Viva Piñata, developed by Rare, will take you into the curious and colourful world of piñatas and gardening. Piñatas are cute paper animals, whose sole purpose in life is to attend parties and entertain children. It is your job to raise these cuddly creatures on your patch of land. The variety of possibilities and the sheer amount of different things to do, require nerves of steel and a sense of strategy. Youre in for a surprisingly versatile experience.
Who Wants to Be a Master Gardener?
Your garden is located on Piñata Island, where all sorts of piñatas reside. At first you get a small patch of land that is completely useless with lots of rubble and dry hard soil. You have to mould this veritable desert into a lush green garden that piñatas will be attracted to. The player will get a shovel, a watering can, a pack of grass seeds and a journal to record almost everything the game has to offer. With these items and with a little help from a select group of friends, the gardening may begin.
You can make purchases and sell plants and piñatas in the nearby village. There you can also hire help to for example water plants, or a builder to build houses for your piñatas. Through achieving different goals, the player will gain experience and advance in level. Each time you level up, youll have new options in the form of new piñatas, plants or goods to buy. Unfortunately the experience and money you gather will be transported to a new game, if you ever decide to start one. In other words, you cant begin again as a rookie gardener after the first time. It is a shame, but at the same time it opens up new possibilities, since you can create many different gardens for different purposes.
The in-game menus are simple, almost too simple at times. The controls function nicely and there is a choice between advanced and simpler control options for the inexperienced player. A nice feature is the co-op mode in which two players can play in the same garden. This can make the game easier for young players and at the same time offer fun for the parents as well. Through Xbox Live, you can trade plants and piñatas with other gamers, or even buy them gifts.
Flora and Fauna
There is a total of over 60 piñatas in the game. Each has special requirements for appearing, visiting, becoming resident and romancing. Usually the cuddly paper creatures require certain things to eat, certain kind of environment and certain types of plants. Some piñatas will only appear if your level is high enough or your garden is valuable enough. This is where you have to have a strategy. The thing is that some piñatas dont like each other, and will get into a fight if they reside in the same garden. Also it is quite impossible to meet the needs of a piñata that requires 50% of your garden to be water, and the needs of a piñata that wants a whole lot of grass.
Romancing is yet another challenge. In order to fall in love and get into the mood, piñatas will want a home and certain other needs have to be met. Two representatives of the same species will become residents in your garden, and if you want more, youll have to romance them. After the creatures requirements for romancing are met, its time for the romancing mini-game, where the player will have to guide a piñata through a maze and into the loving arms (or wings, tentacles, hooves ) of its spouse. This is where the game sometimes gets quite tedious, but it is the most efficient way to earn money. By selling piñatas, you can earn loads of the local currency, chocolate coins.
One easy way to earn chocolate coins is to grow plants and sell their flowers or fruit. This is a slower method than breeding piñatas, but nevertheless a possibility. By feeding different plants to piñatas, the player might discover exotic variants or just plain annoy them. By using fertilizer on the plants, you can make them grow larger and earn experience. Another feature of the game are the mean sour piñatas that occasionally visit your garden causing fights or making piñatas sick.
Colourful as Candy, and Almost as Small
Graphically the game is beautiful with its bright cartoon-like colours and environments. The piñatas are almost painfully cute and fun to watch. They take care of themselves, so basically there are moments when the player doesnt have to do anything but watch the gardens life unfold in a cacophony of noises and colours.
When your garden gets full, the problems start. Sometimes your piñatas can get stuck into a corner of a house or trunk of a tree, and stay there until you sell the object causing the bug or get rid of the piñata. The crowded garden will not grow unless you get rid of something and make more space. The funny thing is, that everything takes up space, including piñata accessories, fences and pavement. The space isnt measured by how much there actually is room in your garden, but rather how many grids youve filled in the garden space map, which can be found in the journal. So there is no room for garden architecture, since making a meadow of flowers or a grove of apple trees will take up all of your garden space. Even buying your parrots pirates eye patches will take up a grid!
Basically the feel of free garden planning isnt genuine since the space is so limited. On the other hand, you can always make new gardens for different activities, so there is no need to stuff everything in the same patch of land.
Is It Worth It?
Yes. Viva Piñata is a great game for those of you who love strategy and planning. Dont expect to freely build a garden of your choice however, since the realities will soon catch up with your perky garden assistant announcing that you garden is full and cannot develop. You can make a business out of raising and selling piñatas, but there is a softer side to it. Watching the steady pace of life in your garden and enjoying the cute piñatas is also a possibility. Planting a few plants and nursing them into life can be fun and rewarding for younger gamers.
The greatest thing about Viva Piñata is that you can choose the pace of the game by adjusting your gaming style. It can be hectic and quite nerve-wrecking but it can also be pleasantly slow. It is a game that fits the needs of a more experienced player and also appeals to a younger audience by offering a different set of possibilities.