Party Animals PC Review
Party Animals takes adorable animals and turns them into devilish monsters that will punch, dropkick and headbutt their way to victory. Developed by Recreate Games and published by Source Technology, Party Animals is aiming to be the next successful physics-based party game (or is that brawler?). The title offers the madness that the genre has seen in the past with games like Gang Beasts, which it is heavily inspired by, and to some extent, Fall Guys, and the excitement of multiplayer madness that Fall Guys brought to the market. The best way to describe Party Animals is that it is Gang Beasts but with more variety, mainly due to being a more polished game. And let us be honest, the lure of adorable animals that have been shared across screenshots and videos for this game over the last three years has made us all feel a little attachment to the cute, violet furballs.
I should correct that last statement, as the game is not limited to cute, fluffy animals. Yes, there are cats, dogs, rabbits, otters and some others that have their lovely fur coats on display, but other animals fill the character list, such as pigs, ducks, walruses, unicorns, bats, crocodiles and a few others. It seems any animal type is up for a battle in Party Animals and players take these into the multitude of game modes across three game types and 20 maps. There is a decent amount of content for launch here and should keep people entertained for a few hours. All game modes are team-based, usually between 2-4 depending on the game mode that is selected. Quick match is the main way to get into the games, either queuing by yourself or inviting up to three other people to take a gang of four into the conflict. One thing to note is that if the game mode is two per team, then the group will be separated into two random teams in the game based on the party, so no one will be doing solo. This enables all game modes to be active within the search when in a party of four.
One thing to note is how sluggish the controls felt. Through the tutorial and a few games played online, I had to get myself adjusted to the controls due to this delayed reaction from pressing a button to the action on screen. Party Animals can be played on a keyboard and mouse, but I was more comfortable using an Xbox Series X controller. No matter the input, it always had a delayed response. I read this was done by design to throw in an additional challenge with moving and attacking other players and overcoming the game’s hazardous environments. This heavy feeling adds to the cumbersome mayhem that unfolds in every game mode. I am not the biggest fan of this, as I do enjoy snappy controls, but I put up with this issue because the overall experience with other players within the game modes is a lot of fun when everyone is in the same situation with the controls.
A tutorial introduces new players to the controls through a small test map, showcasing how to punch, kick, headbutt, sprint, roll, dropkick, grab players and items, climb, and lastly throw people and items. The dropkick seems powerful, as a hit will often KO a combatant, leaving them out for a while, enabling people to pick them up and abuse their body by tossing them around or throwing them out of the boundaries to their death. Even after many hours into the game, the controls still act bizarre, even if I am now used to them. I think it is because it is down to the irregularity of the impact of the punches and kicks not seemingly doing anything, making it seem as if the controls are not responding to input, but maybe that is down to the ragdoll physics and body hitboxes used in the game to cause some unpredictability. I know my colleague, Ian, also had the same issue when we were playing together in a team.
The 20 maps are linked to one of three game types: Last Stand, Team Score and Arcade. The latter is the smallest of the three, with only two maps falling into the Arcade category (Final Destination and Winter Cabin). This mode has two teams of four players each going at each other, trying to end the other team’s players’ lives until the counter gets to zero. This isn’t a lot, as each team begins with 10 lives, and with dangers situated on the map, such as the speeding train on Final Destination, those can quickly reduce that counter. I find it strange that this mode only has two maps, while the others have eight each. Maybe more downloadable content will begin filling this up to put it on par with the others. It is not like they are not as fun as Last Stand or Team Score, so I am not sure what the reasoning is for this category getting the short end of the stick. Did they run out of time or ideas? Surely not, as there are so many concepts that could be used for Arcade.
Team Score features a variety of team-based games, mainly with a twist on various sports, but some are just ridiculous, such as Lollipop Factory, which requires people to take sweets to their drop point to gain points. A giant gummy bear sits in the middle of the map, which is worth more points, but is harder to carry and manoeuvre with. One of my favourite ones in this collection was Beast Hockey, which has 2 teams of four in a competitive match of ice hockey. The difference? This features a gigantic ice puck and requires being hit with an attack to slide it across the ice into the net. Powerful hits can KO characters that are in its trajectory. This can only be stopped by using the shield item on the ground so that a player can use it to act as a keeper to defend the puck from going into the net. The winner is the first to score 6, but if it’s a close match, it can time out after the allocated time, which is kept hidden until the last minute, and then hides again so that players are focused on the action on the ice ring and not timer scamming.
Last Stand is the mode that splits people into doubles, with four teams of two out to take each other down in a first to three. This mode is a scrap, with each map feeling like a battle arena rather than Team Mode, since that mode has more of an objective task within it. Last Stand is about abusing combat, weapons and the environment to get yourself one over the opposition. The environment plays an important factor in throwing a spanner into any plan players have and it causes this battle mode to be less straightforward as it first seems. The Ichiban map features a raised platform with poison gas rising around it, eventually overflowing onto the platform and making it dangerous to be within the green vapour. Another is Broken Arrow which situates the players on an airplane in the sky, with parts of the wing freezing over as the battle continues, causing it to be slippery and hazardous for anyone staying on it. Most of the maps in Last Stand do something that makes it harder to survive as the current round goes on, leading to tense scenarios when the few lasting players are fighting for survival as the danger creeps in.
