There's footage of me (in one of those Eurogamer TV Shows Johnny makes when he's not hob-knobbing with Jo Wiley) positively agape with delight at the sight of all my old Viva Piņata friends dancing merrily across Microsoft's E3 mega-screen. This is because I love Viva Piņata. I cuddle it when I go to bed. It was one of the best games of 2006 and I have many happy memories of playing it on cold winter evenings, the warming sights and sounds of a flourishing garden coaxing me further into the night. What the camera failed to capture, however, was what happened next. As the true nature of Party Animals became apparent, my jaw undropped itself and clenched, the smile disappearing from my face in a cascade of furrows and despairing creases. Mini-games. Why not just piss on my face?
That said, we shouldn't be surprised: Viva Pinata was originally conceived as a way of helping the Xbox 360 appeal to kids and families (so much so that poor old Rare had to avoid using the hard disk in case people bought Core Systems), and seems to have failed to do that. Some of the Rare folks blamed the marketing budget going to Gears of War, but VP was a bit complicated anyway - not that it bothered its seemingly unintended beneficiaries, us. And so Party Animals, thrown together by Krome Studios using familiar assets from VP and the (surprisingly watchable) TV show, goes in completely the opposite direction, delivering a mixture of dull foot-races and dull mini-games and handing out Gamerpoints like candy.
There are two things you can do with Party Animals: you can play a selection of randomised mini-games interspersed between foot-races with people sat in your lounge, and you can play a selection of randomised mini-games interspersed between foot-races with people sat in other lounges around the world.