Review by SuperPhillip

"Hot pinata on pinata action"

Among the endless array of shooters and the testosterone-filled men that occupy them rests a hidden gem in the Xbox 360's lineup. It comes from none other than Rare, the team behind the excellent Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo, and several fantastic Nintendo 64 titles including Banjo-Kazooie, Goldeneye, and Donkey Kong 64. Why, it's Viva Pinata, of course. We'll see why this game fell under many Xbox owners' radar and why you should dig in into this game.

Pinata Island is where all happy pinatas are born, raised, and then sent off to parties to spread good cheer and joy to children all around the world. Jardiniero is Pinata Island's greatest pinata gardener, and since he's retired, your job is essentially to fill this man's shoes. The story then essentially centers around you, and how you shape your garden by growing grass, attracting wild pinatas, and making your run-down garden into a pinata paradise.

Your beginning garden is filled with rocks, junk, and other debris. It's also quite claustrophobic-- there's not a lot of room to work with. However, by gaining levels from attracting and making new pinata residents, growing new plants, and breeding pinatas, your cramped garden will expand eventually to greener and much larger pastures.

And no good gardener can garden with their hands alone. Viva Pinata understands this, and you're given various tools to work with. The shovel can pat down rough soil and beat down unwanted visitors or plants, and it can eventually dig holes for seeds and create homemade ponds, lakes, whatever. You'll later receive tools like the watering can used to keep plants feeling fresh, and the grass seed packet used to grow grass.

But no pinata garden is good without pinatas to occupy it. You need to attract the more than sixty species of pinata available, and that's really the main draw of the game-- to see how many of these pinatas you can attract to each of your gardens. You'll come across many pinata during your playtime including Doenuts, Buzzlegums, Fizzlybears, Whirlms, and Flutterscotches. Each pinata species has a different requirement to show up, visit your garden, and finally reside there. The Lickatoad, for instance, will only visit your garden if you have enough pond area in your garden, and it'll only stay in your garden if it devours a fellow pinata, the Taffly. Many later level pinatas have multiple requirements in attracting them, so seasoned gardeners will have to pull out all the stops (and weeds) in luring them into their gardens.

However, you can't simply keep every pinata inside your garden. Many species have other species that they don't get along with, and they show it. Keep on your toes or you'll have a fight on your hands. Then again, the pinata world isn't just a killed or be killed affair either. No, if you butter up a pinata by fulfilling their romance requirement(s) as well as constructing a love shack for them, two pinatas of the same species can breed with one another. Romancing initiates a minigame where you play in an overhead maze, guiding your pinata through an obstacle course to reach its desired mate, all while avoiding enemies that line the walls. The minigame is a cute way to change the flow of the game, but repeated playthroughs just becomes monotonous later on. Successfully mate and you'll get an egg delivered to your pinata couple's home which will soon hatch into a pinata. So that's where pinatas come from!

Not every pinata is good though. Occasionally a sour pinata can wreak havoc on your garden, poisoning friendly pinatas, making them fight one another, or just making life miserable for you. Thankfully, a few whacks of the shovel will take of most pests. Then there's Dastardos-- the grim reaper of pinatas. He'll slowly float towards a sick pinata before knocking them out, spilling their internal organs (or candy) to the ground in one heinous and macabre showing. Make sure you heal those sick pinatas via a call from the doctor!

Along with the doctor, there's others to help to make you feel that you're not alone on Pinata Island though. There's many helpful and colorful characters to assist you. Leafos will be one of the first folks you meet, and one of the folks you'll speak to the most. She'll give you helpful advice, notify you of new pinatas lurking about, and give you tips on acquiring new pinatas. Then there's Seedos, one of the oddest (as if all of the characters weren't odd enough) of the bunch. He has an incredible fixation and love for seeds, and if you speak to him, and he'll drop off a seed for you to plant in the ready. Then there's the gardener helpers. Hire some for a price, and they can help out by watering plants, watching for night visitors, digging for treasure, and many other offerings. Chocolate coins make the Pinata Island world go round-- they're the currency of Pinata Island-- good at all the shops and stores in the village. And you'll be visiting these aforementioned outlets repeatedly. Whether you're searching for apple seeds or wanting to purchase a pinata you've already made resident, there's plenty of shops to make even the biggest penny-pincher blow their savings on.

From the zany cast of characters to the bountiful feast of cute confectionery critters, the game is one of the prettiest around. The pinatas each boast magnificent detail, the backgrounds are rich and vibrant, and the water effects are gorgeous. Grant Kirkhope (Banjo series) composes the music for this game, and the soothing orchestrated songs as well as the cheery and whimsical tunes are all well done and sound terrific.

Viva Pinata is a double-edged sword. On one part, it tries something different, but on the other it's trying something different to an audience that only cares about violence and gore. Some mature 360 audience, huh? If you can get beyond the cute exterior, you'll once again find a Rare title that is more than meets the eye. You'll log in countless hours before you even know it-- that's how addicting it is. It isn't without its problems, however (like occasionally being without anything to do for long periods of time), but those who can look past its shortcomings will find a very enjoyable game. For only $20, what do you have to lose?

SuperPhillip Says:

Story:You're in the shadow of a sage gardener, and your task is to bring life to your barren garden. Are you up to the task?

Graphics: Incredibly nice to look at. Plays well in motion also. Very bright, very colorful, very nice.

Gameplay: If you're into The Sims or Animal Crossing, you'll want to give this game a look. Even if you aren't, try it out, give it three hours, and see how you like it.

Sound: A cheery soundtrack from Banjo-Kazooie's Grant Kirkhope. Voice work is done by 4-Kids, and really isn't all too bad.

Replay Value: There's many secrets to discover in the world of Viva Pinata including variants, new species, and much more. How high of a level can your garden get?

Overall: 8.5/10 - Pinata-licious. The game's better than that word, for sure.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/14/08

Game Release: Viva Pinata (US, 11/09/06)

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