Windows Central Verdict
Party Animals' adorable, floppy characters and variety of maps should make for an easy win. However, awkward mechanics and sluggish controls can make the game very frustrating to play.
Plenty of maps
Online and couch co-op multiplayer
On Xbox Game Pass
Lack of useful info in UI
Gacha mechanic with microtransactions
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Party Animals has been on many players' radar for the last few months thanks to its adorable art style and floppy brawler gameplay. In quick multiplayer sessions that follow a basic King of the Hill premise, teammates work to punch, kick, throw, or otherwise smack opponents off a safe location until only one team is left standing.
After waiting for what seemed an eternity, the party game is finally available. But does it provide the perfect level of silly fun that players want? Unfortunately, in many ways, the answer is no. In its current state it is not one of the best Xbox games, but it could be with the right post-launch love.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Source Technology. The company did not see the contents of this review before publishing.
Party Animals: Price and platforms
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC (Steam)
Developer: Recreate Games
Publisher: Source Technology
Launch date: Sept. 20, 2023
Xbox Game Pass: Yes
Players: Single-player, multiplayer (online and couch co-op)
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Developer Recreate Games' multiplayer party game, Party Animals, sells for $19.99. It's available for Windows PCs via Steam as well as Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One. What's more, cross-platform play is available between Steam and Xbox as long as the feature is allowed in your local regional and regulatory policies. This silly title is also on Xbox Game Pass so you can play it without paying additional money if you are already subscribed.
You'll have noticed that Party Animals is not available for PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, or mobile. In the Steam FAQ for Party Animals, this is addressed. " As a startup studio, we can only ensure timely releases on XBOX and STEAM platforms. Developing for more platforms requires additional time. We'll begin working on other platforms after the initial release." So, it is possible that we could see Party Animals on additional platforms in the future.
Party Animals: Adorable and silly characters
We've seen floppy physics King of the Hill-style party games many times before in titles like Gang Beasts, Human Fall Flat, and much more. However, Party Animals provides a far more adorable style that helps it stand apart, visually. Everything from the playful menus to the movements of the characters is here to delight and entertain.
Party Animals' successful visual mixture of comedy and cuteness is brought to the forefront by the fluffy animal characters, with their chubby baby bodies that wiggle around like clumsy toddlers or limp stuffed animals. They might grab, punch, jump-kick, and wield weapons, but they always do so while looking adorable.
What's more, it's the minute details of each menu, map, and object that helps build upon this comedic-cute style. For instance, the character selection screen takes place in a locker room with stumpy little lockers and a squat punching bag. Here players can not only choose their characters, but they can also choose what outfits they wear. Sometimes these are silly outfits like bathroom towels and cucumbers over the eyes, but other outfits include serious styles like a leather jacket. I tell you what, there's nothing quite as oddly darling as the juxtaposition of seeing a baby bunny wearing a bulletproof vest.
Party Animals: Unique modes, maps, and challenges
There are three game modes: Last Stand with its two-person teams, Team Score with silly objectives in 4v4, and Arcade with 4v4 last-player-standing rules. Each mode is fun in its own way, but I found it odd that some modes feature several maps to choose from while others only have a couple.
Depending on the mode and map you choose, you'll face different challenges. Usually, as a round goes on, something will happen to reduce the stage's safe area, ensuring that a match doesn't last too long. This might include things like the bridge you're on slowly falling apart or a poisonous gas overtaking the arena.
Sometimes these challenges added to the gameplay, but sometimes they just proved to be annoying. For instance, when one of the main ropes on a bridge gave out early, the rest of the match turned into a climbing competition to see who could hold on longest since there was no way to brawl. This is not what the game is billed as, and I felt a little cheated until the round moved on.
At the end of each round, winners are given rewards, and every player earns points based on how well they did. You might even unlock a new skin or character if you got enough points to level up. As you might expect, this gave me a reason to keep playing as I wanted to unlock the adorable greyed out characters that I didn't have access to.
Party Animals: Online and co-op multiplayer
After playing several rounds of various modes online, I started looking around for the promised local multiplayer option and couldn't find it anywhere. It was only after Googling the result that I discovered that there doesn't seem to actually be any visual indicator on the screen telling you how to initiate couch co-op — you just need to know what button to push on what menu, which is a really strange oversight.
