X3F hands-on: Viva Pinata: Party Animals
As a game designed to appeal to a younger audience, Viva Piñata had one fault that probably stood out the most: other than the cutesy characters, it wasn't really designed to appeal to a younger audience. The game is fairly complicated and requires some pretty intense micromanagement in later levels (at least it does if you want to advance). Furthermore, VP does almost nothing to capitalize on the children's property around which it is centered. The various piñatas, which are wacky and wisecracking characters on the children's program, are little more than grunting, mindless animals in the game. With Viva Piñata: Party Animals, Microsoft looks to take on all these problems at once. We took it for a spin at E3 to see what sets it apart.
Party Animals, as you might expect, is a party game. The first thing you'll notice is that the game features the characters as kids know them from the show, with their familiar voices intact. No longer are they mindless beasts. Now they display all the character traits that kids have come to expect from the TV show. We imagine this alone should greatly increase the title's appeal to its target audience. And of course, the switch to an all mini-game formula is much more kid friendly as well. The games are very simple and easy to get into. We tried out a race mode, which plays more or less like an average cart racer (power slides in a foot race are a little odd, by the way). We also played the game pictured above, which requires you to time whacks against a swinging piñata (there's something kind of sick about piñatas attempting to break other piñatas, no?). We also witnessed, though did not play, a game in which players blow a tiny sailboat to the finish line by belching. All the games are certainly fun, though there's certainly nothing mind-blowing here.
So there you have it, Viva Piñata can finally appeal to the audience it was meant for all along. We're already anticipating the irony that it will probably receive lower review scores and outsell its predecessor.