The game’s variety is what keeps Party Animals remaining fun to play after the initial few hours are over. There might be three game types, but the map diversity gives each one its own identity and the inclusion of weapons allows the game to remain dramatically over the top, constantly delivering many crazy surprises that come with playing with people and the sluggish/handicapped controls. It seems never to get old awkwardly picking up a bat or a spade and trying to spin and spank someone off the platform or to KO them so they lay lifeless on the ground ready to be tossed over the edge. Weapons can even affect mobility, such as the crossbow plunger that sticks to the animals and causes them to run cumbersomely and collide with the environment or other players as the plunger handles have hitboxes.
The controls will always be a talking point, but since this game is not trying to be an Esports title, rather, simply a game that people can jump onto and have a blast for a couple of hours without having to worry about needing to understand or train to get better; it is about having fun, and Party Animals is successful at bringing joyous and hap-hazardous fun without needing to commit hours with the game to earn that enjoyment. I see Party Animals as a game in which someone boots up, jumps into a game and beats up (or gets beaten up) those adorable animals. Most of the time it turns into hilarious battles that never feel like anyone is wholly in control of their actions. The madness does not stop when the match is over, as a post-score screen allows players to fight among themselves to get into the frame of the camera shot, which can be saved to a folder to admire in the future. These little post-game shenanigans make for some hysterical photos.
Outside of Quick Match, which in reality is where 95% of people will be. There is a Custom Game mode that can be played with bots or friends and allows the host to pick the maps to play on. One thing neat about Party Animals is that the game will replace disconnected players with bots, which is a godsend, as it is never nice to have a game which is heavily based on equal teams being handicapped because someone rage quit or their internet died. It should be noted that to play locally requires an online connection as it still uses Custom Game mode. A password can be set so that no one else can enter the game. It is bizarre that an online connection is required to play the game locally, but technically there is no real local play, as it is doing exactly what it does for playing online, only now all its controller inputs are local. The only reason why I think it was done this way is due to the experience system and the unlocks that are related to it.
Party Animals is heavy on the unlocks, with an experience bar that levels up the more the game is played. This unlocks more costumes and animals to use in the game, along with some virtually currency to purchase items. I could see future updates adding more bars to fill, as this only goes to level 100. A sort of battle pass concept might become familiar with this game to get people hooked on gaining new animals and costumes. Speaking of those, there is a shop that uses in-game currency and real money to purchase costumes and new animals. There are even some IP crossovers, with Ori and the Blind Forest having a feature here. This means that future updates could see more crossovers. There is already a Half-Life 2 costume for the cover dog, so I could see this expanding to other properties. Especially since the game is only on PC and Xbox at the moment, with Party Animals featuring on Game Pass for people to try out for free for anyone who is part of that subscription plan. If the battle pass idea does come to fruition in the future, at least the game’s full price is £15.49, which seems an ideal cost to gain a sizeable audience of players.
The standout with the visuals is the wonderful and adorable carton-rendered animals, especially the ones with fur, as they look fantastic when caught up close during replays or within the game’s menus. Party Animals is packed with vibrant colours, something that hides the aggressive nature, but I do not think the game would have been as funny if it was filled with realistic-looking people performing the same actions. Something is charming and hilarious about watching cute animals go at each other, struggling to hang on to survive or pulling others with them to death off the side of a submarine that is submerging into the water as their facial expressions look dead and unamused. The game runs well on a variety of hardware, and with support for Nvidia DLSS and Nvidia Reflex, it can run at fluid frame rates past the standard 60fps without a hiccup. This will no doubt help bring in audiences who do not have high-end machines. Speaking of the audience, there were always people online and finding games was speedy. With the inclusion of crossplay with Xbox, it should mean that there are plenty of people to battle and annoy online.
Party Animals is now a title that has been added to my rotation of online multiplayer games, due to the game being an enjoyable and funky party brawler/multiplayer game that works well on your own or with a group of friends. There is nothing here that screams one of the best games of the year nor does it truly bring anything new to the table. What Party Animals does is refine what other games have done before and offer more ways to play along with bringing family-friendly colours and some brilliantly looking cartoon animals. For the sheer entertainment and chaos that it brings by letting out all your aggression and frustration on other cute animals in a well-designed selection of maps, I can totally recommend Party Animals. There is enough content here to keep the game entertaining for a while, and as long as the annoyance of the purposedly sluggish controls can be forgiven, then Party Animals will be having players laughing and cursing for many months to come all thanks to its wacky physics and fun game modes.