You’ve probably never heard of Viva Pinata; or to put it directly, I had never heard of Viva Pinata. Well I had heard of it, but I was simply under the impression this was another “kid’s” game. Attached to the 4Kids television program featuring brightly colored and often hilariously dressed pinatas (yes the things filled with candy) why would I pick this up over Gears of War or Dead Rising?
The reason is simple. Rare has created one of the best games of this generation. Part Harvest Moon, part Pokemon; Viva Pinata is a life simulation; one in which you the player are tasked with creating a garden which in turn attracts varying pinata. The pinatas are just a small part of the game itself. Rare has created an entire food chain and the pinatas represent the respective levels. From insects to elephants, wide ranges of creature are featured and never lose their appeal. At the time of this review I still have yet to see all the game has to offer and I’ve been playing it for roughly two weeks in several hour sessions.
The reason for this is due to the sandbox- “God"- nature of the title. Like many games of today, you’re tasked with both everything and nothing all at once. If you want to spend hours planting various bushes and feeding the fruits to creatures you could do this, or you could simply cultivate some of the species byproducts like honey or milk. These actions as well as others, contribute to you leveling up which in turn gains improvements to your tools, the selection of seeds and items you can place in your garden, as well as gradually annoying evil pinata.
Like most sandbox titles the open-ended nature is part of its downfall. Sometimes you simply have no direction and it takes a lot to mate your umpteenth Taffly. There is “co-op” but I use that term extremely loosely considering its just the 2nd player using another controller to move the singular onscreen reticule and control the pinatas during the mating mazes. There is no real online mode to speak of, save for leaderboards which compare your garden’s value or pinata value to other Xbox Live Users.
At the budget price of $19.99 Viva Pinata is a no brainer. While the recently released sequel (which you also probably didn’t hear about) adds a few new features (expect a review shortly...) the original is still an engrossing title and shouldn’t simply be passed over due to its vibrant cover art and low price.