Viva Pinata Xbox 360
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Released on 01/12/2006
Pushing the capabilities of the hardware, Viva Piñata brings a vibrant and engaging gaming experience to the Xbox 360 platform. Appealing to kids, adults, casual gamers and enthusiasts alike, this uniquely customizable and social game rewards and challenges all players regardless of their skill level.
The Viva Piñata gameplay experience presents a customizable, social and spontaneous world in which gamers play an absolutely crucial role. The Viva Piñata world is an evolving paradise teeming with fantastic living piñata creatures and vibrant plant life, all determined by the player’s choices and actions. Viva Piñata boasts the following qualities:
- Customizable. Viva Piñata allows players’ imaginations to run wild by providing them with expansive freedom and choice:
- Your world. Your choice of contents will determine which of the piñata species are attracted to your world, since they all have individual requirements. Sowing grass, digging ponds, planting flowers and growing trees all affect which of the unique piñatas you will see. It’s not just about plants, either; there is a whole range of ornaments and structures that could be decisive. Your reward for creating an appealing paradise is to watch the piñatas visit and eventually reside there, which is where the fun really starts.
- Your piñatas. Once you have resident piñatas, you can begin to personalize your loyal community. Piñatas can be individually named and given their own personally designed tag to put on display as a declaration of their home turf. And the customization doesn’t end there. You can make the colorful critters more distinctive by customizing them with all kinds of costumes and accessories.
- Social. The Viva Piñata community is a rewarding place to be, whether you remain within the boundaries of your own world or venture out into the real world or your friend’s piñata world via Xbox Live, the first and only global, unified online console games service.
- Interact with the piñatas. Getting to know and understand the personalities and requirements of your piñatas is essential if you want them to stay happy and thrive. Make your world their ideal paradise, and they’ll want to raise a family and expand your community.
- Interact with the characters. Players decide how much help they want from the local guides, shopkeepers and work force. Go it alone or get them involved — you choose.
- Interact with other players online. Via the Xbox Live online community, players can contact other gamers to lend a hand, lay down a competitive challenge or trade items.
- Spontaneous. Viva Piñata is a constantly changing world where anything can and does happen:
- It’s happening outside. It’s not just new piñata species that are drawn to your world; untamed sour piñatas with bad attitudes and troublemaking ruffians do their worst to spoil your creation and must be dealt with.
- It’s happening inside. Maintaining harmony within a growing community isn’t always easy when rivalries, illness, injuries and even candy-spilling fights occur. If players turn their backs, who knows what their piñatas will do?
Sumptuous gaming candy of the Rarest kind...
Anyone whose been following our GAME's Garden feature this last few weeks will already have an idea of what to expect from Viva Piñata. Rare's first release since 360 Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo, it's a colourful and instantly charming title that's pitched somewhere between Nintendo favourites Pokemon and Animal Crossing. It's also the game Microsoft is hoping will single-handedly attract a more mainstream market, which has up til now eluded the system. No pressure.
But, like the brands it borrows from, Viva Piñata is far from ‘just a kid's game'. Sure, there's a noticeably cartoon look and feel to things, but all this rainbow brightness belies a surprisingly deep and fun garden-em-up, making Viva Piñata suitable for gamers of all ages.
You begin the game as the owner of a small plot of garbage-strewn land with three tools; a bottomless grass seed packet, a watering can, and a shovel which seems very much on its last legs. Your presence takes the form of a disembodied cursor on the screen, and once you've gotten rid of the debris littering your land, patted down the firm soil and sewed some grass seeds, you'll attract your first piñata. Each of the 60 or so species has their own requirements before you can first attract them, and then more still before you call them a resident of your garden.
Before you meet these needs, they'll remain black and white, but when they decide to set down roots they'll turn to colour, looking rather resplendid in all their ruffled, multi-hued papier-mâché glory. At first that means the orangey-red wormlike Whirlms, followed swiftly by the light brown Sparrowmints, and then the bright blue fly-like Tafflys, and before you know it you'll have a whole army of colourful critters bounding about. Quickly encouraged to get to grips with the basics by in-game helper Leafos (a rather sad looking Kameo-esque lady with leaves on her face), you'll soon be scouring the simple-to-use X button menu, naming your paper pets, designing them their own tags, reading their bios in the helpful Journal, and taking a look at their romance requirements.
