Viva Pinata: Party Animals Review
I picked up this individual game in a charity bundle with two other games for a cool $20. I had actually gone into the store looking for a calming multiplayer game to play with my friends that were coming in from out of town. Given what I was looking for, it turned out to be exactly what I wanted. That being said, I will not let that “perfect fit” that it was at that time jade my review of this game. Enjoy my review.
I would never recommend that this game be played as a solely single player game. It’s similar to Mario Party in that it is much better with your friends. That being said, the game is capable of being played by yourself, and as a result, I’ll explain much of the game’s dynamics here. The game has almost no storyline, and the little that is evident is that you, the piñata of your choosing, is competing in a tournament. The reason for the tournament is never truly given, nor why you would really care enough to win anyway.
The game focuses on quite a few minigames which are relatively randomized. Every couple of rounds you will run a race with your piñata against the other three piñatas in the game, which are computer controlled, and doing well translates to how many points you will get in the other mini games. It’s a little confusing to be honest, but I’ll try my best to explain it here. In general you’re trying to get the highest amount of points throughout the whole gameplay – the total mini games. The first thing you’ll be introduced to is a race. Placing first in a race doesn’t net you any points in itself, but rather it gives you bonus points for doing well in the mini games that follow. After you do the race you’ll be into another mini game, completely unrelated. Get first and you’ll get 7 (or so) points. Second will get 4, third will get 2, last will get 1, or something similar. Now after each mini game like that you will get bonus points that takes into account your place in that mini game and your place in the race.
So say you got first in the mini game and first in the race. You’d get 7 points for winning the mini game, and then another 4 bonus points for doing well in the race. Now change it to that you got first in the mini game and second in the race. You’d get 7 points for winning the mini game, and then another 3 bonus points for doing well in the race. You get the idea.
You can choose to be any of the piñatas from the twelve or so available, and if you watched the television show at all you will be familiar with their personalities. If you only played the video games you might be a little confused about that, but you’ll at least be able to identify what kind of piñatas they are.
Now that you understand the game to an extent, let me divulge more. The game plays a lot like a rip-off of Mario Kart on the N64 at times, as the races almost parallel them in every way, complete with power-ups. However, the steering mechanism isn’t even as close to as interesting, and the game really does seem to help computers that are falling too far behind to catch up way too easily. The mini games are relatively fun, but you’ll have to read the instructions almost every time due to them using the same mini game at times with different variations. In totality there were only around eight or so differently set mini-games, but each had about two or three variants. This means that it can get frustrating that you are unable to shoot past the instructions before each mini game.
The game can get tedious, and at times you’ll feel like you’re suffering through some of the worse mini games to get to some of the better ones. There are a couple that rely almost purely on luck too, which will upset the quote unquote “skilled player”. That being said – is the game what it set out to be? Yes, it probably is – a relatively cheap game party based game that relies on a brand name getting itself out there.
Single Player Score: 5.5/10
The multiplayer is where this game truly shines, if it shines at all. Similar to playing Mario Party by yourself on the N64 or Mario Kart or Diddy Kong Racing, or whatever generic party game you want to throw out there, it’s a lot more fun when you’re taking down your friends. You can play with another one, two, or three friends in local mode. Throw in some computers for the non-human players and you got yourself a party on that laid back Friday night.
Don’t have friends locally that play Xbox? That’s fine, go online, play some multiplayer. Host some matches, join some matches, take down some friends. However, the community is almost totally dead, and you’ll have to find a boosting partner if you do want any of the online achievements which I’ll get to later. The game also has a severe issue with NAT type (open, moderate, closed), and anything that it doesn’t deem exceptional will get you some joining/hosting issues.
Of course you’re going to run into many of the same issues that I said in single player play – having to read the instructions each time despite having played the game in general before, some repetitiveness, etc, etc.
Multiplayer Score: 9/10
The graphics are nothing special, and it is pretty evident that they didn’t really intend to make them special. You’ll see about the same graphics that you found yourself seeing in the original Viva Pinata game for the 360, and not much more. Powerups will cause some oil slicks, some sparks to fly, and some quickly moving piñata feet with speed boosts. There are little cutscenes before each race as they try to show you the track, which you’ll find yourself skipping over after the first time seeing them. They also show a little demo of the game in the corner while they are explaining the instructions to you.
There are a significant amount of loading times that can detract from the experience, but most of the time I was just smack talking my friends in the spare time. I thought the graphics were absolutely nothing special, but nothing seemed to truly detract from the game.
The sound is what really annoyed me about the game. After the first time through, hearing the “announcer” talk about how the track is today, yet again, with the same words, will have you mashing the A button to skip the cutscene. It seemed they put in the minimal effort when trying to record multiple catchphrases for the announcer to say, assuming you wouldn’t play the game more than once for some reason. I found myself easily muting the television and turning up my music, and only putting it on when I really needed to.
Now I wouldn’t be doing the game justice without mentioning what this game is about – bringing together you and your friends. This is a game that is easy to pick up and learn to play, the instructions are laid out relatively well, and someone with relatively little video game experience will be able to enjoy it. As I said, I picked up this game with the intention of playing it with my out of town friends, and it worked out perfectly for that. Granted, we only played about seven or so game rounds, but for $7 I put out there for it, it was a perfectly fine value.
Graphics/Sound/DLC/Intangibles Score: 4/10
The achievements in this game become exceedingly simple with four controllers, though you have to imagine that’s now how the developers intended it. Plug them in, make them inactive, and you can get most of the achievements that require you to win / require you to win without losing against specific people, etc. There are some other ones that require a bit of skill, and in all honesty many of them will be unlocked by playing through the game. I was unlocking about an achievement per playthrough without ever looking at an achievement list, if that means anything. However, to get them all, you will have to do a couple playthroughs, and hope for some luck with the mini game you want coming up. Were the achievements right for this game? Yes, and I don’t see how they could have done them better. They utilize all the characters of the game and mention a large quantity of the mini-games.
Achievements Score: 9/10
Final Score: 27.5/40 = 6.875/10 = 3.4375/5
The games strong achievements and multiplayer capability compensate for the game’s graphics, sound, and single player ineptitude. The game is what it is – a multiplayer party game with logical achievements. If you’re looking for a blockbuster or a strong single player game with a quality storyline, you should be looking elsewhere. But when my friends come over and we are sick of doing activity X, we pop this one in if we don’t feel like grabbing the N64.
I spend a lot of time on my reviews. If you feel that I misrepresented the game in anyway, or didn’t serve the game due justice, and feel the desire to leave negative feedback, I please ask you to leave a comment instead so that I may improve my review. If I don’t improve it within a day, then I do deserve the negative feedback if it is still warranted.
Thanks for reading my review!