Review by catnapjunkie
"Rare turns stale concepts into a fresh, delicious new game."
I borrowed an Xbox 360 specifically so I could play this game. Luckily it was the week AFTER finals, because my GPA would have suffered horribly. Over the past three days, I have put almost forty hours into this game and I am still by far not done devouring it. I can't speak highly enough of this game's addictiveness.
The core idea behind the game is not old: Take care of a plot of land and its inhabitants (See: Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, and even The Sims). This game is different from the aforementioned, however-- there isn't much emphasis on social interaction, but on your job as a pinata gardener. And, of course, the premise is different. I know I never would have imagined a video game about pinatas, and the candy theme is thorough and very clever at times.
The game is, of course, beautiful. A pristine, vibrant, and incredibly colorful world welcomes the player. The art style is brilliant and captivating for anyone who enjoys the cheerful. The character designs are wonderful and there is a pinata for just about anyone (over sixty different species as far as I know!)
The game is quite easy at times, and other times quite difficult. It can be just about as challenging as the player wants it to be, because the player sets his or her own goals. The open-endedness of Viva Pinata fills the game with a plethora of possibilities to explore and adds infinite replay value.
Its target demographic is children, but a gamer of any age or gender can enjoy this game. I'm 20 and this game hooked me in hopelessly. For those who are considering purchasing this game for a younger gamer, this game is 100% clean and has nothing suggestive or questionable (unless whacking pinatas or goofy masked monsters with shovels offends). This immaculate family-friendliness doesn't hinder the game for older players, either. Rare even threw in an easter egg potshot at Sony in a loading screen (real-time tool change!)
The music is wonderful, as well. The regular garden music ranges from quiet to sweeping and it's always beautiful and appropriate. The only song that ever grows irksome is the romancing song (but that's only if you're seeking master romancer awards).
Aside from the wonderful atmosphere and loveable pinatas, the gameplay is excellent. It works very smoothly, there is rarely downtime, and there are always things to do. The framerate VERY rarely suffers. On a note related to the smoothness of the game, I recommend using the advanced camera mode rather than the simple.
What kept this game from being a ten (don't get me wrong, this was an excellent game, but it could have used a little more polishing):
Occaisonal glitches. One of my Jameleons fell asleep and wound up invisible. He never woke up! There were just little Z's floating above a spot that wound up very glitchy. It wasn't until I accidentally planted a tree on him that I was finally able to select him.
Irritating voice acting. Maybe it's because I'm used to Nintendo's tradition of characters making a noise and having to read the text to get what the character is saying. Maybe it's that I'm pretty sure the same lady voiced at least 5 different characters. Either way, some of the voices are unbearable. You will grow UNBEARABLY tired of Costalot (and towards the beginning of the game, Leafos is irritating, too).
The mazes. Everyone complains about the mazes, so I know it's trite, but to be honest playing them didn't bother me-- it was the fact that the goal pinata always says something worthless (typically involving a barely-sensical pun). This was detrimental to the playability of the maze because sometimes the speech bubble would pop up right where I was or was about to be. Puns I can handle, but the obscured view led me to waste my time repeating some mazes.
Pinata interaction. The game is so gorgeous that I actually didn't notice this until quite a few hours in, but the pinatas don't really interact with one another (except for when they fight or romance). This game could have absolutely glistened if I could have seen some of my pinatas playing, grooming one another, or cuddling up for bed together. Also, it was kind of weird that they could be as incestuous as whatever I deemed convenient.
Comic Sans MS. It's a cute font, but its ancient and tired. An original font could have been great.
My complaints are largely exaggerated for the sake of balance. This is one of the best Xbox 360 games, the best game from Rare in quite some time, and definitely one to buy (rather than rent or not buy) if you have a 360.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/02/07
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