As far as favourite food goes, most of the resident piñatas like to simply eat each other.
Their what? Yes, we found the idea a bit perturbing too – this is, after all, still a kid's game at heart. Yet Viva Piñata approaches the subject of mating in a way that's entirely family friendly. Romancing has two stages; first you'll guide one piñata to the other through a top-down maze – collecting the game's currency, chocolate coins, along the way – then watch an odd little cutscene depicting the pair doing a funky little disco dance, before the second of the humanoid helper characters – a winged bird woman –delivers an egg which hatches into a new piñata.
It's not quite so simple, though. In order to get your furry friends in the mood, you'll have to first build them a house, and usually give them their preferred food, which is where Viva Piñata's underlying ecology begins to surface.
You see, as far as favourite food goes, most of the resident piñatas like to simply eat each other, so there's a very obvious food chain underpinning the whole thing. Not only does it necessitate you to continuously breed the ones at the lower end of it, but it's also a little bit of a wrench to see, for instance, a Whirlm you've bred, named and nurtured about to be Sparrowmint chow.
Again though, it's all handled, if you'll excuse the pun, very tastefully. Instead of savaging their prey, a piñata will throw colourful little bundles of energy at their intended target, with the victim exploding in a shower of edible sweets. In fact, it speaks volumes for the charm of Viva Pinata that it really is very sad to see an old friend gobbled up in their prime. But hey, that's the harsh, even slightly educational, nature of life on Piñata Island.
What doesn't help is when an evil Sour piñata pops by, dropping sour sweets, or when your piñata start fighting with each other – and they will, in their droves. In both cases, you end up with one sick piñata in need of doctor's treatment – and if you dawdle on it, the evil Dastardos will show up and send your poor sick pet on a one-way trip to piñata heaven.
There's no real 'point' to it, per se, but it's marvellous light-hearted entertainment.
To prevent this, you'll need to visit the village, which is thankfully just a few buttons presses away. ‘Village' is a bit rich, though; it's more a menu screen from where you can call Doc Patchingo, as well as employ Willy Builder to erect a piñata house, task Gretchem Fetchem with finding some more piñata of a species already resident to your garden, visit Costalot's store for all your seed, food, and ornamental garden needs, and experiment with various other helpful garden services.
All the while you'll be spending the coins you've earned from Romancing piñata, selling the piñata themselves (if you have too many of one type, say) or from selling the plants grown from seeds given to you by another human helper, Seedos. Each aspect drives the other, with the overall goal being to attract every piñata in the game by growing the grandest garden possible. There's no real ‘point' to it, per se, but it's marvellous light-hearted entertainment, and the option to take it all online to swap piñata and generally show off your green-fingered skills really does add an addicting element that's up there with the best online role players.
If Viva Pinata does have one major problem, it's that it's sometimes a little difficult to follow. The sheer amount going on on-screen at any one time can make things quite confusing, while the sophistication of the food chain it creates will be lost on younger players. With that in mind, you do have to wonder if it will penetrate the niche Microsoft are clearly hoping. Will kids ‘get' it?
In truth, perhaps not. Not fully, anyway. The real question, though, is will they enjoy it? The answer to that is a resounding yes. Viva Piñata is a game to be played at the player's pace of choosing; to be enjoyed freeform however you wish. Want to potter about breeding piñata and erecting houses? You can. Want to elevate your gardener's rank to new heights, improve your shovel and carve an epic allotment of Alan Titschmarsh-like creativity? You can do that too. Or, if you want a vibrant, colourful, family-friendly game to entertain the little ones, Viva Piñata's wonderful neon-styled visuals, enchanting aural qualities and helpful hand-holding tutorials will have them enraptured for hours, regardless of how deep into it they go.
Subtle, sophisticated and stunning to behold, Viva Pinata is so much more than it first appears. A kid's game? No: A game for the kid in everyone.
- Rewarding and absorbing freeform gardening fun
- Eye-bulgingly gorgeous HD neon stylings
- A game that's truly for everyone
- A little too deep for younger kids to fully understand
- A tad patronising to older gamers at the beginning
- No real 'point' to speak of...
Review by: Mark Scott
Version Tested: Xbox 360
Review Published: 07.12.06
Viva Pinata Review (07/12/2006)
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