Party Animals

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Source Technology
Developer: Recreate Games
Release Date: Late 2020


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PC Preview - 'Party Animals'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 21, 2020 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Fight your friends as puppies, kittens and other fuzzy creatures in Party Animals as you paw it out both online and offline.

Released in Steam Early Access in 2015, Gang Beasts became a bit of a sensation. Four-player fighting games aren't anything new, but setting it all up with floppy physics in dangerous locales made the experience both chaotic and extremely fun, provided you have friends to partake in the fun. At first glance, Party Animals looks to re-create the magic of that game, and it adds enough improvements to make that possible.

The improvements start with the fighting system, which feels more developed compared to Gang Beasts. It doesn't necessarily move into proper fighting game territory, but your character can throw some basic punches and kicks and deliver running dropkicks and headbutts, but the latter is dangerous since you can knock yourself out if you use it too many times. You can throw objects and unconscious opponents, and your throwing strength is governed by how long you hold down the throw button before your enemy awakens. There are also weapons that come into play, and while they're all non-lethal, they range greatly from silly stuff like plungers and giant lollipops to more serious stuff like crossbows and taser guns. All of this is governed by a stamina system, and while you won't notice it when performing basic attacks, you will be reminded of stamina limitations when you run or use weapons.

Of course, the game retains the same hook as Gang Beasts in that the physics are exaggerated greatly for comedic effect. While moving around, you'll see your character's arms flop around and their plump bodies sway and bounce with every step. Every hit goes wide but makes a noticeable impact when it lands, and characters climbing up a wall look rather goofy since everyone appears to be leaping off of surfaces.

The best way to describe Party Animals would be to imagine what would happen if Beanie Babies were sentient and they all decided to duke it out with weapons. That isn't just true of the physics, since you have a bunch of animals for each fight. The roster ranges greatly, from dogs to dinosaurs. You can change each animal's color, but we are hoping that the final build adds some costumes, especially since a few are already available, such as a rhino wearing a karate uniform and a calico cat with an eyepatch and sporting a vest.

The preview build has two modes, both of which make room for up to eight players either locally or online, with the AI taking up empty spots in both configurations. The standard brawl is a free-for-all that sees each animal trying to temporarily knock out their opponent so they can be thrown off the fighting arena. Of the locales, the temple is perhaps the most benign, since you're simply throwing your opponent to the floor below while gas fills the arena. Choose to fight on a stealth bomber, and you'll throw your opponents into the sky while the plane rises and falls and atmospheric ice quickly covers the surface. Then there's the submarine, where you'll fight to throw everyone into the water and hope they don't recover in time to swim back and try their luck again; you also have to worry about the rising waters when the submarine submerges. Like any good arena fighter, the action is chaotic but never to the point where button-mashing will win the day, and the physics system adds to the charm and ridiculousness. While it all handles great on- and offline, and online matches had no perceptible lag.

The second mode is team-based, with the demo taking place in a factory. Your team is tasked with retrieving various pieces of candy and bringing them to your side, where they need to be dropped into holding bins for points. Gumdrops are worth three points, while giant gummy bears are worth 20, making them much more sought-after since the goal is to be the first to hit 100 points. The kicker is that while you can bring those candies to your side, no score is given until the lever is pulled and the candies fall into the chute. Like the regular fights, it can devolve into chaos, but it is fun to see everyone going after the giant bears, whether it's in tugs of war or watching one lone player make the slow trek to the goal while dragging the candy.

One thing to note is that Party Animals looks gorgeous. The environments show off loads of detail, with the submarine level being the most impressive due to the realistic look of the water and the individual metal panels on the craft. The animals are perhaps the most impressive part due to their exaggerated movements and the ridiculous amount of fur shading that gives them all a soft plush look; it makes them more adorable, whether they're in the middle of a fight or knocked out. The game holds its frame rate nicely even with eight players present.

So far, Party Animals is absolutely ridiculous and a heap of fun. The fighting can be nonsensical at times, but the tweaks make it more skill-based, and players are tempted to engage in nonstop battles due to that and the hilarious physics system. Some will quickly accuse this of being a Gang Beasts clone, but the addition of four more players on the field and the undeniably adorable animals are enough to nullify that criticism. While there's no solid release date for Party Animals beyond late 2020, we can't wait to get our hands on a full version of this.

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