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Our "happy experience" playing Party Animals

It don't start 'til the corgi walks in.

You may remember a beta for the absurd Party Animals that released back in 2020 - a riotously fun party game that swiftly rose up the most-anticipated lists. Fast forward three years and we finally have a release date, as announced at last night's Summer Games Fest: 20th September, on both PC (Steam) and Xbox consoles.

In that time, the Shanghai-based studio was majorly impacted by lockdown, but the game has gone through extensive development and has been confirmed for release on Xbox via Game Pass.

The developer also apologised for the long wait. "This is our first time developing a game, and we underestimated the time it would take to fix the bugs," said producer and CEO of Recreate Games Zixiong Luo. "Additionally, some necessary approval processes took longer than we planned. We are just as eager as fans to see Party Animals launch, and we want to ensure it's as polished and bug-free as possible first."

Finally, we've now had our grubby paws all over it and came away big fans of its silliness.

What is a fairly simple party game about cute animals battling for arena supremacy with floppy physics certainly brought out our wild and competitive side. Join me, Victoria and Liv as we relive our experience with the game, plus some extra insight from the developers.

Party Animals - Official Console Announce Trailer - Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase 2021Watch on YouTube

Ed: Before we talk about playing Party Animals, I thought we should introduce ourselves. So, hi, I'm Nemo the space corgi and I didn't come to party, I came to win.

Liv: Hi, I'm Sparky the bull terrier and I don't need a gun to prove I'm the top dog here.

V: Hello there, I am a bit of an animal flip-flopper. I switched between Tiagra the Tiger, Coco the Crocodile and - the character that became my favourite - Carrot the Bunny. Don't let my cute ears and fluffy tail fool you, though! I was in it to win it, and dressed for the occasion by adorning myself in gear worthy of a knight. Yes, I was a rabbit in an Armet. Bet you weren't expecting to read that today.

Corgi dead black and white
Prepare for a series of images of a corgi losing. I was fuming.

Ed: I asked the developers some questions about the game, including why they chose a corgi as a mascot. Apparently the producer's wife has a pet corgi called Nemo! "When we expanded the number of characters, we brainstormed names based on the animals' traits," said the developer. "We prefer to give them names with a sense of contrast, dark humour, or something easy to remember. For example, we have a gorilla character named Barbie and a pig character named Bacon."

I love these names, they really set the tone of the game.

Anyway, were either of you familiar with Party Animals before we played?

Liv: I remember seeing a trailer for it once, and my first thought was "it's just like Gang Beasts", but with cute animals and funny props. Which makes it even better, in my opinion!

V: Same as Liv, I remember seeing a trailer for Party Animals and immediately thinking "Huh! That's like Gang Beasts with weapon drops".

Ed: Some friends of mine played the previous beta from three years ago, but it seems the developer has spent a lot of time polishing since then. They told me: "After the beta, we expanded our art and engineering teams and almost rebuilt the entire game to ensure quality." They've also added new gameplay modes and a friend system to help players connect easily.

Liv: I definitely appreciate the range of animals and outfits, plus all the pop culture references. I dolled Sparky up as Neo from The Matrix, and wept every time his shades were knocked off in battle.

V: Yeah the outfit variety was a lot of fun. I particularly liked the Darth Vadar-inspired ensemble for Harry the Duck. He pulled off that cape with real panache - you could say it had a certain "je ne sais quack" about it.

I noticed each character had different outfit options to the other animals. I suppose this is to encourage people to play with a variety of creatures, and to try new combinations, however part of me was also a bit disappointed we couldn't all brawl about as banana hat and tutu wearing animals, regardless of species.

Ed: We should probably explain what Party Animals is! Essentially it's a party game where you choose a cute animal, dress them up, and then battle in 3D arenas to grab and throw each other off. It's a simple premise with slightly confusing controls but instant appeal, and I think we can all agree, it resulted in utter chaos?

Liv: Chaos and hilarity.

V: Speak for yourselves, I had everything under control...

Corgi dead on a plane
Corgi dead next to a duck in the jungle
Rip corgi, it was fun while it lasted.

Ed: It all takes place in various wacky arenas that have different hazards too. Which was your favourite? I was particularly fond of pole dancing atop a submarine as it slowly sank into the ocean and we all drowned.

V: I enjoyed the level that took place on top of an aeroplane as it flew through the sky. It felt very Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible - if Mr Cruise was an anthropomorphic animal with only partial control of his limbs.

I thought it was clever how the plane became more icy, making the arena close in around us as we flailed about while desperately trying to jettison each other over the edge. It added a sense of silly urgency, and was a more novel approach than just gas closing in, like we see in other multiplayers.

I also enjoyed the level with the black hole, especially because when I knew there was no hope for me, I could grab the unsuspecting limbs of my opponents and drag them into the abyss with me. If I can't win, let it be known I will still go down swinging.

I think the only map I was perhaps a bit disappointed in was the jungle one. It felt a bit uninspired, and once we had done it once, I found subsequent playthroughs a bit monotonous.

