What do you get when you mix Gang Beasts (the popular physics-based brawler) with some unbelievably adorable characters, a bunch of unique features, and a day one release on Xbox Game Pass? The answer is Party Animals, which is not only a great and hilarious new addition to the genre, but it's also one of the very best party titles available as part of Xbox's subscription service in 2023.

The main idea behind Party Animals is that you choose your cuddly companion, take them into battle against multiple other players (local, online and/or AI bots), and attempt to knock your opponents out using all-out pawfare! You can use your fists, unleash a devastating dropkick, pick up weapons and recklessly swing them around, and then simply throw your competitors to their delightful demise.

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If you've played something like Gang Beasts or even Human: Fall Flat before, you'll know what to expect from the gameplay. It feels purposely awkward to control at first, but you'll soon get to grips with the various mechanics and learn how to best dispatch of your opponents. Crucially, in our limited pre-launch testing so far, we haven't noticed any instances of lag ruining the experience when playing online, and even the AI bots are surprisingly good fun to battle with. In other words, if you just want to play Party Animals locally with two people and a few bots, it's absolutely still worth it, but we'd recommend going online or trying split-screen with a few friends for the very best experience.

Something we really love about the main "Last Stand" mode in Party Animals is the variety of stages on offer. Every map has something unique about it - for example, there's one where everyone has to stay close to a bonfire otherwise they freeze and find themselves eliminated. In another one, competitors are sucked into a black hole at regular intervals unless they hold onto various heavy objects to save themselves. The excellent variety of these maps helps to keep the game fresh even during extended playsessions, which is definitely an important asset considering the fairly simplistic nature of the gameplay.

Because of these unique quirks in each map, there's a lot of strategy involved as well. Do you dive headfirst into the action and swing your paws like there's no tomorrow? Hang back and wait to unleash a KO-inducing attack on an unsuspecting foe? Or simply put your focus on navigating the terrain and trying to survive rather than eliminating everyone as quickly as possible? The latter is usually the best way to go, but it's easier said than done when you've got another competitor trying to swing a headbutt in your face at the same time!

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In addition to "Last Stand", there are a couple of other game modes in the form of "Team Score" and "Arcade". As you might expect, "Team Score" is focused around teamwork, with objectives including carrying objects back to your base before another team does, and even playing football and hockey. "Arcade" is a more forgiving version of "Last Stand" where you respawn after you're eliminated and the idea is to rack up more eliminations than the other team. Both of these two modes also boast their own unique maps, and Team Score in particular can be extremely fun and hilarious when playing online with friends. We've had some big laughs over the one with the huge gummy bear - it turns into a tug-of-war fest very quickly!

We have to mention the amazing post-match photobrawls as well. At the end of each game, everyone's given a few seconds to fight on the screen before Party Animals takes a close-up photo of whatever lovable carnage is currently taking place. It's a simple idea but it adds a lot to the post-match experience, and on the PC version you can even save these images to your desktop for later. Make one your background, frame another on your wall... the possibilities are endless!

There are a few things we'd perhaps like to see tweaked in Party Animals, but they're not major by any means. We've found that sometimes you can be stuck playing a map for longer than you might want to - the rounds keep going until a team has got enough wins — after which time you're usually looking forward to change of scenery. We'll mention the slightly strange Typhoon map as well, where you have to wait for everyone to slowly drown (or miraculously survive!) before the round can end, but you can't see what's happening under the water if you've already been eliminated. As a result, it ends up feeling a little drawn-out and awkward in some cases.

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The big downside, of course, is that if you're playing this game alone, you're not going to have as much fun as playing with friends. As much variety as the game packs into its three modes, you might get bored with it fairly quickly if there's no-one to share the fun and laughter with. That's not an issue that's specific to Party Animals though - you could say the same thing about Gang Beasts. Just be aware that there's no kind of single-player campaign here.

To its credit, Party Animals does try to integrate a bit of progression in the form of a free Battle Pass where you can earn skins (and credits to buy more skins), along with a few other things. These are well-designed and definitely worth striving for, and even more of them are available in the in-game shop. This is also where microtransactions come into play, although we didn't get a chance to properly sample these during the review period. For what it's worth, the team says "the majority of items can be unlocked without spending additional funds on the game", and it does at least seem that way based on what we've come across so far.


Party Animals takes the Gang Beasts formula and turns the cuteness up to 11, and its well-designed maps encourage plenty of strategy, fun and hysterical laughter. In our opinion, it's one of the best party games available on Xbox Game Pass in 2023, especially if you've got a bunch of friends to enjoy it with in local or online multiplayer, and its pick-up-and-play nature means its accessible to gamers of all ages and skill levels. We've been waiting for this game for years now, and we're glad to report Party Animals lives up to the hype!