STAFF REVIEW of Party Animals (Xbox One)

Friday, November 3, 2023.
by Peggy Doyle

Party Animals Box art Party Animals is the latest goofy physics-based game to join other well-known games like Fall Guys, Gang Beasts, and Human: Fall Flat. Developer Recreate has made its entry stand out from the others with its creative levels, comedy-filled showdowns, and some of the most adorable characters in this genre.

When Party Animals first launched there was a lot of hype and just as many questions. When people were asking about the game, the best description I heard to describe it was, ‘Think about two drunk dads sitting around planning to make a game’, Party Animals is that game. You take control of an adorable and clumsy animal of your choosing and choose (or not) to take advantage of the minimal tutorial to teach you the basics. I did the tutorial, and although it did explain the moves, it didn’t make me any better at applying them in the real game, but there is an achievement tied to the tutorial, so it is worth trying out.

The animal's wobbly nature is something akin to if their bodies were made of Jello or gummy bear material. They wobble and fall over, they are slow to respond, and often don’t seem to do what you want them to, but that is all part of the hilarity. Your basic moves are punching, kicking and headbutting. When you are sprinting you can use different variations like drop kicks and rolls. You can also grab items or other players. When you grab a knocked-out player you can even throw them.

After playing many hours of Party Animals I’m not sure if I’m actually getting better or just understanding my own playstyle better and learning to work with it. I still can’t grasp the tossing of players' mechanics well, but I am better at spatial awareness and knowing the delay between input and action of my characters. One of my favourite mechanics in the game is when you get knocked out, time slows down like a slow-motion movie clip. Then you just lie there passed out for a few moments.

There are three modes in Party Animals, each with their own set of maps, creating a variety of games for you to join solo, with friends against others online, or even custom matches with just friends. Last Stand is the most chaotic mode and can be played in solo, duo, or squad (four-person) teams. Depending on how many teams are in a match, they can be really short or drag out a bit longer. Each of the nine maps is relatively small and gives you some creative environments. Wind tunnels, cracking ice floes, outdoor bonfires, breaking bridges and even fighting on top of a submarine or airplane are all possibilities.

Team score takes you to locations like a lollipop factory, hockey rink, football, and soccer fields, and even battling trains. There are nine maps in Team Score mode as well. Not only is working with your team important here but so is sabotaging the other team. It is a lot of fun. The third mode is the Arcade mode, with two maps. These are in a subway station and a winter cabin. When you join a quick match and get put into a lobby, you get to vote on three different maps and all 20 maps are options. Vote for your favourite and hope for the best.

Weapons can appear randomly in all modes and are very valuable if you can figure out how to pick them up and use them. The game is very specific on how you approach a weapon in order to be able to pick it up and use it though. This was often one of the most frustrating parts of any game in Party Animals for me. Since the game is nonsensical, the weapons are as well. You can use nunchucks, a tennis racket, a cast iron frying pan, a toilet plunger, a giant lollipop, and even a boomerang. There are also projectile weapons like a crossbow, a taser launcher and an ice gun. Although the weapons are strong and a benefit, they can also backfire, and you can hit yourself as well.

If you get knocked out from any round you can spectate. Just because you are out of the active game doesn’t mean that you can’t influence the outcome. As you are in spectate mode you can fire projectiles at the remaining players. These take the form of fish, banana peels and even bombs, each taking a different amount of time to charge up. Many times I saw a projectile take out a player and change the outcome of the game for the remaining players.

Playing with friends in Party Animals is enjoyable, so much so that I’ve been playing most nights with people. This is unusual for me as I don’t play a lot of online multiplayer games. Solo queuing for matches works well, but I’m not one who really enjoys listening to random people talk, and unless you’re talking with your team, the games aren’t as easy to complete. I found it rather boring playing solo, although others in my party do play solo at times and are still enjoying it. For me, the game just doesn’t hit the same way when you can’t share the goofy shenanigans with someone.

There is a full item shop where you can spend two different types of currency. The items rotate with daily and weekly options, as well as some special limited items as well. There is a variety of price points too. You can also purchase currency to use in-game should you choose. I haven’t done that and found that between things I earn in the game and using the currency earned, I’ve been able to stock a wide variety of items in my locker. There are also ‘mystery eggs’ that come from a vending machine with coins earned. These give you a random costume or skin. If it’s a duplicate you are rewarded with in-game dog biscuits (one of the currency types), the amount corresponding to the rarity of the skin. Spending time in the item shop is dangerous as I wanted all of the costumes available for each character. There are some obvious nods to other franchises with an obvious Darth Vader outfit for a variety of animals for example.

At a reasonable price point of only $19.99 USD, as well as being available on Game Pass, there was never a problem finding a match quickly. This means the player base is pretty high at the moment. Cross-platform play is available between PC and Xbox expanding the player base even further. It’s a great game for all ages and even has split-screen local co-op for family and friends to play together in person.

The soundtrack in Party Animals is delightful. I found myself singing along to the music in the menu more often than not. The sound effects in the rounds are also equally well done, with a satisfying thud when getting knocked out, or the sound of a disgruntled cat when an opponent gets hit. Even a cartoon animal eating makes sounds when consuming energy food drops. All brought a smile to my face. Literally, belly laughs at times.

I enjoyed Party Animals far more than I thought I would and attribute a lot of this to the group I’ve been playing with. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t play a lot of online multiplayer games. This game just doesn’t hit the same way playing solo for me. I’m not sure it has the longevity, but with them adding new context for Halloween recently, I am hoping developers Recreate Games will keep supporting it to keep players coming back, even if it’s just to check out new content. Party Animals is a fantastic combination of quirky, comedy and cute, and although I have my issues with the sluggishness of the controls, I would recommend it to anyone to try, especially if you have a Game Pass subscription. It’s great for a laugh to step away from reality for awhile too.

**Party Animals was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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