Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Review: Viva Piñata

Well like i said in my first post i would do a review of this game, i would also like to note before hand that this game is a couple of years old now so this is a late review however, i also think this is one of those games that might get overlooked simple because it looks puerile.

Development Information: The game was made for the XBox 360 and later was ported to PC, the game itself was developed by RARE and was finally released in 2007, this in essence was Microsoft's first attempt at creating a game orientated for the younger audience. The game also had a T.V. Series based upon the characters in the game in which the show shared the same name as the game and was developed by 4Kids. The game itself would later go on to receive a sequel called Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise. Which was released along with Viva Piñata: Party animals for the XBox 360 and would later create Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise for the Nintendo DS.

Beginning: The game starts with you becoming the new owner of a plot of land on Piñata Isle, upon arriving at your new land you encounter a woman who is crying, after conversing with her you discover her name is Leafos and she is upset because the area is covered in trash (which the jerk who sold you the land probably didn't tell you about, what a jerk) and gives you a shovel to clean up the mess by cudgeling it to pieces. After disposing of the waste Leafos guides you though the basics of the game and gives you new items when you advance enough such as seeds and a watering can. if you may not have noticed yet, the game is basically gardening however don't let that be your deterrent from playing this game. with your new found tools you can begin to develop your new Garden, usually starting my flattening the land and growing grass on your new grown soil. Now growing a garden might sound monotonous though it does serve a purpose, upon re-turfing your new garden you will get your first visitor, this little fellow is a Whirlm (Worm). which has come to reside within the growing utopia which is soon to be your garden. So now you have attracted your first Piñata, is that it? well no not really with the Whirlm now a resident of your new garden this attracts the attention of other Piñatas however, the other Piñatas might not be so Hasty at moving in if the garden does not suit their standards (that's right, they are to good for your garden and they don't even pay your rent) but should you meet this requirement the Piñata will become a resident in your ever growing garden. Though this sounds like a peaceful and fun loving world Piñata Isle's gardens are often under siege of by the Piñata's of the games antagonist Professor Pester who seeks to ruin the fun and happiness of the inhabitants.

Game play: The game itself is somewhat strange yet enjoyable, at first the game may seem like it needs to
gather momentum to get the proverbial ball rolling but the game does offer a lot of diversity, as mentioned earlier some items may attract certain Piñatas whilst at the same time could deter others from coming, this adds a depth of thought to the game, for example the Doenut requires your garden to be 98% Grass, but the Quackberry requires around 30% water, from that you can see it is not possible to attract both at the same time. The game also allows your to build homes for the Piñatas you would take fancy to, or if you would like to theme your garden in a particular way like having only insect based Piñata or essentially turning your garden into a small aviary. During the game you will be visited by several bad Piñatas or other characters that may prove to be a hindrance of sorts these range from Sour Shellybeans which place tainted candy around the garden and eat the seeds of the plants in the garden, or the Arrival of the cunning Dastardos who comes to break open any ill Piñata and take their deliciously delicious candy entrails (the horror).

The game also allows your to breed your Piñata's in what the game refers to as 'