that window of time to show the world, for the very first time, Viva Pinata: Party Animals.
Essentially Party Animals is a family-based spin-off of Rare's surprisingly solid strategy game that released late last year. While Rare's creation certainly turned the heads of both old and young gamers alike, Party Animals is clearly geared towards a more youthful sect of gamers with its run of the mill gameplay that fails at replicating a sort of Mario Kart mixed with Fuzion Frenzy concoction.
Up to four players, either offline or on Xbox Live, can participate in a short, medium, or long tournament of events that mix races and mini-games together to establish the all-important point standings that determine the overall winner. Races are broken up by a predetermined set of mini-games, but there's no way to choose which of these diversions you want to partake in. The game just sort of throws them at you randomly. There are six core types of mini-games and several variants that spin off from them, though it's all too clear which game type you're playing when a new competition starts up. A few of them will be enjoyable for those under the age of seven, but if you're any older than that there's absolutely no challenge to be found within Party Animals.
The inherent problem that really bogs down the action in Viva Pinata's aesthetic successor is that the mini-games simply don't stem from a fun design scheme. The ones that are enjoyable are almost direct copies of other games that can be found within Fuzion Frenzy 1 or 2 while other games seem to be regurgitated over and over with small additives to try and pass them off as new. Moreover, there's no way to select the few mini-games that people older than seven will enjoy so you're stuck having to play through fairly lengthy events in the hopes that a few of those mini-games actually do show up.
The racing provides a bit more entertainment value, but the limited number of four core tracks - again, there are slight variations on these as well - wind up getting stale in a hurry. The different weapon types (two can be carried at any one time) have fairly standard effects on other characters. Some will derail them totally, others will slow them down, and then there are the classic boost items that need to be used strategically to win a race. Or at least, they're supposed to be used strategically. In all of my time with the game I never once lost a race, no matter how I used the power ups and regardless of whether I had the option to "Keep the game close" turned on or off. Indeed, achievement point whores will love Viva Pinata: Party Animals.
The game's strongest points are in both graphical and sound design, but that's more to do with the fact that Rare essentially shipped Krome (the developer behind Party Animals) all of their assets from the original Viva Pinata. That means you'll see several of the same detailed pinata models from the original, along with many of the same sound effects and voiceover work that fans of the TV show will appreciate. Each of the eight characters, as well as the announcer, also feature some nice personality delivered through comical -- albeit child oriented -- dialogue.
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