Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is here. We've played it to death. We thought we'd tell you all what we thought.
After the break.
Writing a Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise review makes us mad. Why bother to try and encapsulate how we feel about the game when our audience has likely made its mind up about buying it? Is there any point in us shouting "buy it"? It's the 360 Marmite game to end all 360 Marmite games. Love it or hate it, there's no middle ground here.
One major thing that would perhaps make Viva Piñata more palatable, and thus reach a wider audience, is Microsoft. Where's the marketing camapign? The only 360 game on the market that we’ve seen that appeals to children, youths and adults alike is apparently being overlooked.
VP2 should be getting as much exposure as Sony’s LittleBigPlanet - which is being shoved under our noses every waking minute of every day, whether we like it or not - but the fact that people on the internet are hunting for Viva Piñata ads, and subsequently letting the world know when they’ve found one, speaks volumes. It seems fans of the series want the game to succeed more than Microsoft itself: tragic.
Anyway, now that we’re here we might as well continue preaching to the converted and tell you what’s different this time round. And if we’re being honest, the answer is: not much. Never have we played a game that is so charming, challenging, infuriating and rewarding on Xbox 360: apart from the first Viva Piñata.
Show us the money
After you’ve got past the initial joy at seeing a couple of new Piñata, you’ll soon realise that it’s pretty much exactly the same game as you paid full price for a year ago. So the fact that it’s being sold at retail as a full priced game in Europe compared with a paltry $40 in the US, does grate a little bit, we have to admit.
That isn't to say there aren't any changes. There are. But there are no radical alterations. Rare has made the menus quicker, for example, so the constant to-ing and fro-ing to the invaluable in-game shop, Costalot’s, is now over in mere seconds rather than the age it took us last time.
A “Just for Fun” game-type has also been addded, which is basically a watered down version of the main game. All you have to do is attract and breed those cute and cuddly critters without the distraction of the nasty ‘Sours’ pillaging your progress and the intensely annoying Professor Pester pilfering your Piñata.
There are also two new areas for you to discover, as well: The Pinarctic and Desserts Desert. Here the aim is to trap the new Piñata using some bait and a wooden crate, posting them back to your main garden, and then work out from there how to make them residents, etc. Again, we could easily imagine these two new areas being made as downloadable content for the first game and suffice to say aren’t exactly a huge selling point on their own.
The Piñata Vision Cards are an ingenious idea, however and can markedly change the game. We’ll give Rare that one. Simply scan a card with your vision camera – if you haven’t got one, get one – and the Piñata appears in your garden. You can create your own by snapping your favourite animal with the in-game camera, and turn the Piñata-pic into a card by following the very simple on-screen instructions. You can then upload it to VivaPinata.com then everyone can view it and scan the picture with their Vision Cameras. Very neat indeed.
This feature also comes with its own little gripe from our side however. The point of Viva is trial and error and moreover that of discovery. Feed a Doenut an Oak seed and see what happens etc. Try this, try that. Now you can simply go online and scan all manner of weird and wonderful creations that others have made. You even get the relevant Achievements too, it’s just that you haven’t earned them. So although very cool, it does somewhat go against what we feel is the main premise of the game.
On a more positive note...
Another addition is four player co-op. This is great fun. The clever thing is that all involved level up simultaneously. So after a couple of hours with friends, you can return to your own garden with several new Piñata unlocked and loads more seeds and options at your disposal. There’s local co-op too, which now means you can plug in a second controller and actively assist the wife instead of sitting there shouting at her as she starts watering her Bunnycombs and whacking her Lickatoads.
Yes, another notch to Viva Piñata’s bedpost: your wife/girlfriend will most likely want to play it too: one more reason to push the game to the forefront of people’s focus.
So although the new changes are welcome, they don’t fully justify forking out another 40 quid on what could easily be Viva Piñata 1.5. So why on earth have we been dreaming about it, seeing seeds bobbing up and down every time we close our eyes, and scouring the internet for breeding tips and gardening advice? The answer is simple: because Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is one of the best games we have ever played.
Read it again - Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is one of the best games we have ever played
You see, we’ve been fooling you all along with our moaning and nitpicking. Yes, the game isn’t much different from last year’s venture, but considering that Viva Piñata was one of the best 360 games to date there isn’t really much we wanted Rare to change. The developer's streamlined the otherwise clunky menus, added some more Piñata and made the whole experience feel tighter, cohesive and therefore much, much "better."
So we're back to where we started: anger. Anger over the fact that Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise, though brilliant, is so universally unappreciated. If you happen to glance upon this review and are still undecided, stop what you're doing and go buy this game. Then hold your friends at knife-point until they do the same. You can't go around moaning about lack of diversity on Xbox 360 and then ignore a game like this, even though the absence of an advertising campaign isn't exactly creating awareness. It makes us mad, it really does. You should be mad too.
Anyway, we’d like to go on playing it if you don’t mind: our Buzzlegums aren’t producing enough honey, and we need Bart to tinker it into medicine so that one of the visiting Sours can become a resident which will make our Sweetles very happy. Awesome.
By Mike Bowden