|Viva Piñata (2006)
Available for: Xbox 360
Perhaps you’ve seen the wacky ads for this game in which piñatas escape from birthday parties that they’ve been sentenced to doom in, supplying good times and a bellyful of candy goodies to happy little children. If not, don’t worry. All you have to know is that “Viva Pinata” is the latest game from Rare, those fine folks who have brought you such classics as “Donkey Kong Country” and who have always had a knack for turning the whimsical into something frightfully addictive.
This game is no exception. The main gist of “Viva Piñata” is that the player is a gardener on Piñata Island, where all the piñatas go to live and frolic. It’s up to you to cultivate a successful piñata garden, filled with all different types of piñatas, flowers, trees, ponds, and the like. The piñatas take on various forms, such as worms (“Whirlms”), hedgehogs (“Fudgehogs”), butterflies (“Flutterscotch”), and so forth. Over 60 different species in all, each with its own needs. Along the way, you’ll have some help from a little gal known as Leafos, who will guide you at times and provide information in the game as to what is actually happening.
As with any garden, there is plenty to do. First, the player has to take his shovel and clear away the bad soil and junk scattered about. Next, grass must be planted. Soon enough, various piñatas start arriving. The player can name the piñatas anything he or she likes (I’ve taken to naming all of mine after famous actors and actresses). After a fashion, a guy named Willy Builder comes along to offer his services and build specific houses for the piñatas in exchange for chocolate coins that are found through garden cleanup, selling of items, or through mini-games.
One of those mini-games happens when you wish to have your piñatas procreate. You must guide one piñata to the other in a little maze. Once you reach your mate, the piñatas go off and do a “romance dance.” Romancing is an integral part of the game, as creating more piñatas of a certain type will make you a master gardener of that piñata. If it all sounds a little kooky, it is, as certain requirements must be met for each piñata to romance. There’s a little checkbook located in the information for each piñata, so figuring out what needs to be done to create romance is a snap.
There are plenty of other characters players will encounter, such as Seedos, who will give you a free seed to plant. There are also store keepers, pet shop owners, a freaky monkey piñata doctor who rides around in a little kid’s walkabout car, and a post office with a friendly mail woman piñata. The post office can be utilized to mail other friends playing the game crates of piñatas through Xbox Live. What’s in the crate will be a mystery to them, so there’s a nice element of surprise.
There’s so much to do and discover in “Viva Piñata” that it’s honestly hard to describe entirely what the game is all about. It is an open sandbox game, inviting discovery, learning, and fun all in one. Though the game is geared toward a younger audience, there’s so much here to do that it’s completely addictive for any adult, especially one who wants to play something completely different from the usual fare. However, it’s definitely not going to appeal to everyone, though my two-year old really enjoys the tie-in cartoon series, two episodes of which are available for free on Xbox Live (one of which comes on a demo disc with the game itself). Basically, though, Rare has made a nice little game/experience here which holds hours of endless (maybe mindless) entertainment for those who like these types of games.