Thankfully Viva Piñata starts out light and simple. It introduces you to the basics of gardening before you have to worry about any of the hard stuff. In fact, the entire game does an excellent job of ramping up the difficulty little by little, that way you don't feel like you're out of your element too early. As your skill increases you will be given more land, new buildings to build, new items to scatter around your garden and much more. You will even be able to buy helpers and new breeds of piñata. And if that isn't enough, you actually have the ability to buy clothing and other accessories for your various animals, which will give them an identity and make them even happier.
Part of what sets Viva Piñata apart is its great sense of style. Even if the system was on a console with more family friendly games, Viva Piñata would still be able to set itself apart from the crowd due to the way it looks and its sense of humor. The animal names alone are worth the price of admission. Each of the piñatas is named after a combination of an animal and a type of candy/sweet. That means that you can expect to find such classics as Doenut, Fudgehog, Shellybean, Raisant, Flutterscotch, Elephanilla, Buzzlegum, and many, many more. Sure you may roll your eyes at some of the animals, but there are a few that are so cute that you can't help but fall in love the moment they enter your garden.
Even though the piñatas are clearly the stars of this game, it does have a memorable supporting cast. Some of the funniest lines come when you start to buy items from the store and hire new workers. My favorite character is an angst-ridden pet shop employee who talks as if she's in pain just thinking about talking to you. I also love all of the jokes with double meaning, kids will no doubt find the character models cute while their parents laugh at all of the oddly adult jokes that come out of their mouths.
While it's easy to write this off as nothing more than just an interactive cartoon, the graphics in Viva Piñata are actually quite impressive. In fact, this is one game that uses colors you probably didn't even know the Xbox 360 was capable of (especially if you've spent the last two months playing Gears of War). A lot of the designs are simple, but get a nice close-up of your characters and you will see different pieces of paper and some very impressive detail. The graphics are even more impressive when you start to see the game's various seasons. It's fun to see how all of the color is sucked out of your garden when it's overcast out and how colorful everything looks when the sun is just coming up in the morning.
The music and sound are also impressive. While there's not a steady dose of music throughout the game, when it's there it is generally pleasant and fits the mood of the game perfectly. But as good as the music can be, some of the best moments in the game happen when the incidental tunes fade out and you're left with nothing but the sound of your animals. There's a feeling of accomplishment when all of your animals are getting along and your garden seems in order. You can hear your success from the happy ambience surrounding you … it's one of the best feelings I have had in a video game in a long time. And then, just like that, your garden is in chaos again and it's up to you to tend to the problems. At least it was nice while it lasted.
Unfortunately no game is perfect, and Viva Piñata certainly has a few minor problems that are worth mentioning. For example, the game's complex interface may be too difficult for some younger gamers (the type that may want the game based entirely off of the TV show). It's also unfortunate that you are only able to see a small part of Piñata Island, especially since the rest of the area looks so strange and creepy. Another problem is that the game does not have much in the way of online play, about the only thing you are able to do is send your various piñatas to friends. It would have been cool to be able to walk around other people's gardens and see how they set up their buildings, trees and whatnot. Thankfully these problems don't affect the game much, they are all easy to overlook once you get into the experience.
Given the hardcore nature of many Xbox 360 owners this is the type of game you might walk by and ignore, but don't be afraid of Piñata. It may look like a kid's game, but this is one title that has enough depth to keep even the biggest Gears of War nut addicted for hours on end. I don't know if it's the animals, the frantic pace or the heavy dose of strategy you have to employ, but there's just something about Viva Piñata that makes it special. Best of all, there aren't many games like this available on the Xbox 360. So don't be embarrassed to take this game to the check-out line, Viva Piñata is a fantastic game that will surprise just about everybody.
More On:Viva Pinata
It may look like a kid's game, but Viva Piñata features more than enough action and strategy to keep even the biggest action gamer addicted for hours on end. Don't feel embarrassed buying it, this is one game you won't regret putting next to Gears of War and Dead Rising!
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