|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rare||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Released: Nov. 9, 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by D'Marcus Beatty
Viva Piñata is a hard game to classify. Is it a game for kids or something that adults can enjoy? Is it a simulation game or an action game? Is it like The Sims or is it like Harvest Moon? As hard as it is to believe, the answer to all of these questions is yes. Viva Piñata plays like no game before it, creating an enjoyable and thoroughly unique experience.
Viva Piñata thrusts the player into the role of a new gardener who has earned a plot of land. The player must then use the tools at his disposal to turn the plot into a garden, the shaping of which is completely up to the player. Although initially the gamer will start with little more than a shovel and some tips, he'll eventually earn more and more tools and even upgrades to his shovel that give him more options to customize his garden. The player can use the shovel to soften dirt, dig seed holes, create ponds, destroy obstacles, and even attack other characters. Other tools eventually become available, like a watering can and a packet of grass seeds that the player can use to mold their garden as they see fit.
The simple act of arranging and maintaining a garden, however, isn't much fun without the titular piñatas. The piñatas in the game are varieties of animal/candy hybrids (with clever names like Taffly, Mousemallows, or Sparrowmints) that are ridiculously cute and endearing. By accomplishing different prerequisites, the player can get the piñatas to appear. Most of these requisites are simple, like planting a certain type of flower. The next step is to attract the piñata into the garden, allowing it to romp around and explore by completing another set of requisites. Finally, the player can make the piñata a permanent resident by completing a final set of requirements which usually requires building a house for the piñata and offering it some form of food, whether it is seeds, plants, fruits, or other piñatas. In addition to this, there are stores where the player can purchase seeds, produce, and other farming supplies, accessories for their favorite piñatas, or homes for their piñatas. There are also occasional human visitors to the area, with people that the player can hire to help with the gardening, maintenance, and driving off of pests.
There are also a number of things that can be done with the little adorable piñatas. The player can breed the piñatas by completing the requisites for love and then completing a brief and fairly simple mini-game where he guides one piñata to another. Players can name and brand their favorite piñatas, send a doctor to heal injured piñatas, and even sell piñatas for profit. Or the player can sit back and watch the proceedings with little to no interference.
The great thing about Viva Piñata is that there is basically no objective. The game is wide open for the player to proceed as they see fit. They can choose to staunchly protect the piñatas by preventing the predators from eating their prey, or they can feed weaker piñatas to the stronger ones to attract rarer versions. The player can sell piñatas and crops for money, or simply cater to their favorites. Since there aren't any goals, the player does whatever pleases them. Even with this free approach, there is a ton of things to discover in the game. New combinations of crops bring different piñatas, and different combinations of piñatas bring new piñatas. Also, accomplishments like attracting piñatas or growing crops successfully increases the player's farming level, which brings new tools and options. Viva Piñata also matches your pace as well, offering more options as the player progresses in levels, but keeping things simple for players that stay at the lower levels.
The visuals in Viva Piñata are bright and colorful, with a style that is reminiscent of Tim Burton's stop motion animation creations. As mentioned before, the piñatas are all unbearably cute, with wonderful animation and bright colors. The environments are all equally colorful, and the secondary characters are weird looking but charming as well. The sound is also well-done, with upbeat, catchy background music and sound effects as cute as the creatures that they issue from.