Super Animal Royale Review: Welcome To The Jungle
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you dropped 64 animals into a large map, gave them access to a plethora of weapons, grenades, and mountable emus, and asked them to fight to the death? If so, then firstly, PETA would like to have a word with you and check your internet search history; and secondly, Super Animal Royale might just have the answers to all your very strange questions.
Armed Animal Antics
Developed by Pixile Games, Super Animal Royale is a free-to-play top-down 2D battle royale, where players battle it out as genetically engineered versions of all your favorite creatures.
The core gameplay loop is incredibly simple. You’ll drop into a map with 63 other players, each of you scrambling to equip yourself as best you can from the various tools of destruction scattered across the map’s various regions. Weapons selection is surprisingly varied, from Gatling guns to sniper rifles and crazier variants that tie into the animal theme, such as throwable skunk tails that let off toxic gas. Once you’re suitably tooled up, in typical battle royale fashion, you’ll spend the remainder of the match hunting down your competitors until only one of you remains. Duo and squad playlists are also there for those who want to team up with friends or make use of the randomized matchmaking.
What really helps to elevate Super Animal Royale is its style and art direction, which is beyond adorable, and often hilarious. Players can choose from a selection of animal-themed avatars, include cats, foxes, and bears, and monkeys – I swear I was also killed by what looked like a unicorn at one point, which, as expected, was rather embarrassing. each of these critters is presented in such a way that they wouldn’t look out of place on a kid’s Saturday morning cartoon. Well, that would be the case were they not running around unleashing volleys of bullets at one another.
The animal theme also extends further than just the avatars you can select from. Whereas Fortnite has players descend to the map from its Battle Bus, here you will find yourself crammed into a carrier strapped to the back of an eagle, a touch my three-year-old son found hilarious as he sat and watched me play! Additionally, if like me, you are a great lover of dad jokes and puns, prepare to be delighted by the wealth of animal-related quips on offer. A particular favorite of mine was the message that appeared on screen to mark my premature death, which stated, “you have been diskoalafied”.
It’s great to see the developers lean so heavily into the animal warfare concept. The battle royale genre has become an increasingly crowded space, with many titles doing little to carve out a unique identity. By picking such a whacky theme and using it to great effect, Pixile Games has gone to great lengths to ensure its game successfully stands out amongst its competition.
Cat-Like Reflexes Not Required
Also lending itself to the unique niche being carved out is the gameplay itself. Battle royale games tend to play out in traditional first- or third-person shooter formats, whereas Super Animal Royale is a top-down twin-stick shooter. I welcomed this change in perspective as it contributes greatly to accessibility, which can often be a problem with battle royale games for those who aren’t blessed with cat-like reflexes. See, I often get tunnel vision when playing traditional multiplayer shooters and forget my surroundings, which inevitably leads to getting shot in the back. The top-down view being used here eliminates that issue, and I found myself way more willing to engage in combat encounters with other players because of the added visibility.
The controls are also very intuitive, especially so if you have ever played a twin-stick shooter before. Aiming is mapped to the right stick, movement on the left, with the right trigger taking care of firing your weapon. Healing and armor repair is set to the face buttons, and that’s about as complicated as it gets. Whether you’re firing off rounds with an SMG, or getting up close and personal with a shotgun, each weapon feels responsive and accurate, which is a must given the pace at which both your character and your enemies, zip around the map.
Fast and Furry-ous
The speed of the characters is equaled by the tempo of the matches themselves. I found most games to last in or around five minutes, with the short match-length complemented excellently by the efficient matchmaking, which often had me in a game within less than a minute of initiating.
Honestly, the short rounds felt great. One aspect of battle royale titles that often puts me off, is how long matches can drag on. I hate that sinking feeling of having put in 20-30 minutes of work, only to have it all undone by a stupid mistake in the blink of an eye. Super Animal Royale alleviates that frustration with how quickly each game flies by, and how easy it is to get back into another almost immediately. It all results in a game that becomes incredibly hard to put down and begs for one more round each time you attempt to walk away.
The addictive nature of the game is amplified by the generous progression system, which presents players with a vast number of in-game milestones and challenges to tackle. These challenges range from simply racking up wins to obtaining kills with different weapons. Each milestone has a cosmetic reward attached to it which can be used to customize your avatar even further. I appreciated these unlockable rewards; all too often in free-to-play games, cosmetics are generally light on the ground for those not willing to part with their cash. It’s very refreshing in this day and age to see a developer of a free-to-play title, go to great lengths to ensure that they provide strictly free-to-play players with a rewarding experience and a reason to keep logging back on.
Paws For Thought
Despite thoroughly enjoying laying waste to colorful critters, there were a few frustrations that cropped up during my playtime that are worth mentioning. Battle royale is definitely a genre that benefits from silky smooth performance, so it’s unfortunate that sudden frame drops and intermittent lag were something I encountered on a few occasions. I say a few, as the issues were nowhere near prevalent enough to sour my overall experience. However, there were a few occasions where I felt as though I was fighting against technical hiccups as well as the competition on the battlefield.
Text size can also be incredibly small, especially when playing handheld on the Switch, the console of choice for this review. My eyesight is generally pretty good, so I was able to adjust, but I fear that anyone who has issues with visibility may find the text size impacts their enjoyment somewhat. Hopefully, the developers can address this with the option to increase font size later down the line via a patch.
I also mentioned above that this is a free-to-play title and appreciate that’s probably a loaded statement for a lot of people, so it’s worth addressing. I’ll always be one of the first to call out predatory monetization models in any game, even if it’s free to play. Aggressive attempts at forcing me to spend money in a game are always a huge red flag and generally result in me walking away from it. Rest assured, however, the monetization here is far from intrusive and can be completely ignored if you’d prefer to. It’s also incredibly hard to take issue with the monetization model when taking into consideration how generously non-monetized rewards and cosmetics are doled out.
Should you choose to support the developers, the in-game store contains a wide variety of eye-catching customization options. Again though, this is all entirely optional, and the store contains nothing that impacts gameplay thankfully. I’m not usually too interested in skins and character customization, but, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t smile to myself as my tiger chased an enemy bear around on the screen, all whilst wearing a French maid outfit and waving a sword disguised as a swordfish!
With its kooky animal-battle royale concept, fast and addictive gameplay loop, and fair monetization systems, it’s difficult to not have fun with Super Animal Royale. Pixile Games has crafted a title that feels like a breath of fresh air in a genre that never seems to stop churning out new entries. Even if you’re like me, and sometimes shy away from battle royale games due to their inaccessibility, this is title definitely worth checking out. You never know, as with me, you may find yourself stumbling across a new obsession!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Playstation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia, MacOS, PC; Publisher: Modus Games; Developer: Pixile Studios; Players: 64 (online only); Released: August 26, 2021; E for Everyone; MSRP: Free-to-Play
Full Disclosure: The publisher provided Hey Poor Player with a code for premium cosmetics and currency.