If you ever visit my house, you might be a bit underwhelmed from the outside appearance. It is a simple three bedroom place with a few trees and a handful of assorted plants. If I can concentrate on growing something I do fine, but since I’m not really used to the space, things can look out of sorts. So when I received Viva Piï¿½ata from the minds of Rare LTD, I was a little worried. Here I was given a new garden to cultivate and grow various plants, trees, & bushes in hopes of attracti…g all sorts of wonderful piï¿½atas (who are essentially just different types of animals) to visit and ultimately become resident on my property. Micro-managing was key and I had to make sure residents were taken care of so they could be happy, mate, and live in an ever changing world.
To be honest, I’m not usually a fan of big, beautiful and vibrant colors. The kind that you would see at some carnival while riding the ferris wheel and eating cotton candy. Viva PiÃ±ata provides a lot of that with splashes of color all over the place, each animal looks like a version of the rainbow with four and five and sometimes more colors across its body. However, in this game it is simply breathtaking. Everything does have so much color and even if its all over the place it never feels like its an eyesore. There is so much vibrancy and life all over. If I ever could illustrate a kids book, I would take the richness and texture from the world of Viva Piï¿½ata to make that happen. This is one of the first times I can honestly remember that the cut scenes look near exact to the regular gameplay. Even the beggar character that asks for money is richly detailed and created with care. Truly a landmark in graphics for this title.
The same can be said for the sound in this game. Sure this game is based on a kids show and you get that zany music every time you do something right. However, what sets this game apart in the sound department (besides of course the 5.1 Dolby Digital that is actually used correctly), is the ambient sound quality. It feels like you just walked out into your garden and it is teaming with wildlife and the sounds that make your heart feel a little joy. It’s so peaceful and charming, that if didn’t have to micro manage all the time you could just leave it your console on as you go to sleep and have wonderful dreams. (This probably isn’t recommended with an x-box 360 anyway). The cheery music isn’t bad at all, its actually rather fun. Another good feature is that the music will make you feel like you truly accomplished something when you earn a master romancer or unlock another event for you to enjoy.
Viva PiÃ±ata is based on a kids show of the same name. There are a couple of episodes on Xbox live that are free to download and enjoy. The cartoons are honestly not that bad. There is a lot worse schlock out there that kids feel compelled to go watch and buy merchandise from. It has the feel of the movie Madagascar, with zany characters and a rich landscape and some good comedy to boot. The game tries to follow many of the same ideas. The main thrust of this game is to attract the piÃ±atas to your garden with the way you design the landscape, the plants and trees you grow and several other factors. A piÃ±atas is akin to those lovable paper mache sculptures that we like to whack with a stick at birthday parties for all of the sweets they have inside. However, for the purposes of the game, they are treated as living and breathing animals. The piÃ±atas have similar qualities to a lot of common animals but with different names. Taffly (Mosquito), Bunnycomb (Rabbit), Kittyfloss (Cat) and so forth. The first job is to attract these piÃ±atas and make them resident. That is accomplished in a number of ways such as eating fruit, seeds or being attracted to possibly having a large pond for them to drink or live in. Then once you make two of a species resident, it is your job to figure out how to romance them which involves a few more tasks of the same variety but usually something a little more complicated. Then they do a little dance (literally), make a little love and get down tonight to produce piï¿½ata children. After that point, you do what you can to keep the harmony going.
