Party Animals on PC
While we may enjoy a good dose of serious, emotional, and moving storytelling that more heavy-toned games can give us, sometimes there’s nothing better than pivoting to one that can transport you to a colorful and carefree world of hilarious whimsy. One that effortlessly delivers a different set of emotions – laughter, levity, and just good ol’ fashioned frivolity and that just wants to put a smile on your face and let you have fun with your friends. Recreate Games brings a flock of the fluffiest and funniest looking animals to their version of multiplayer whack-a-pal with Party Animals, and after a few matches this one honestly and thankfully feels like the opposite of a friendship-breaker.
Recreate Games has been hard at work on bringing Party Animals to life since it was first teased back in 2019. They even created their own in-house physics engine for the game, which ultimately serves as the unique core of its gameplay mechanics inside the infrastructure of an online brawler. They then surprised players with two open demos of the game in late 2020, and the response even then was jovially positive. From there, it was full steam ahead to make Party Animals into the adorably funny party it was truly meant to be, and it seems like they’ve done just that.
The game starts you off as Nemo the dog in a cute little gauntlet-style tutorial that’s quite easy to follow from start to finish. You figure out which button does what, and in a sigh of relief, the controls are probably among the simplest I’ve ever seen for something akin to a fighting game. You learn how to run, jump, punch, headbutt (my favorite move, personally), dodge roll (probably the hardest for me to remember), climb, pick up and use weapons, and the most complex move is a drop kick. You also learn about Stamina, the one gauge you have to watch for, as physical actions and wielding weapons all chip away at it.
You also get a first-hand experience with the special ragdoll-style physics, which are quite unlike anything I’ve experienced in recent memory with character movement. It looks and feels like you’ve assumed control of a giant stuffed animal, arms and head flopping to and fro, and tiny little nub feet shuffling across the floor. I will say that, as hilariously cute as it is, the physics have their own learning curve, as it can be a struggle to master that floppy shuffle and keep your fluffy critter from tumbling and lumbering around like a crazed hooligan. That also serves as part of the charm, though. There’s no precision here, no actual mastery of anything, nothing to take seriously or get frustrated over. The game is intended to be entirely un-serious in nature, so you take those lumbering tumbles with style.
In a similar vein to Mediatonic’s Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout that debuted a few years ago, Party Animals is an online multiplayer game with a similarly cute and carefree aesthetic. It has a similar leveling system where XP you gain from matches goes towards unlocking new in-game items such as cosmetics, and two types of currencies each time you level up. Certain actions you pull off during matches can also go towards completing a handful of Weekly Challenges. However, unlike Fall Guys which focuses almost entirely on a colorful variety of obstacle course races, Party Animals is fundamentally all about teaming up with your friends in different environments to beat the absolute synthetic stuffing out of each other, literally.
When at the Main Menu, you can choose either a Quick Match or a Custom Game to get things rolling. With cross-play between PC and Xbox players, at the time of writing, there’s more than enough of a player pool to mingle with, and the queue won’t leave you hanging long at all. If you opt for Quick Match, you can either go into the queue solo and get placed with a team of random players, or invite your friends in the follow-up prep menu, then hit ‘Start’ when you’re ready. Rather than take you automatically to a pre-selected match though, you still get to choose between three different map options. Meanwhile, for a Custom Game, you can either select one to join from the list of games already created by other players, or you can of course create your own for you and your buds. This brings us to the game’s three different modes.
The first mode is Last Stand (Duo Rival), which can be structured in either teams of two, teams of four, or free-for-all. The goal is to tussle and brawl your opponents until you or your team are the last one(s) standing on the given arena. There are nine diverse maps to choose from, and they range from dodging waves and missiles on the top of a nuclear submarine, a laboratory with a very inviting black hole in the middle, and a wind tunnel with not a whole lot to hang on to for dear life.
The second mode, called Team Score (Squad Rival), changes the dynamic up a little and was probably my favorite of the three with Last Stand as a close second. With nine more unique maps and two opposing teams (up to four players each), you compete to fulfill various objectives depending on the map you’re on. This ranges from gathering objects, to blowing up bases, to scoring goals. However, brawling remains an integral part of the objective, whether it’s to distract, buy yourself time, or just prank your pals for fun.
In the ‘Lollipop Factory’ you and your friends are tasked with dragging giant gummy bears and other candies back to a chute at your base for points. ‘Into the Game’ has you competing against each other in an 8-bit side scroller, at least when you’re fighting to distract each other. There are also maps that feature more traditional sports like ice hockey, soccer, and football that feels a bit more like rugby in this particular game. I can’t say that I mind, even though having my fluffy little fighter wear a helmet would be adorably funny.
