Visiting Pinata Island is a bit like riding a rollercoaster: on the one hand we have the high that is Viva Piñata - initially released (to critical acclaim) on the Xbox 360 and more recently on the PC. On the other side of the coin we have Viva Piñata: Party Animals. Don’t expect a sequel on par with the original, however; rather than another colourful sandbox-style game packed with diverse and delightful characters, Viva Piñata: Party Animals is a collection of mini-games and races featuring a handful of characters from the animated TV show.
Most mini-game compilations are squarely and unashamedly aimed at the younger gamer, and Viva Piñata: Party Animals is no exception. Bite sized challenges are ideal for those short attention spans, and the promise of bonus unlockable, collectible awards and material encourage return visits to the game. The only problem with titles of this genre is that they often lack originality. The advertised “dozens of mini-games” turn out to be variations on a disappointingly few themes and again, Viva Piñata: Party Animals is no exception.
What the game does have going for it are the stunning visuals and familiar characters from the animated TV show. Kids will instantly recognised most of the eight playable characters, such as Hudson Horstachio, Franklin Fizzlybear and Fergy Fudgehog. Pecky Pudgeon and Pierre Parrybo act as hosts for the game show setting, tossing witty comments and smooth banter back and forth as contestants (2-4 online or 1-4 local) battle it out for supremacy on the race track and through a selection of wacky mini-games – or challenges, as they are called.
Challenges fall into six major categories including rhythm-type games, aiming and shooting, smashing and collecting. Most of the latter involve shoving your opponents and snatching as much candy as possible (and we wonder why kids these days have such terrible manners!). Controls are simple enough for even the youngest player to grasp without too much strife, although they may struggle with the timing and coordination requires for the ‘no holds barred’ racing segments.
Points are allotted according to your character’s performance in each challenge, and bonus points are awarded for placing well in the races. A full game will consist of 3-7 race tracks, with 1-3 challenge events between each race, depending on the duration you have selected. At the end of each game the winners take their place on the podium before a cheering, adoring crowd, and then it’s time to do it all over again.
While there’s no denying the visuals are absolutely gorgeous, Viva Pinata: Party Animals is very much like a shiny, foil-wrapped candy: it may look pretty, but there’s not a lot of substance. There’s enough variety and content to keep the young ’uns gleefully occupied for short bursts, but its repetitive nature and lack of depth holds no appeal for adult gamers whatsoever.