To aid you in all of this is a whole host of characters that do just about everything from watering your plants so they don’t dry out to selling you a laundry list of odds and ends. Some of the shops sell some rather cosmetic stuff or provide services that seem questionable at best. However, you’ll find yourself going to get things like romance candy and various seeds at regular intervals so much that it will cause the shopkeeper to hold a sale which will cause you to spend even more chocolate coins. (sweet currency for an adorable game :)). As your levels increase, your garden naturally begins to outgrow its boundaries. This is where micro managing can become tedious as you have to roam the landscape figuring out what to do next. This game has also a taste of the baddies as weeds, sour piÃ±atas, and ruffians roam the landscape trying to disrupt the harmony you have been set on creating throughout. Weeds can be removed and ruffians can be chased away, but you really have to think of what to do with the sour piÃ±atas. On one hand, they will cause trouble to your other piÃ±atas by dropping sour candy or making them ill. On the other hand, if you can tame them with certain items they will change into other creatures that will actually become resident and romance and all of the normal things you desire for piÃ±atas to do. However if the requirements can not be met readily you are force to deal swift and quick justice by use of a shovel. Honestly, it is as bad as it sounds. You whack a poor creature until they explode into sweets. The game makes a rather creepy turn as the sour piÃ±ata produces a wailing of a sound that makes you cringe and consider your eating choices for the next day. I recognize the idea is to actually tame this creatures but you can’t always right away especially when they pop up at first. Also, a rather interesting aspect is that some species fight with each other like BarkBark (Dog) and Kittyfloss (Cat). Say the Kittyfloss loses, they explode into sweets (which could be conscrewed as something else), but if another Kittyfloss is in the area, they could potentially eat what’s left of its kin. Perhaps I’m doing too much thinking for a E rated game geared towards kids. But I do know many kids are smarter than me, and will ask the questions. Like what’s with these somewhat suggestive dancing that the various piÃ±atas do? Something fishy is going on.
The challenge in this title is completely variable. It is hard as you want to make it. Conceivably you could plant trees and bushes and flowers until your heart content and be done with it. This game can also become overwhelming if you try to do too many things at once and not concentrate on a few specific tasks such as getting a master romancing award for a particular type of creature. Or perhaps growing enough daises so a certain piÃ±atas sticks around and becomes resident. The game does use alerts to let you know when you complete a specific task which is helpful. However since there is so much going on you can miss certain key things. For example, if a piÃ±atas becomes ill and needs to healed that animal tends to blend in with its surroundings. This makes them difficult to find. Not to mention that you really have to get used to the camera which is particularly tough when dealing with flying piÃ±atas. The game does a good job but there are points where certain actions get real frustrating and you are forced to do a lot of repetitive tasks even if you do employ the workers. Using the workers at the same time also takes some of the fun out of it which this game relies on heavily to bring its focus across.
This game can be played for I don’t even want to know how long of my life. Minutes melt away into hours and days you could put into this game as you progress. Your garden is constantly changing and while you might start out with a good idea, that idea changes throughout. Experimenting seems to be a common theme with getting piÃ±atas to eat certain items to change color or messing with fertilizer to create better plants in your garden (you horticulturist you). There are about 70 species of piÃ±atas, and we won’t even go into the # of plants and other things to waste your time with. The piÃ±atas also grow in value due to time, accessories and other tasks they encounter. So this of course brings X-Box live leaderboards for you to have a fascination with and see if your garden is worth anything. In addition, you can trade items from your garden to other Live gardens for other gardeners around the world to mess with. This game has 1,000 XBOX 360 achievement points, of which a lot of them can be acquired from normal gameplay. There are secret achievements also to discover. A final option allows you to have multiple gardens that draw from the same pool of coins and experience.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this game when I first got it. Sim games tend to bore the death out of me, and a lot of them to be honest frustrate me to no end with really boring tasks and no real game value. However, Viva PiÃ±ata changed a lot of those conceptions. Its gorgeous graphics and ambient sound are top notch, something you just don’t find in a lot of kids games. The gameplay can be somewhat disturbing at moments but please do not let that take away from the enjoyment there is to be found when you discover a new species or finally get one of the piÃ±atas to become resident in your garden. There is some minimal frustration that can be found with the creatures becoming ill and blending in with its surroundings. What is left is a great game for kids and even adults of all ages. If you like animals and you like building a garden for them to play in, then you will enjoy this game. I would like to take this last sentence to tell the people at Rare & Microsoft, thank you for sending the site this game to review. This is honestly my first review that was with a game sent from the actual company (and not from my own funds) and we share the sentiment that we hope to see more as we continue to provide quality (and sometimes funny) reviews. Thank you.