Viva Piñata Review
By Shawn Oaks |
Viva Pinata is an amazing example of how imagination and planning can create an intuitive and wonderful experience that's suitable for everyone in the family. It's a hard game to really explain, having tried on more than a few occasions while playing the Xbox 360 version released last year, but it has a magical quality that's hard to suppress even with it's shortcomings. It works a bit along the Pokemon principles of collection, but instead of fighting to catch these colorful creatures, you're creating a beautiful garden paradise built to attract the most exotic pinata animals, grow the most beautiful plants, and simply create something special.
Pinatas, according to Viva Pinata lore, aren't made, they're born on an island somewhere and like to live in gardens manicured by special gardeners. The pinatas are widely varied in species and have different personalities, some of which go well together, and some of which don't. As an up and coming gardener, you'll have to attract pinatas while protecting them from local riff-raff as well as each other to create the happiest place possible.
There's a whole population of semi-crazed people on this island that help gardeners tend to the creatures. Almost all of the people there wear some sort of bizarre mask and offer help via commerce. You can purchase buildings for your pinatas to live in, decorations for your pinatas to enjoy, seeds to grow plants, fertilizer, food, pet accessories, domesticated pinatas, and even hire help catching wild pinatas to add to your garden or help tending the various tasks in the garden. New options become unlocked as you gain experience as a gardener and really help give each of your gardens a distinct personality.
You'll need to take advantage of each of these stores, but only after you've earned the chance to use them. This comes with a little bit of time and experience, which is good because you'll need it to start to understand how this odd game works. From the beginning, you're given a small plot of terrible land on the island. It's full of garbage, cracked soil, and weeds. You're first job, using your shovel (a very important part of the gardener's tool belt) to pound the ground into useable soil, awards you with your first pinata. This whirlm, which looks like a worm (surprise, surprise), shows up when a certain amount of your garden has useable soil in it. This is the easiest of the pinatas to catch.
You'll quickly learn that each of the many, many type of pinatas have much different requirements to appear, visit your garden, take up residency, and finally do the romance dance (breed to make more pinatas). Meeting these requirements is really the crux of the experience. Some pinatas are easy like the whirlm and only need a couple of items in the garden or a certain amount of grass, water, or plants. Other pinatas will only visit if other specific types of pinatas are in the garden, a certain number of various types of plants are in the garden, it's a certain time of day or night, or any number of other things. It can be even more complicated for them to decide to stay in the garden and make it their home. Some require eating several pieces of various types of vegetables, fruits, or flowers, need various trees, and or even need to eat some of your current pinatas first. To further complicate things, some of the pinatas in your garden can be turned into separate variants (different colors) if you feed them the right thing after they're part of your garden (you can also Frankenstein up a disgusting little creature if you breed a couple of oddly suited pinatas together that are drunk on candy).
The point is, there's a lot of pleasant planning involved in creating the perfect garden environment for various pinatas to enjoy. Aside from knowing that pinatas have environments and houses they need, they won't all be able to live together in harmony. Several of the pinata types hate each other such as the raisant and buzzlegum or the rashberries and swananas. They'll fight each other and become sick at which point you'll have to spend some cash to call the doctor and save your pinata before one of the bad guys, Dastardos (he's basically the reaper), comes in and whacks your sick pinata to find the candy inside. In order to keep them happy, you'll have to experiment a bit with the environment, accessories, and pinata types to see what works best.