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Developer:
Rare
Publisher: Microsoft
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: November 09, 2006

by Jason Ferguson




At first glance, Viva Piñata might seem too silly to be worth your time. However, if you give the game a chance, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the depth of gameplay, the high amounts of strategy, and the quirky humor.


There really isn’t much of a story to the game, but it will be relayed to you through various journal entries. The basic premise is that you need to make a garden and populate it with different species of piñata. You’ll start by clearing an area and finding some good soil and plant some grass. Soon after this you’ll get your first visitor, who will eventually become a resident in your garden.


Gameplay in Viva Piñata is sort of a mix of Animal Crossing and The Sims, so if you're a fan of either of those titles then this one is highly recommended for you. During the game you’ll be able to customize your garden and create a unique Piñata paradise! Many different piñatas will begin to populate your garden as you create a living world that is always changing. It’s a lot of fun, but there’s a lot going on in the game that you'll need to pay attention to.


Viva Piñata features a wide variety of different piñatas that will visit your garden. Each has unique requirements that you must meet in order to get them to become a citizen in your garden. One piñata might require you to plant pumpkins and sunflowers, while another might require you to have a pond. Once you’ve met the requirements for the piñata to move in and become a resident of your garden, you’ll want to hatch some new ones! Again, your garden must meet the requirements for the piñata to breed, and once those requirements are met, you’ll hear the pitter patter of little feet all throughout your garden. You can tell the difference between visitor and resident piñatas because the visitors will appear as all black and white, while the residents are bright and colorful.


Along the way, there are several different shops you can visit to make purchases to help your garden to prosper. You can upgrade your sprinkler, hire help, buy seeds, buy homes for your piñatas, and much more. You have a lot of freedom to do pretty much whatever you want. You can plant veggies and sell them to make a profit, or you can even breed piñatas and sell them.


In RPG fashion, each time you do something good for your garden, you’ll gain experience points. When your experience meter fills, you’ll level up and become a better gardener! As you progress you’ll discover all sorts of new piñatas, expand the size of your garden, and plant new seeds. The stores will begin to carry new items and you’ll gain a better shovel.


Your main tools are your shovel and watering can. All of your plants require consistent watering in order to grow and survive, so you’ll have to keep an eye on them and water often. This becomes a bit tedious when your garden gets big, but you can later hire someone to do it for you. Your shovel serves many purposes, from clearing debris and digging ponds to filling holes.


Occasionally your piñatas will fight, which can become a bit annoying if it becomes too consistent. To prevent this you can build fences to separate piñatas that are prone to fighting. However, some fighting is required because some piñatas must eat another piñata in order to meet the requirements for it to breed or move into your garden. To keep ALL of your piñatas from being eaten, you can later feed them romance candy in place of having them eat other piñatas, but this is only after the first time. It’s sometimes sad to see the piñatas that you’ve had with your throughout the game get eaten by a predator.


If piñatas aren’t happy as residents in your garden, they’ll leave, so you need to figure out what it is that they like. Building a house for them might be expensive and take up space, but it will make them happier. Each piñata has their own preferences for food, friends and their environment. Your handy menu provides info on each piñata species, such as their likes, their romancing requirements, and the number of that species in your garden. It even allows you to name each individual piñata to help you keep track of them. The controls are easy to catch onto, and you’ll probably have them down in just a few minutes. One analog stick controls the camera and the other controls the height. You can select a piñata and give him commands by pushing A, and X opens up your menu. From there you can select to use your shovel, go shopping, and more.


If a piñata becomes sick or injured, either from fighting or eating bad food, you’ll have to call the doctor in to fix it. This can get pretty expensive, especially if you have a lot of fights breaking out in your garden. If you don’t heal the sick piñata right away, you’ll have a visitor sneak into your garden and kill him. On one hand, it stinks to lose a piñata… on the other hand, it’s expensive to heal them, and by killing them off, you can sell the delicious candy inside of him. So, sometimes you may choose to allow a piñata to die. Of course, when things become TOO chaotic, you may have to get rid of a certain species of piñata in order to restore order. Certain piñatas in my garden were constantly causing trouble, so I ended up having to kick them out for the better of the garden. As you get further into the game you may have some nasty guests pop in with the intentions of causing trouble. These are sour piñatas and they'll do everything they can do wreck your piñata haven. I usually chase them off with a shovel.


Viva Piñata is surprisingly challenging. If you turn your back for just a few moments your garden can erupt into chaos! Sometimes there’s almost TOO much to do and keep track of. However, if you play your cards right, you might be able to keep enough order so that you won’t become overwhelmed. Be sure to keep track of your piñatas and what they want, and don’t let your garden become overcrowded. There’s a good deal of strategy in the game, such as choosing which piñatas to populate your garden with, deciding whether to let a sick piñata live or die, and deciding what items to purchase for your garden. While this game is appropriate for all ages and will surely appeal to younger audiences, it may be a bit too complex to be fully enjoyed by some.


The game offers quirky, colorful graphics that should be enough to impress any gamer. This lighthearted world is really beautiful and filled with a lot of detail. The piñatas are all creatively designed creatures highly inspired by real animals. There’s an autosave feature, which is convenient, but it also slows the game down at points. Viva Piñata’s friendly camera allows for full rotation and zooming in and out, allowing you to get a good look at all you’ve accomplished in your garden. Viva Piñata also features nice sound effects, from the barking of foxes to buzzing of bees. There isn’t a lot of voice acting in the game, but what’s there is pretty solid stuff.


Viva Piñata is a great experience that I suggest all Xbox 360 owners give a try. It’s unique, perfect for gamers of all ages, and most important of all, it’s a lot of fun!


Final Grade: 85%




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