Viva Pinata

Review

posted 11/30/2007 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
One Page Platforms: PC
Interestingly, while seed crops can bring in enough coin to achieve moderate success, it turns out that pinata ranching is far more lucrative. The real money is in livestock in the pinata gardening market. Any pinata that is a resident of your garden can be sold to Costalot's for hundreds of coins. Therefore, there is a lot to be gained by achieving a good practical education in pinata husbandry, and as you may have guessed, the journal is the textbook that will teach you what you need to know. Now, as any rancher will tell you, it's all in the breeding. As such, you'll need to pay particular attention to the romancing requirements of the more lucrative pinatas. Be forewarned, however, that many of them are pinatavores. In other words, you will be breeding pinatas as feed for other pinatas. The Circle of Life rears its head again!

Both forms of farming benefit from a stable and predictable economy on Pinata Island. The forces of supply and demand don't seem to have any effect on prices, so you won't be lying awake at night worrying about the price of corn; it's pretty much always the same. Weather conditions also seem to always be favorable, although a good rain can relieve some of the burden of keeping your plants watered. As you achieve higher gardener skill ratings, you may even choose to hire an employee to do that for you. Veterinary care is also available, which is a good thing: between fights, run-ins with pinatavores, the actions of some of the more unsociable pinatas, and the dastardly acts of some of the local villains, your pinatas will require periodic visits from the local veterinarian. He works cheap, though.

Rogue pinatas can be driven away with a few whacks of your shovel, but constant attention is required to make sure that they aren't eating or in other ways abusing your herd. As you become a more successful gardener, this can get difficult. Through time and experience, not only will you have larger numbers of pinatas to take care of, you will also have a larger garden. As things get more spread out and more crowded, it can take a lot of time just to keep a beneficent eye on things. You can help yourself out to some degree by paying attention to the journal and determining which pinatas get along with each other and which may harbor intrinsic distaste for the presence of others. Keeping Kittyfloss (a cat-like Pinata) and Barkbark (a dog-like piñata) in the same garden, for example, virtually guarantees that you will be breaking up fights more regularly than you might want to.

No society would be complete, of course, without a criminal element. On Pinata Island, that takes the form of the evil Ruffians. They are lead by the “evil genius” Professor Pester. The Ruffians come to your garden and take anything they please. What they can't carry, they smash. You know, kind of like nieces and nephews, but not as cute. For the most part, they can be bribed away, but if you aren't into the whole Sopranos protection racket thing, you will just have to live with them until you can afford a more permanent solution. I hear it's pricey, being well north of 10,000 coins, though.

Viva Pinata is a very deep and rich game. This review has touched on only small parts of the overall experience. It seems like it would take weeks of devoted play to learn all of the idiosyncrasies of the world, and to attract even a small majority of the pinatas to visit your garden, much less convince them to establish residency. Viva has both the depth and the ease of entry that truly earns it its “E for Everyone” ESRB rating, and I would highly recommend it for any child over 10 years old, or possibly even a precocious 8 year old. It requires some attention span to really keep the garden from going to pieces, so children younger than that may find it too challenging. Older kids, and adults for that matter, may be drawn more to the economic side of it, although the collecting and raising of exotic species could also be engrossing. Viva's wide open design and game play allow for a strong “to each his own” flavor that permeates the entire experience. In fact, the tag line written by my almost 14 year old daughter really says it all: “Viva Pinata: Filled With Fun.”


B
Viva can be great fun for the entire family, but is probably more suited to the pre- to mid-teen age group.


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