Viva Pinata – Developer: Rare – Publisher: Microsoft – 2006 – Xbox 360
Filled with fun!
Now before you think I’ve gone off the rails by posting up a review for something that looks like it should be for 8 year old girls, hear me out! This game is by the same developer that gave us such classics as Goldeneye, Perfect Dark and Banjo Kazooie. It may have a sickeningly cute exterior, but crack open these piñata and you’ll find a fiendishly addictive simulation inside.
The game opens in a rather scruffy looking garden, filled with junk, dry mud and overgrown grass. Leafos, an odd masked woman, is crying, presumably over the state of things, and asking if you are the new gardener. She gives you a spade, a journal and instructions on how to use your equipment. You are talked through some other basic functions and then you set about clearing all the junk from your garden to obtain chocolate coins. These are used as currency, and if you are shrewd, will have no issue accumulating enough of these without worrying about running low on funds.
By clearing the junk you will attract piñata to your garden, the first being a Whirlm. Every piñata will be named after a sweet or type of food, some genius, some not so. Continuing to clear the junk will meet the visit requirements for the animal and the Whirlm will enter your garden. You will be rewarded with some grass seeds. Once you have cleared all the junk, you can start to plant some grass and you will have met the resident requirements and the Whirlm will be a permanent fixture of your garden – well until the next visitor comes along that is! You will then be talked through how to change your piñatas name, earning you an achievement. Once you have renamed 1 of your piñata’s, you will attract a Sparrowmint. As you can probably tell by the name, these are a type of bird. And conveniently, they feed on the Whirlms.
Once you have 2 of the same species of piñata as residents then you will unlock Willy the builder, who will build the homes of all your piñata. These are required to romance (mate/breed) your piñata. Luckily this game isn’t biased towards gender, so you don’t have to worry about getting a male or female before you can romance them. Once you have selected the 2 animals to romance you will be sent to another screen with a mini game to complete. This is like a maze, where you need to collect a set amount of tokens in order to reproduce. It’s not as easy as it sounds. The maze walls are made up of bombs that explode on contact and each piñata handles in a different way.
The more you do in the game, the more piñata you unlock. There are 60 species in total, each as unique and daft as the last. Throughout the game you’ll become acquainted with the likes of the Profitamole, Horstaschio, Bonboon and Doenuts. No prizes for guessing which animals they are supposed to be!
After performing certain tasks, you will level up. With higher levels come more rewards and features, including shiny new spades and watering cans! There is section in then menu which allows you to access certain stores. From there you can purchase features, fences and all kinds of seeds. Use these to attract more varieties of piñata, or just make you garden look great. The store owners themselves are quite the characters, but can become annoying after a while.
Every video game has a nemesis (well, maybe not in Tetris) and this one is no different. The antitheses of the piñata are the sour piñata. Sour piñata are naughty little animals that will come in you garden, start fights and make your resident piñata’s ill. These also come into your garden and leave poisoned sweets for your animals to unwittingly digest. Once swallowed, these will leave your piñata in a comatose state. If you don’t get the doctor to see to them straight away, you leave them open to a visit from Dastardos. This guy loves nothing more than to break open your piñata for their sweet, sweet candy innards, but will only do so when they are in that state.
Other parts of the game include ‘Piñata Challenge’, which happens off screen. This is where you box up specific piñata and ship off to children’s parties. For this you will receive coins and experience points, so can help when wanting to level up. Also, if your garden becomes too full, or you have no use for a piñata anymore, they can be boxed up and put into storage. One drawback of this however, is that there is no option to name your boxes. They are numbered and that’s it, so write down what’s what, or your in for a pain of time when it comes to cracking open those crates! You can also share your piñata with your friends over Xbox live. You can send and receive crates, which is good for when you may be having a hard time trying to tame those rarer types of the piñata species.
The game is very vivid and bright, with some of the best visuals of its day. It’s safe to say that this game is as cult as they come. It may seem all cute and fluffy, but its appeal is in its absurdity. What other game can you try and mate a pig and a swan? It really is a work of genius.
Grant Kirkhope’s score is simply wonderful. It’s that good, I bought the album. The music just works so well and is some of the finest I’ve ever heard in a game.
I really recommend it to those who want something different to your typical type of games. It really is one of a kind (well there is a sequel, Trouble In Paradise, and a spin off, Party Animals, which is choc full of half decent, and wonderful looking mini games.) which will have you hooked trying get the levels up and seeing what piñata you can attract next. As for gamer score, while it’s not an easy 1000 points, though it’s definitely achievable, but you’ll need to put the time in.
During development, the buzz around the game was apparently that exciting, that a computer animated kids show was commissioned to tie in with the game. If you have the 2 disc special edition, I believe there are a couple of episodes of it on the bonus disc, as well as the option to download some episodes from Xbox Marketplace. However this is just to appeal to the kids and really has little to do with the game other than the characters. The Party Animals spin off is nearer to the TV show.
Try playing this game with a frown. It’s near impossible! It’s a ray of sunshine through a cloud of gritty shooters and action games.
Viva Piñata gets 9 out of 10!