F These Effigies!
If you're in the market for mini-games, you probably don't like to get too deep into things. Things like plot lines and character arcs. Things like reading this whole article. So just to be clear. Before you move on to something else. I'll keep my sentences incomplete. I'll make this short.
Don't buy this game.
[image1]Viva Pinata: Party Animals! is a set of mini-games based off the original Viva Piñata, which is a brilliantly crafted piece of work. Please do not confuse the two. America doesn't need anymore mini-games. It's kind of embarrassing, really. It's like we're shouting to the world: We have no attention spans! Do what you want to us, because we'll forget as soon as Britney forgets her panties again!
I have a theory. It all started with Sesame Street and The Electric Company. It was a good idea at the time. Make the segments short. Make them grab and hold kids' attention. Use bright colors and catchy tunes. Then hit them with something educational before they realize they’re learning. It wasn't meant to cause the downfall of modern civilization. It was just meant to help kids learn to count to twelve.
But like so many things done with the best intentions, somewhere, it all went wrong. It infected us. It got into our social consciousness. It got twisted and tangled until its purpose was lost to us. We forgot the bit about it being a vehicle for learning. We just remembered there were bright colors involved. We started saying things like, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” And where has this left us? With another meaningless mini-game compilation that will carry this compromised doctrine onto future generations. We're doomed.
Playing this game is like taking a whack at a brightly colored toy, only to have it crack open and rain down a load of crap all over you. Now, unless you're into that sort of thing - and I understand, there is a market for it - you don't want to get involved. Not even a little. There's no need for anyone to be blindfolded and pick up this game.
[image2]VP: Party Animals! is based on the Saturday morning cartoon, Viva Piñata. You play as one of the characters from the show and compete against other characters in a tournament, narrated by two wise-cracking sports commentators, ala Cotton McKnight and Pepper Brooks in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. It would have been a good gag, but the very first joke out of their teleprompters falls flat and it doesn't get much better from there. The commentators guide you through a preview of a race and try to get the crowd excited, but ultimately, just end up annoying anyone who's still listening.
Next, the games begin. First there is a qualifying race. After the race, the characters compete in challenge events. Between the results of the race and the challenge events, pieces of candy are doled out. At the end, the person who has the most candy wins.
You have to do well in both the race and the challenges to win, overcoming the randomness of the scoring and the option to keep the game close. Both these features may seem irritating, but they help when you're forced to play with your five-year-old nephew. At that age, he's just smart enough to realize you might be letting him win, but he's still childish enough to throw a tantrum if he loses. So when the game does the losing for you, it feels authentic to a little kid.
Same principle applies to all those moms out there who would never have their child attend a birthday party that involves musical chairs for fear that losing might crush her child's self-esteem. I say competition is good, because the sooner you lose, the sooner you learn to cheat - and that's the way of the world. But... I'm not up for any parent of the year awards or anything. So what do I know?
What I do know, though, is that this game sucks. The race courses are all the same; only the skin changes. You can race at the beach or in the snow, but every turn is all too familiar and slipping on ice feels the same as sliding on sand. The mini-games are meaningless, and there are better incarnations of them in other mini-games titles on the market. They have you perform through pointless tasks, such as staying in a spotlight or – and here's one for originality – hitting a piñata.
[image3]One thing the game does fairly well is take character physics into account. When you play as the bear, you can't run as fast, and it is difficult for the smaller fox to knock you out of the spotlight.
But in the end, everyone runs around waiting for time to be up and hoping that the challenge is done and over with. It’s just a waste of time, and these are mini-games, mind you, so they don't actually take a lot of time. It just feels like they do, because they are so mind-numbing and pointless.
Piñatas are good when they contain candy and treats, but these so-called Party Animals only hold the broken dreams of the Public Broadcasting System. They shower the poison of lost opportunities and stink of failed marketing schemes. Look, these creatures are already made of paper. Know what else is made of paper? Effigies. Know what they do to effigies? Burn them. Can you burn a pinata in effigy? You can certainly try. It only takes a match.