|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Krome Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 30, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
Piñatas became so popular last year after the release of Viva Piñata for the Xbox 360. Before, no one would have even known that Piñata is spelled with the weird letter Ñ! The game was as unique as that letter itself. Everyone thought it would just draw in younger audiences, but somehow it managed to appeal to gamers of all ages. Viva Piñata was a sim game full of zany-looking animals of many colors. However, this new title is a party game, full of minigames and races for everyone. It's definitely targeting families this time, and only party game aficionados will be able to appreciate its potential.
Viva Piñata: Party Animals will have you racing and playing some competitive mini-games against your friends and family. You can decide the length of the battle you're about to play; a long tournament takes about one hour from beginning to end. Each tournament contains several mini-games per race; you'll start with a race and then you'll compete in a bunch of frenzy mini-game battles before the next race begins. The better you do in the mini-games, the more points you'll obtain. The game focuses on rhythm, reflexes, aiming and shooting, etc. Most of the mini-games are based on picking up candy, pushing the other characters away, pressing the proper buttons at the right time, smashing things, and shooting targets. Krome Studios didn't really invent the wheel here; after all, mini-game-based titles are all the same. However, Viva Piñata: Party Animals stands out from the bunch when it comes to Xbox 360 titles. Games like Fuzion Frenzy 2 don't have much to do in front of a game like this, which is much more polished, detailed, and, above all, accessible. I remember how it was nearly impossible to distinguish the characters and elements on the screen in Fuzion Frenzy 2; they were just so tiny! On the other hand, Viva Piñata: Party Animals has more defined elements and characters, which helps to avoid confusion.
There are some really enjoyable games like Color Me Not, Who's Left, and Movin' Grovin'. That's where the competition seemed to get more exciting. In the first one you have to drop paint all over the floor to try and color it all; at the same time, you can do ground-pounds in order to clear your friends' painted areas. In Who's Left you have to count the characters that come on the stage, the ones that leave, and the ones that come back. At the end, you need to figure out how many of them are left on stage behind the curtains; it was pretty fun to try and keep track of them, while your friend is mumbling numbers and making it all confusing. In Movin' Grovin', you have to take turns and make your character dance by pressing the correct buttons when prompted. The longer you last and the better you do it, the more button combinations you'll have to press when it's your turnand the more points you can get. Most mini-games weren't very imaginative though; the rest of them are very similar, and I got really tired of having to pick up candy in 70% of the minigames! "Push the others away, stay under the spotlight, and pick up candy!" "Stomp the 'raisants' and pick up candy!" "Float in the wind and pick up candy" "Smash your enemies and pick up candy!" You get the idea, I'm sure.
The foot races are not as fun as the mini-games. Mario Kart started it all, and since then lots of developers have tried to mimic the success of the battle-racing series. Few titles have gone as far as Mario Kart has, and Viva Piñata: Party Animals is no exception. There are about a dozen racetracks that randomly come up; you'll be racing inside some sort of manor, the beach, the Frosty region, the city, the factory, etc. You can grab and use several power-ups that will help you go faster or slow down your enemies. Things like the Peppermint Candy or Flutterscotch Wings work really well when it comes to boosting your speed. The Buzzlegum Honey Slick, as well as the Pollenator, make the enemies who are behind you slow down considerably. There are also Water Bombs that blur the enemies' vision, Rocket Packs that give you a huge speed boost, Fizzy Bloaters that double your size and make you immune to some attacks, etc. It would have been great to get a hold of the Fiesta Missile or the Smoke Bomb much more often; those are fun but barely available. Controlling the characters is quite simple in the first few races: you'll be accelerating with the right trigger, braking with the left one, and using the face buttons for power-ups, sliding, and jumps. Our friends are not racing with cars; they're on foot! It's cute to see them run, but it becomes really chaotic in the more complex tracks; it gets to the point you don't know where you're going, where the arrows are pointing, or where you'll be falling next.
Viva Pinata: Party Animals brings back a few those cute characters people fell in love with in Viva Piñata. You'll be able to choose from eight of them: Hudson and Hailey Horstachio, Fergy and Francine Fudgehog, Paulie and Petunia Pretztail, and Franklin and Florence Fizzlybear. As you see, the names are as cute as the contestants. However, it would have been nice to have a few more choices, especially with the huge amount of characters we encountered in the original Viva Piñata. Also, the size disparity between these characters can make a difference in the gameplay. I realized that picking the smaller character wasn't a smart choice; I often got confused and lost track of my Paulie Pretzail, which is a cute little fox piñata.