Review by OutOfRange

"Yes It's Pretty, But That Exterior Hides A Lot Of Problems"

I have to say when I first saw and heard about this game, it looked a lot like Katamari to me. And while the graphics do have a similar style, the gameplay couldn't be more different. However, that doesn't mean it's good, as despite how good it looks, there are a lot of problems hidden underneath that pretty exterior.

Storyline (7/10)

As the game progresses, you're not really told that much about the storyline, save for some ramblings by the token old sage character. The journal does get updated with information, which you can read if you want to, but that's the problem; if you want to. You're not given information at a steady pace, you're given none and then loads in one lump that doesn't make for very interesting reading.

The focus, however, is that you play the role of a gardener who has come to be in charge of a garden that really needs a makeover. You improve the garden in various ways and this attracts wild pinata, which may take up residence in your garden if it's good enough. The pinata live in a world hoping for the day when they will be chosen to bring joy to somebody's party.

Gameplay (5/10)

I will start off by saying this game has a lot of flaws, of varying degrees. My main complaint is the noticeable amounts of doing absolutely nothing, by which I mean there is nothing more you can do and you're just waiting around the something to happen in your garden. This then contrasts to the explosions of events you get all in one go, and by that I'm not referring to real time events in your garden, I mean the cut scenes where a character comes along, poses and then interrupts you further by giving you text when you finally get back to the game screen. Every now and again this wouldn't be a problem, but especially in the early stages you can get quite a few of these in a row, and quite often it'll be the old guy coming along two or three times. It really interrupts your playing of the game to the point it can put you off playing.

The next point I want to make is a lack of goals; while you are given something to aim towards, you are given basically no indication of what is required of you. For the most part it just involves trying to get enough things to happen in your garden to net you the experience to raise your level. While I do like freedom to do what I want in games, having no idea what I'm supposed to be doing is infinitely more frustrating than being lead in a straight line. The other part of not know what to do is when trying to attract pinata to actually come into the garden once they've appeared. The game will say it's because of one thing you've done, but for the most part they refuse to actually cross the border into your garden until you've done something totally unrelated.

The pinata themselves while varied, only some of them are actually worth having, and a lot of them just look like cannon fodder for the more interesting ones, such as flies only really being there to attract frogs. The whole romancing part, while good in theory, becomes extremely dull after a few times of doing it, and the mini games aren't enough of a distraction to take the focus from how boring it is. Also, you can have everything perfect, but it's random as to whether the pinata will do anything. Tell them to eat a flower, they say no, try again they say no, try again, this time they say yes. Attract a pinata into your garden, have everything they need to become a resident, they walk around a bit then walk off. This whole process is extremely annoying when there's seemingly no reason for it.

The garden itself is also really badly done; you can barely zoom out, meaning you can only see a tiny portion of the garden at any one time. This has several knock on effects; when a sour pinata comes in to reek havoc, it's really hard to find out where they are. The same is true when trying to plan out your garden, or simply when trying to find one of your residents. The game really could have benefited from having a top down overview.

The messages you get are almost pointless, such as being told that you've attracted a <something> to your garden because of one thing you've done, but we're not going to tell you what you need to do to actually get them across the border. My other favourite is; a pinata is about to be eaten, as this actually means, a pinata has already been eaten, as it comes way too late, and takes far too long to actually show you where the problem is, this is an even bigger problem when the land size increases.

My last point is; is this game really aimed at kids? If so, what is with the innuendo? I can appreciate it's probably there to allow some adults to enjoy it, but it's really not necessary, and if you're playing it with other people in the room, it's cringeworthy at times.

Overall, I find the game to be a really frustrating experience, while you have things to do it's fine, but that dries up really quickly, and you reach a point where you're not allowed to put more things in your garden without removing some of the already existing junk. The same is true for the amount of pinatas; you can only have a certain amount. When your land size eventually increases, it's great, but it also means you have the extremely dull and repetitive task of whacking all the soil and admiring how out of place all your houses look now they're in the centre of your land as opposed to the edges where they used to live.

Graphics (8/10)

The graphics are absolutely fine, the pinatas look great, although some of them look a lot better in black and white than they do in colour. It's a very stylised game, and the visuals are bright and effective, although at times they're too bright and heavily contrasted, most evidently at the shops. It has to be said that the graphics seem to try to distract players from some of the more subtle problems.

Sounds (6/10)

Another problem with the game, while most the background music is fine and the sound effects of the pinatas are bearable, the voice acting is horrendous. Most noticeably Leafos; probably since she constantly interrupts your playing to give you useless advice. It's like they've tried to make them sound approachable like they're supposed to sound like your best friend, but they're just so annoying. To the extent that I was forced into turning them off. The villagers only make matters worse.

Summary (7/10)

Most common situation with this game; you have all the resources required to make a pinata a resident; but they don't. It happens far too frequently and ultimately ruins the experience, since it's very easy to get fed up with it. The first time you play it you're in for a frantic start trying to learn awkward controls, and constantly getting interrupted then suddenly you realise you've had no cut scenes for ages and you don't have any targets other than level up. There's a noticeable different where you have too much information and then a large portion where you're given very little information of any use. Overall, there are a lot of flaws with the game, however, the game is quite unique and has a certain charm to it. There is fun to be had, but you need to do a lot of work to get much of a reward from it.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/28/07

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