Before I begin lets just take a look at that crazy title which is Viva Piñata.

Viva – Used to express acclamation, salute, or applause
Piñata – A decorated container filled with candy and toys suspended from a height, intended to be broken by blindfolded children with sticks, and used as part of Christmas and birthday celebrations in certain Latin-American countries or at children’s parties.

So there you have it, enthusiastic containers…

Viva Piñata is unlike any game I have ever played before. There are traces of The Sims, Pokemon and Animal Crossing but when you sit down and play it you quickly realise it’s a new genre of gaming. In Viva Piñata you have to create your own garden which will attract piñatas. Once piñatas are residents of your garden you can make baby piñatas, change the variants of piñatas (colour) and evolve some of them. Might sound easy but it can get incredibly hard later on in the game.

For me this is a first at playing a game aimed at the younger generation. At sight it does look like a game which would appeal to my younger sister rather than a hardcore uber gamer like me. However I’m not one to judge a game by its cover (As I learned with Import Tuner Challenge). Before playing the game I had watched a couple of in-game videos and 2 of the first episodes of the cartoon. The in-game videos show the basics of the game and at that point I was only impressed with the graphics. There was always that feeling though that I was not seeing deep enough into this game. So when I got my copy of the game I was pretty excited as I didn’t know what to expect.

The game starts off with introducing you to Leafos. She is upset as the garden is not as it once was. What you see is just a small patch of land covered in dead grass, dry soil and debris and it’s your job to bring it back to life. There is a slight story to the game but this won’t even interest the younger audience so I won’t go into any detail. You control a round cursor which hovers over the ground. You’re given a spade, packet of ever lasting pouring grass and a watering can. You can select these tools by going into the game menu with X or quick selecting them with the D-Pad. The shovel is the tool you will use the most. At first you can just turn over soil ready for plants and grass but as you progress you can upgrade the shovel which will allow you to dig holes, make ponds and beat piñatas with it! You are also given a basic watering can for – you guessed it – watering plants. Watering cans can also be upgraded, although the only benefit is the one-pour wonder can which allows you to only water the plants once rather than going back to them. The last basic tool is a packet of grass seeds. Take this packet and move your cursor to sprinkle them over the ground and you have instant grass. With these basic tools you quickly turn your debris covered ground into a nice patch of land ready for piñatas.

Ahh piñatas, the paper decorated critters filled with candy goodness. Each piñata species has a sweet related name with a slight sound of their real species name. When you have turned over enough dirt you will attract a Whirlm. For piñatas to be attracted to your garden they need to meet different requirements. Normally you will stumble across requirements and you will see a short clip of a new black and white piñata. Piñatas which are attracted will roam outside the boundaries of your garden taking a good look. You can then find details on this piñata in the encyclopaedia which is a handy guide about everything in the game. You will need to find out what requirements you need to make for the piñata to visit your garden. Then once they are visiting your garden they require more requirements to become residents. Sounds like a lot of trouble to get a piñata doesn’t it? Here’s an example. Because a Whirlm is a resident in my garden it has attracted a Sparrowmint. Now when I have 2 Whirlms in my garden the Sparromint will visit. After 2 Whirlms have romanced the Sparrowmint will become a resident. This is a very easy piñata to attract but as the game goes on rarer piñatas get harder to attract. You know when a piñata has become resident when they turn from black and white into their colours.

I mentioned 2 Whirlms romancing. This is how baby piñatas are made and it’s very tastefully done. First you have to meet more requirements. These are romance requirements and work in exactly the same way as any other requirements. Once these are met on each of the 2 piñatas of the same species, a heart will appear above each of them. You then select both piñatas and once they have found each other in the garden the romance mini game will begin. The mini games are a small maze and you must guide one piñata to the other without touching the bomb lined walls. You have 5 lives and the mazes do get harder the more rare the piñata. Once you have successfully paired the 2 piñatas together for the first time you will be shown the piñata dance. This is a minute long clip in which the piñatas will do a piñata dance. They are normally themed around what the piñata specialises in or is known for. My favourite is the Mothdrop dance. When the lights are on they dance around franticly but when the lights go off they stop. If it amused me it will amuse the younger audience. Once you have seen the cut scene, the piñatas will go into their piñata home and romance. I’m not to sure what romancing is because after they are done Storkos, who is the human equivalent of a Stork, comes and brings an egg to the piñatas home – this egg will then hatch later to be a mini version of the piñatas which romanced.

There is no “goal” to Viva Piñata. You just have to breed piñatas and find different variants. Variants are when you feed a piñata items or perform an action on the piñata which will change its colour. Some piñatas will even evolve into a new type of piñata. When you find out something new you are given experience. This is shown in the HUD as flower petals. When you get all the petals of the flower you level up, which, in turn, will unlock new piñatas and items. AS you progress, the next level will take longer to reach.

Items like piñata houses, plants, and similar items can be bought with chocolate coins. These can be found when digging up ground or completing mini games. The best way to earn money is to grow items or breed piñatas and then sell them. With money you can buy piñata houses or items from the stores. At the beginning you can hire a builder who will build piñata houses and a store where you can buy seeds and other items. There are different types of stores and these are unlocked as you progress through the game and go up in levels so I won’t spoil it for anyone.

VP is a game which stands out with its vibrant colours. Rare have really put some thought into how to make each piñata unique yet still look like it’s real life counter part. Plants, buildings and items are all modelled well and flying piñatas can perch on them giving it a more realistic feel. Animations are cute and my favourite piñata, the Sparrowmint, has a smile on its face as it hops around the place with its big round eyes chirping away.

As well as good piñatas, the game also adds bad ones called Sours. They will do their best to disrupt your garden and cause as much of a nuisance as possible. It’s obvious what you have to do to get them out but the sounds they make when you hit them with that shovel makes you out to be the bad guy. As they lay on the floor ill and unable to move you can keep hitting them until they are smashed open. [You Evil man! -Ed] After a while it becomes a chore because the sours just keep on coming. This can get very tedious.

There’s not much of an online experience with VP. You can view leaderboards and have a look at who has the most expensive garden & piñata but you can also trade piñatas and items with people on your friends list. You buy a box from the post office and you can put money, items and a piñata to send to a friend with a short message. I’m hoping we will see some new multiplayer features in the future, as Rare did with Kameo.

Viva Piñata is a fun enjoyable game for everyone. Unless serious games only take your fancy I would recommend everyone to go and buy this game. Despite the fact that it is aimed towards younger gamers, this is not Barbie Horse Adventures. When I see a piñata for the first time it brings a smile to my face and once you really get going it’s a game you can pop in anytime and play. I hope to see more games like this in the future. Sure the graphics on GoW look good, but Viva Piñata has poisoned me with its vibrant colours. My eyes want more of this and less and the grey, brown and black games.

Originally Written By: Toby Bodman

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