Remember the joys that Mario Party would bring? Those were the days, right? The Xbox has had its fair share of party games, with the likes of Viva Piñata: Party Animals, and the more recent Marooners on Xbox Game Pass. Petoons Party is the latest party game to attempt this formula — and possibly the worst.
The premise of Petoons Party revolves around an island of creepy, jelly bean-esque characters who possess magic. The diabolical villain known as Kirtra attempts to harness this power and control the world.
Following so far? Yeah, me neither.
Unlike other properties that use a pre-existing franchise to lure players in, Petoons Party relies on its own lore and charm to attract an audience. The feel of the whole affair is reminiscent of a Saturday morning children’s show, so it may invite a younger audience, but the Petoon’s dead eyed, piercing expressions will haunt my dreams for weeks to come.
Everything about the presentation feels unpolished and, in some places, downright ugly. Independent studios who lack the resources to create a visually stimulating experience often use the art style to their advantage. Petoons Party looks like a PlayStation 2 game, with none of the nostalgia. This would be acceptable, if the price of entry wasn’t so high – US: $19.99/UK: £16.74.
None of this would matter if Petoons Party played well. Spoiler alert — it doesn’t.
Like other party games, the game is split into a variety of boards, each with their own visual flair. Each board brings nothing else to differentiate itself from the others but its looks. Story Island takes place on a tropical island, whereas Snowfall Island takes place on a, you guessed it, snowy island. With everything remaining the same aside from a visual flair, there is no reason to ever change boards.
Players take turns to roll the dice and venture further across the board, engaging with all the traditional tropes. Some spaces will take you back, some will unlock a mini-game and other times you’ll land on the same place as another player and be forced to play Rock, Paper, Scissors. Whoever loses will be robbed a number of points from their score — which happens a lot. Eventually, after several rounds and mini-games, you will reach the finale. This is where Petoons Party differs. Ending a game results in all players fighting against Kirtra in a climactic battle. These moments actually work rather well, invoking a change of style, as opponents now became teammates. If only the adventure there was just as enjoyable…
Games last for what feels like an eternity as our disturbing looking friends bounce hauntingly from space to space. This can be sped up, which is a godsend as the board games are extremely uninspired. Much like other games of the genre, mini-games play a vital part in collecting points. Here, however, mini-games are only unlocked through progression across the board. This means that the beginning turns result in all players playing the same mini-game over, and over, and over again. What makes this worse is that each mini-game is mind-numbingly basic and essentially broken.
One mini-game has the characters attempting to gather items for their basket, with each showing a specific item that is required to be placed inside. The problem is, sometimes you can be stuck waiting a ridiculous amount of time until your item even appears. Then, when it does, your basket will more than likely require a different item. Another game involves operating a musical instrument, and hitting the button prompts in time with the music. This could be a fun rhythm game, but instead can last upwards of up to three minutes. Three minutes is a ridiculously long time for a mini-game and drags out the only thing with any sort of fun injected into it.
None of this is helped by the AI, which appear to be practically unbeatable in the selection of games — the amount of which is ridiculously low. Only seven mini-games are available on each board, and while this would be fine if every board gave a different selection, they are only reskinned variants of the original set.
Petoons Party offers two other modes in the form of singular mini-games again, and an option known as cups. Cups has you completing a gauntlet of the same soulless mini-games to dictate a winner. Neither of these have any life inside of them or attempt anything different outside of the main board game mode.
Sometimes a game will arrive that reinvents the genre, providing a new spin on the classic tropes. Petoons Party on Xbox One is not that game. It takes everything that worked for genre classics such as Mario Party and throws them out. While it functions on a basic level, nothing involved is particularly fun, interesting or warranting of a replay. If you’re looking for a party game to introduce to your friends, look elsewhere, as Petoons Party just might scare them off.