I had never heard of Super Panda, but it appears to exist and had another installment or two before this came out. Your mission in Animal Friends Adventure is an easy one. Finish stages until you defeat a boss. Rinse and repeat until the end. You play as a panda and eventually can unlock more characters with the same abilities — though they have different projectiles. There are coins and gems to collect to use for upgrading or even skipping levels if you can’t complete one. It’s very kid-friendly but through progress the game does start to get a lot harder and punishes those who don’t upgrade the animals. Kids might have to hand over the controller to an adult at that point.
Here’s what I liked:
Design — As you progress through the levels, you’ll be sure to appreciate certain things. I really liked the enemies. There was a ton of variation. They felt out of place but I didn’t mind. They just didn’t match the world and animals you play as. I thought some of them looked pretty cool, though always easy to slaughter no matter how intimidating they appeared. There are other good ideas with platforming that I admired. The stages seemed to differ as you played, and nothing really seemed copy and pasted. I felt like it was a long game too, which caught me by surprise. For only one person designing it all, I’m pretty impressed.
Lots to Do — You likely won’t have the time of day to finish everything there is within the stages. Not that it’s impossible, but it’s quite a bit of grinding to get all characters and pets, then level them all up. I just don’t think anyone would put that type of effort into it. However, I can admire that there are a lot of choices and if you really wanted to, you could max out everything. The achievements are easy but would also take an extreme amount of time. Like killing a certain amount of enemies or obtaining lots of gold. So no, I won’t be going back. But of course, I like that it’s an option if it was enjoyable to someone.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Art Style — In school, I remember having assignments to cut pictures out of magazines to create a collage. The artwork seems exactly like cut pieces thrown together. The characters don’t blend well within the environment and appear like they were afterthoughts. While some areas look fairly polished and actually quite neat, the overall presentation lacks. The menu can be confusing and looks pretty bad. I beat all stages before realizing I could use and upgrade pets. I found myself jealous of the cool looking enemies, while I had to control goofy looking peaceful animals. This could work if it was a comedy, but the only thing I laughed at was the game’s existence.
Animal Controls — In a platformer, it’s always important to have responsive controls that allow you to make pixel-perfect jumps. We do not get this here. There’s almost a delay in movement as if you’re playing on a game streaming service with bad input lag. You often get stuck in the wall while jumping and it seems almost lazy or rushed. The movement is also pretty slow. If inspired by ’80s games, it’s not really being that accurate. Mario, Sonic, et al always had options to rush through with blinding speed. It allowed you to feel in control as you timed pixel-perfect jumps. That satisfaction left an addictive urge to advance through until the end. I’m not sure people will make it past many areas since there is no real positive feeling while controlling the animals.
Pay to Win — Ever play a game on your phone and it’s a complete grind unless you spend real money? This is that concept without an option to hand over your hard-earned cash. If you die, you can spend coins to continue, and it takes a percentage. Want to skip a level because it’s difficult? Better pay some gems! It’s totally set up as if you had an option to pay money to save time or save time by spending money. Instead, it’s a bad mix of both. You can’t spend money but have to grind away on levels you’ve beaten in order to help your character gain more health or it has a ridiculous difficulty. Luckily I didn’t have to do too much grinding but that was at the cost of only using one character and never buying a pet or skipping levels.
One person made this title. I can’t imagine the dedication it takes to complete a project by yourself. The ideas and design feel like they could be escalated with a good budget and a team of people. It’s a mixing pot of potential that seems to fail at almost every corner. Having something mimic a play-to-win structure without the actual option to pay real money is confusing. Not being able to feel comfortable with the movement was the biggest issue. I didn’t hate what I played, but I didn’t really like it either.
Score: Limited Appeal
Animal Friends Adventure was published by Deverydoo and developed by Folkvang Studios, LLC on Xbox One. It was released on January 8, 2020, for $15.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.