Trouble in Paradise
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Reviewed by Jason Thompson
f it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s how the old saying goes, anyway. And that’s pretty much how Rare approached the sequel to its smash hit “Viva Piñata,” a game that was one of those titles that attempted to bring the Xbox 360 into a more “family friendly” environment. It succeeded quite well in some ways on that level, being a game that appealed to the male populace, the youth -- and perhaps most importantly -- female game players who are often portrayed as a group that doesn’t like the hectic pace of FPS titles and other action-soaked genres that the console is best known for. “Viva Piñata” was a fun, leisurely sandbox sort of game that managed to be addictively entertaining in a way that a game like “Animal Crossing” on the Nintendo GameCube tried to be, but wound up looking better on paper than in actual execution.
Anyway, “Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise” is the proper follow-up to Rare’s hit, and pretty much keeps things safe. If you liked the first one, you’ll enjoy this one just as much. Players start with a garden that soon becomes inhabited by various types of piñatas. The player must then care for it by feeding it, building homes for it, and ultimately getting them to mate and create offspring. Old familiar faces like Leafos and Seedos are back, along with plenty of new characters such as Storkos (she brings the new piñata babies in to your garden) and Dastardos (sick piñatas touched by this freak basically become untreatable). Maintaining a garden properly allows players to advance through levels, which means better equipment, more tools and products unlocked in the various stores, and ultimately more space in the garden.
New to the game this time around are two bonus environments – a desert and a snowy terrain. Players can now acquire traps and baits and travel to these destinations to find special piñatas to bring back to their garden to keep, or to complete special challenges to ship them off to parties. In addition, a new “trick stick” tool has been added to train the piñatas and turn them into entertainers. It’s nothing too fancy, but it is a fun little addition to breathe some new life into the series.
While playing through the game, the evil Professor Pester will try to thwart players’ success by causing certain piñatas to become trapped, amongst other dirty deeds. For a price, players can hire Willy Builder to come and fix the situation by knocking down walls or other impediments that may be stopping the piñatas from visiting the gardens. And while the main “story” of the game hinges around Professor Pester’s hatred for all things good in the piñata gardens, it isn’t necessary to work through that facet of the game to have a good time here.
Other new elements in this titled include co-op play with the added bonus of being able to use the Xbox Live Vision Camera to add new piñatas to the gardens. There’s also the “Just for Fun” mode that allows players to play in an instant garden at a leisurely pace. This is a good mode for relaxing or getting a good feel for what a well-maintained garden can look and play like. There are also Piñata Central Challenges, and competitions to play through when a player might want to take a break from the free-form style of play.
While there isn’t a lot of change in this game, there didn’t need to be. The new elements work well and provide enough of a difference to make it a sure purchase for those who are fans of the first title. Of course, this series isn’t for everyone and some may find themselves outright bored with the whole thing. But those who like a casual game, with a little more depth than what the titles on the Xbox Live Arcade generally have to offer, should find a lot to enjoy here. There’s plenty of depth when there needs to be, yet the game is completely accessible to anyone straight out of the box. “Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise” is surely destined to be as big a hit as its predecessor.