For anyone else who wants to play Party Animals local multiplayer, you need to create a Custom game, turn on any additional Xbox controller(s), and then click in the right joystick on each additional controller. New text will then appear on the bottom of the screen, and you'll need to press RT on each controller to join the match. It's honestly rather ridiculous that couch co-op is this hidden and complicated, but it is possible.
Party Animals local multiplayer allows for up to four players, and splits the screen so each person has control of their camera and viewpoint. My husband and I ended up playing several co-op rounds locally with AI opponents. Sometimes we were on the same team and other times we tried to duke it out against each other. This turned out to be a fun experience overall but with some frustrations mixed in, which I'll address in the section following this one.
Party Animals: Sluggish gameplay
I really want to love Party Animals because it looks good and visually it lends itself excellently to the floppy brawler genre. However, the game's mechanics and sluggish responses to controls can make rounds very frustrating. I would expect in a silly game like this that mashing the punch button would be an expected strategy. But the game punishes this behavior by knocking your character out if you spam the same button too much. This is very frustrating as a player, especially since there is no health indicator on the screen to warn you if your character is about to stun itself. There was even a time when I lost a round by knocking myself out, which was an annoying way to end the game.
One of the best tactics for defeating opponents is jump-kicking to knock them out, grabbing them, and then running to a cliff and throwing them off. However, the Party Animal characters often respond slowly to button presses, which can easily make it so you lose a crucial moment to grab or smack someone. Additionally, the throw button never works consistently. Sometimes I can throw an enemy somewhat far, but even when charging up my throw, opponents often just flail straight up into the air and then back down, which is as good as if I hadn't done anything at all.
Now, you can sometimes save your character if you've been thrown from a safe space by climbing. However, the climbing physics feel so mushy that you often end up dying even when it feels like you should be able to save yourself. Thankfully, in most modes when you die the fun isn't over. You can launch fish and bananas at the remaining players in an attempt to trip them up. There were a couple of times when I was able to help my partner win by lobbing a fat fish at our AI enemy. However, I do have to wait for a gauge to count down before I can use another projectile, so as not to imbalance the game.
Lastly, I'll touch on what should have been another fun aspect: Silly weapons. As matches go on, various items such as lollipops, tennis rackets, crossbows, and bombs can get dropped onto the stage for the characters to utilize. If you manage to get a hold of one of the swingable weapons, you can knock enemies super far. In some maps this can guarantee their death. However, the trick isn't getting to the weapon before opponents, it's making sure you pick up the weapon successfully in the first place.
If my character doesn't come at the weapon exactly the right way when attempting to pick it up then I end up holding it wonky, it doesn't do much damage, and it can fall out of my hands. But getting my character lined up in such a way that it grabs a tennis racket handle the correct way isn't easy when everyone is smacking you and running into you. It's just another example of the game turning what should be a simple movement into a difficult task.
Party Animals: Microtransactions
I'm the kind of person who usually finds that microtransactions cheapen a game and the same is true for Party Animals. The brawler already costs $20 if you aren't playing on Game Pass, and this base purchase gives you access to a good number of characters. However, additional characters and outfits can be unlocked via in-game purchases. As part of this, players can spend real-world money to obtain Neko Bucks.
|Neko Bucks||Real-world cost (USD)|
There is also a gacha mechanic where players can spend in-game currency on a toy vending machine and get a random reward out of it. This is fun as long as you stick to the in-game currency earned by leveling up and winning rounds. However, it can also be a place where people might feel the gambling itch and spend actual money to gain random rewards.
Party Animals: Should you buy it?
It's immediately clear when viewing any videos or promotional content for Party Animals that this game looks like it should be a hilarious party game. Its adorable cast of fluffy animal characters move around in comically floppy ways and there's an essence of silliness to each skin and map. I really had high expectations for this game, but frustrating mechanics and sluggish responses spoil the fun.
Party Animals isn't totally beyond saving, as it still made me smile and laugh at times. However, the game would be a lot more enjoyable if developer Recreate Games were to release an update that improves upon the gameplay — most notably the controls — and improve the UI..
Self-professed gaming geek, Rebecca Spear, is one of Windows Central's gaming editors with a focus on Xbox and PC gaming. When she isn't checking out the latest games on Xbox Game Pass, PC, or Steam Deck; she can be found digital drawing with a Wacom tablet. She's written thousands of game guides, previews, features, and hardware reviews over the last few years. If you need information about anything gaming related, her articles can help you out. She also loves testing game accessories and any new tech on the market.