Rounding out the modes is Arcade (Fight Club), which unlike the other modes sadly features only two maps. Here it’s a team-based brawl, and each player has 10 lives to use wisely. However, victory comes when one team has at least one life left among the group while the other is completely wiped out. You can duke it out either in the Western-themed ‘Winter Cabin’ or in the ‘Final Destination’ subway station. It seems strange that there are only two maps in the mode, which leaves it feeling a little lacking, and I do genuinely hope that more will get added later on.
Even cooler, with Custom Games you can either select one map if you’re looking for a one-and-done experience, or you can select every single available map on the list for an all-out gauntlet if you want.
Of course it’s not just all about brawling with fisticuffs and noggins. Another element of gameplay that all these modes have in common, as mentioned previously, is the weapons that drop at random into the arena. Many are classic comedic tropes, from baseball bats, to frying pans, bombs and mallets, along with others like a crossbow, a boomerang, and even a taser. It makes for a fun number of ways to bonk, zap, and jab your opponents. There are also buff items that drop in to the arena on occasion, be it cans of spinach for you to gulp down Popeye-style, or cartons of milk to guzzle. They give you a temporary jolt of extra stamina and strength, and can help turn the tide.
All of these items add a fun element to the core gameplay, and help you get a bit more creative in your standoff. Those floppy physics add a twist of challenge to using them as well, making it easy to overswing or aim in the complete opposite direction than what you intended. It definitely takes some practice, more so with some weapons than others. Don’t fret though, because this game excels in the “don’t worry, be happy” vibe and has all in the patience in the world for you.
It definitely wouldn’t be much of a party if there weren’t enough playable animals to choose from, and thankfully there are plenty. Alongside the game’s mascot Corgi named Nemo, there’s Otta the Otter, Harry the Duck, Carrot the Bunny, Bruce the Shark, and many, many more that make up a roster of 30 different characters. On top of that, each of them can be customized with different color gradients and eccentric outfits, which again you can unlock by leveling and purchasing them with the game’s two currencies. Nemo Bucks can get you the rare outfits, while Cookies will unlock more common items.
There are also Egg Coins, which you can use at a gacha machine to get lottery-style egg prizes for items as well. It’s quite nice to have of a variety of opportunities to get all those hard-sought treasures, and makes playing matches, whether you win or lose, all the more gratifying.
Based on the whole experience so far, Party Animals seems like it’s found a really good formula for turning a competitive game into one that’s as laid back and charming as possible, with the cutest anthropomorphic characters in existence to boot. The chill, whimsical, comedic vibe works, the soundtrack is borderline perfect, and the gameplay is engaging and really fun to play around with, but not over the top or tiresome. Rather, I found myself dying of laughter half the time alongside my friends while having an awesome time.
There’s no sensory overload that other games sometimes throw at you, be it visual or audible. There’s no over-the-top match announcer shouting the same five lines into your ears over and over, no screaming crowds, no intentionally obnoxious sound effects that don’t belong. The animal characters themselves don’t even make a lot of vocal noises. No loud grunts, squawks, or weird gibberish that you might otherwise expect. The game clearly aims for sensory simplicity in a genre that otherwise tends to have plenty of action. That may be your vibe or it might not. To me it’s a breath of fresh air, and impressively pulled off by an indie title.
What I also especially appreciate about all of the maps in the game, aside from their completely different looks, were the unique obstacles and features you can take advantage of as much as the weapons that spontaneously drop into the arena. The various pop culture references for names were a nice touch as well, from surviving a blizzard in ‘Winter is Coming’ to racing coal-burning trains in the Wild West in ‘Fluffy Redemption’, to brawling in a subway station that not only is called ‘Final Destination’, but is also a carbon copy of the one from the original Matrix film.
All in all, Party Animals brings a unique and adorably new experience to the table in the world of online multiplayer brawlers, helping contribute to a niche of that genre that is growing increasingly popular. While not absolutely groundbreaking, the game definitely brings a clever formula of its own making that is well-curated, clearly made with love, and incredibly enjoyable to play. There are plenty of laughs that get thrown around with just as many punches, and whether you want to be top dog (or cat, or goose, etc) is entirely up to you.
The chill, adorable, comedic vibe of the game is a special and fun breath of fresh air in the online brawler genre.
Plenty of characters to choose from, and cosmetics to dress them all up with.
Gameplay brings the laughs and enjoyment, and doesn’t get tiresome or frustrating.
Maps are all vibrantly engaging with their own unique features, don’t feel redundant.
Unique physics are really fun to watch but almost equally hard to learn
Arcade Mode sadly only has 2 maps while the others have 9
September 20, 2023
PC, Xbox Series X|S
Copy provided by Publisher