We've beat each other black and blue and thrown people down ravines in the wonderful multiplayer gem Party Animals, which is as much fun online as it is offline.
True multiplayer fighters can be a real treat for most people. Even if one player is much better than the others, there's always the possibility of teaming up to beat the best player to even the odds. This is why games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Gang Beasts or even wrestling titles are so often much more fun with large groups of gamers than they are for a single player.
And it's exactly in this spirit that we find Party Animals, a party game that's been getting a lot of attention this year, with the simple premise that a number of adorably cute animals should beat each other up, either individually or in teams. I especially love local light-hearted multiplayer and was hoping that Party Animals would be a great addition to me and my friends' Knight Squad-led game nights, and boy, does it deliver.
But, before I tell you more about it, I hated the game to begin with. There's a five-to-ten minute training session to play through (which I recommend you do) to learn the pretty unique game controls, and it's been a long time since I've controlled a character that felt as drunkenly clumsy as the dog I was playing as.
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I took that impression with me during the first few matches in the Last Stand game mode, which is the big draw in Party Animals. The chaos was total and it was hopeless trying to deal out blows with the rather varied attacks available. The animal you choose can do everything from boxing, to headbutting people and jump-kicking them in the face. Or for that matter, picking up tools and using them against your opponents. The latter is one of the most detested things, because you have to stand exactly in the right place to use the items as intended, otherwise they are just picked up as a standard item to throw at opponents.
Slowly but surely, however, I realised that there is a lot of subtlety hidden in Party Animals. Battles can be won without hitting a single person, or by killing them all and then everything in between. In addition, the stages have several entertaining twists that change the conditions considerably. From the fairly straightforward arena on an ice floe that slowly breaks up into several smaller parts (making it increasingly dangerous to get to your opponents), to the snow stage where you have to stay close to a campfire, to the black hole that every now and then forces you and your opponents to stop fighting and hold on to something - there's always something to keep an eye on in addition to the battles.
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Party Animals is best if you play with someone you know so you can take on the opposition together, but generally I find that people are pretty good at playing and understand the premise. Consequently, I've had some great battles even alone. Also, it's possible to play against reasonably good bots and locally on split-screen, which is insanely fun. To win, you have to eliminate your opponents, but not by knocking them out, but by throwing them out, which can be done in several different ways. Being knocked out and watching an opponent lift me up to throw me into the sea of ice is incredibly stressful. A normal round ends when someone reaches a total of three wins.
There are also several game modes, one of which is called Arcade and the other Team Score. The former is another variation of Last Stand, where the goal is not to be left alone, but to die as few times as possible. Each time you die, you get a new attempt, but at the same time you fall behind your opponents. Spontaneously, this feels a bit more forgiving, as the person who goes out doesn't have to wait for the others to finish and is thus in the game and can influence them by fighting the one in the lead.
Team Score, on the other hand, is different and has its own set of stages. There are team-based challenges such as fighting for candy in the Lollipop Factory, which is one of the game's highlights with insane battles for the huge elastic gummy bears and smaller treats. Another highlight is Trebuchet, where the team has to shoot each other with bombs, and I also want to mention Beast Hockey, which is basically a very alternative hockey game.
To constantly encourage me (and everyone else) to play just one more game, there are also daily challenges and things to unlock in the form of various accessories. There are also microtransactions, of course, but it actually seems that you can unlock more than is common in games of this type by just actually playing.
Are there no bad things then? Yes, but they are more of a general problem with the genre rather than something unique to Party Animals. If you're playing by yourself, it's not much fun if you can't find someone online to chat with and form a team. And if you have a lousy team, it is usually not possible to win as the weakest link really brings everyone else down. I also think that the menus are both a bit slow and messy, which is something I hope the developers will work on.
Otherwise, this is a great party game that is easy to recommend. It is fun both online and offline, the presentation is fantastic and the concept is created in such a way that it is almost always exciting (eliminated teams can, for example, make it difficult for opponents by throwing fish, bananas and bombs, preferably at the leader to prevent the matches from ending). It may not be as intuitive as I had hoped, but it's offset by a greater depth of play and the entertainment value is phenomenal.
8 / 10
Great multiplayer. Superb presentation. Good netcode. Decent depth of play. Really exciting to play.