Review by horror_spooky

"It's good even though it's not stuffed with candy"

Rare has always been one of my favorite video game developers ever. They consistently delivered masterpieces back in the fifth generation with hits like Banjo-Kazooie/Banjo-Tooie, GoldenEye 007, Diddy Kong Racing, and Conker's Bad Fur Day. While they weren't really prominent in the sixth generation, they have impressed me so far in the seventh generation with an awesome first-person shooter and a prequel to one of their most popular games, Perfect Dark Zero, and a Zelda-style adventure that is still one of the best games you can get for your Xbox 360, Kameo: Elements of Power. Rare is keeping the momentum going with their latest hit, Viva Pinata, and while the game won't blow any minds, it is still a solid effort and surprisingly addictive.

Viva Pinata has a simple but strange premise: raising living pinatas. I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but that's probably because it is absolutely ridiculous. And there's nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, the charm and quirky characters are a lot of the reason why the Viva Pinata series has been so successful.

You have a decently sized garden to play in. Pinatas will show up at your garden, at first black and white, but after certain requirements are met, they will become a fully colored resident that calls your garden home. You can name the pinatas that start living in your garden, but it does get a little on the annoying side when a ton of pinatas appear outside your garden right in a row and the camera constantly zooms to your garden and then back to the pinata for a little cut-scene while you're trying to do something.

Obviously you aren't just going to sit around and watch the pinatas interactd all day because that would be boring as hell. You have a few tools at your disposal including a shovel that is used for a variety of reasons (including whacking the pinatas on the head), a watering can, and some seeds to grow grass. All of this is controlled with a cursor on the screen similar to other simulation games like The Sims.

These little creatures stuffed with goodies definitely need some shelter so you're going to have to purchase homes for their specific species if you want them to stay in your garden. Besides that there are various other items you can purchase from the shops that will fit your needs. How do you earn money to buy these items you ask? Well, most of the time, you will be selling your little paper friends.

In order to make sure you have plenty of these guys on hand, there is a breeding system put into place. No, I am not kidding. You will finally see what pinata sex looks like and it is definitely not as hot as it sounds.

Some music plays and the pinatas start doing weird jigs around each other. You are then forced to do a maze mini-game where you control one of the sex freaks and your goal is to get to the other sex freak (okay, maybe “sex freak” isn't a nice way to describe the pinatas, but whatever). You can collect some coins off the ground during this mini-game, you are timed, and you only have a certain amount of lives (based on how many pinatas you have in the garden; the more pinatas, the less lives). While this isn't a bad idea and makes you feel more involved in a game that can get a tad on the boring side, it's a shame that there weren't more mini-games to play instead of just the maze.

It's a fact of life that some people are just violent, aggressive people and that same fact holds true for pinatas. Some “sour” pinatas will randomly invade your garden and make things hell for everyone. They will wreck your stuff, but worse, they will murder your innocent pinatas, spilling their wrapped candy treat guts all over the ground, and that is not an exaggeration.

Just like most problems, these sour pinatas can be dealt with, but unfortunately, not all of the hindrances found in Viva Pinata can be taken care of with a whack to the head by a floating shovel. It's main flaw is that you will probably get significantly bored of the game because sometimes you simply won't have anything to do and when a bunch of pinatas are walking around your garden, all hell breaks loose with the camera zipping around to show you every one of them, giving the game a somewhat detached feeling.

Even though you will sometimes find yourself yawning when you are doing nothing but watching the pinatas go about their day, at least there will be plenty of eye candy for you to enjoy (no pun intended). Despite the camera problems and the rare lag (once again, no pun intended), Viva Pinata boasts very impressive visuals that pop off the screen with its bright colors and brilliant art style. Every pinata is extremely detailed and while the garden could have been a little bigger, it also is easy on the eyes.

Unfortunately, your ears won't be given the same star treatment. It's too bad for Rare, but they just don't have a reputation for providing classic gaming tunes and they tried to pull a Nintendo by recycling some music from their older titles probably thinking that the game would get points for nostalgia reasons like a lot of Nintendo tracks do. I'm not saying that there's anything audibly bad with Viva Pinata, but there just isn't anything all that remarkable either.

It will take a little while to actually start enjoying Viva Pinata, which may be a turn off for some gamers, but after you get past the rough start, you are in for an enjoyable game that will last you hours. While I do wish there were more pinatas for you to collect in your garden, there are still plenty for you to discover, not to mention there are achievements for you to unlock and that definitely takes replayability up a notch, plus there are some Xbox Live capabilities like trading pinatas just in case you want to interact with other gamers who have the game.

I am surprised at how fast this one little game from Rare has spawned a franchise. Viva Pinata now has a Saturday morning cartoon, a spin-off party game, a planned port of the title to be released on the DS, and a sequel that's almost here boasting cooperative gameplay, which I have a feeling may deal with the game's main flaw: sometimes, there just isn't anything to do. Viva Pinata has impressive visuals, addictive simulation gameplay, and who hasn't wondered about what pinata sex would look like?

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/31/08

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

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