We had a treat in the office this afternoon as the kind people over at Krome pushed a build of Viva Pinata:Party Animals our way. For a couple of hours after lunch today we played pass-the-controller as numerous devs tried to get a look in on the action.
Things started off with a racing game. Each of the four players gets to control a single character from the TV series as you make your way around Pinata Island. We were lucky enoguh to get to play on a handful of them although there are roughly a dozen in total.
No karts here, your pinatas runs through the streets in a bid to get to the finish line first, aided and abetted by various presents which you pick up on the way. These presents can contain things to help your, such as boosts or what was seemingly growth hormones, or items to hinder your opponents, like the bee hive which drops liberal amounts of honey over the tracks to snare you rivals.
For me, though, the racing was a precursor to the main event: a round of mini-games. After you’ve crossed the finish line you are treated to a collection of single-screen games that are mostly involving and competitive, with the majority giving you the chance to interact with your fellow players (read: screw your mates over).
My personal favourites were the a couple that I believe were included in the announcement trailer. The first being where you must encourage your chosen character to have as big a burp as possible, with the ensuing wind driving your toy sail boat across a pond and hopefully over the finish line first.
The other was where the pinatas turned on their own kind and actually had to destroy another pinata. The cool part of this game was that the targeted pinata was dangling on a string and so every whack you made sent it spinning and swaying madly. From that point your swings of the bat had to be controlled and timely to get the job done.
To its credit, what every mini-game had was a very accessible control scheme but not to the detriment of giving experienced gamers a good time. Most things seemed simple at first but some games promoted risk for reward, others were pure buttons bashers and yet more had a ton of interaction with the other three players.
I daren’t say anymore in case I risk my job but I have to say we were all pleasantly surprised, having not seen it before, and the fact we played it for so long could speak for itself. Admittedly I was quite skeptical when I first heard about this spin-off but I think fears have been allayed.