Liv: I think I'd have to go with the space one. Not just because I won in that arena, but because it was really funny seeing everyone running to grab onto something before the black hole sucked us all in. But also because I won.

Animals sucked into a black hole
"If I'm going down, I'm taking you with me."

Ed: Of course you picked the arena where you won! I asked the developer about what makes the game stand out. They noted the cute animal characters, but also said: "Our game's core is not competitive but focused on 'happy experiences'. Our game design revolves around how to make players have more fun in the game. We hope our game can bring happiness to our players." Did you both have a "happy experience" playing this?

Liv: For sure! I think rather than the competition, I enjoyed making the cute animals flop around with silly physics and wield massive hammers. There was this sense of curiosity I had whilst playing, when new items would get dropped into the arena and I'd try and figure out how to use them. The result was often slapstick comedy, like when I hit myself in the face with a boomerang, and many laughs were had.

V: It was certainly delightful chaos. A lot of that was thanks to the game itself, but a large part was also because of who I was playing with.

Party Animals is a fun, slapstick party game in its own right that clearly doesn't take itself too seriously. But I also think who you play with will ultimately be key to what makes your overall experience stand out. I am sure playing against a computer or with strangers online could still be fun, but the novelty would probably wear off faster. I appreciate the same can be said about a lot of other party games, but it is still something I think bears mentioning.

I left with a big smile on my face, though, so I can agree a "happy experience" was had.

Ed: One of my favourite aspects is fighting to be front of camera at the end of a round, it reminded me of that Mario Party mini game! Which was your favourite weapon? I enjoyed rampaging as a corgi with a crossbow.

Liv: Having arrows sticking out of my terrier's butt was mildly horrifying and extremely hilarious. I think I liked the tennis racket the most - light enough to swing quickly but heavy enough to deliver a one hit KO.

V: One word - Taser! Zapping everyone and then seeing their cartoonish skeleton shudder was priceless. The plunger bow and arrow set also amused me, especially when the suckers got stuck to someone and they had to fight on while looking like they had just come back from a poorly executed plumbing emergency.

Corgi on a crossbow rampage on a submarine
Corgi in the jungle with a crossbow
Corgi on a rampage.

Ed: I did think options were a little limited in terms of game modes. You can team up in different combinations, but the basics are mostly the same. That said, the developers are working on "creating more maps with different gameplay" as well as new animals and costumes post-release so there will be more to come. And with the game coming to Game Pass, I can see Party Animals becoming a multiplayer favourite for a lot of people. Will this be a popular game in your households? I think it'll be perfect for Twitch streamers.

V: I agree more game modes would be great, as at the moment these are a bit limited. It is early days, though, so I am curious to see what the developer comes up with in the future.

I would also love to see new maps with more levels to add a greater sense of verticality to gameplay. Or, perhaps ones where you open up new areas within the map by knocking through a wall with a bat, or have to work with another player to pull two levers to open a gate. Just something to keep everyone on their toes a bit more, and to encourage experimentation and exploration in each new area.

I will definitely be playing Party Animals with my kids. The combination of cute animals, outlandish outfits and an eclectic range of weapons is right up their street. Meanwhile, I actually found the controls pretty easy to get to grips with, and I imagine this will make Party Animals more accessible for younger audiences. Even though I was flailing around looking like I had no idea what I was doing, I promise I did thanks to the relatively straightforward button layout (on mouse and keyboard). In other similar party games, it tends to be more of a button mashing situation, as I still haven't quite figured out which control is for headbutts, or which one is to grab. I think my children will have an easier time with Party Animals from that point.

I will also play you two again... I have thrown down the gauntlet! So, are you game?

Corgi dead on a submarine
I was just sleeping in this one. Promise.

Liv: I too would like to see more variety in maps and levels. I'd love levels which require some degree of cooperation between players or include interactivity with the surroundings. If you were able to control the trap elements in arenas, that would make things a lot spicier.

I found the camera more annoying than the button mashing, as it was often in an awkward position where I couldn't quite see the other players (or myself) clearly. The variety of camera angles you could follow once you were out of the round was great though. I enjoyed being able to choose between watching the whole arena or following a particular player and cheering them on.

I can see myself picking this up and playing a few rounds with mates if we're looking for something to have a laugh over. Though after an hour, I can imagine the novelty wearing off a bit.

Ed: Don't worry Victoria, I'm definitely game! And Liv I know you were concerned that the animals didn't have toe beans. I was told: "You can think of these little animals as being in their cub years, so their legs are short." Now I feel bad these youngsters were so violent - but maybe that's on me for being so competitive.

V: Edward Nightingale, you savage (she says while polishing her rabbit's suit of armour).

Liv: I'm very distraught about the lack of toe beans over here. I'm suspicious about whether these are actually animals or just people wearing animal onesies. I think I'd need to see some more of these "partying animals" before I come to any conclusions...

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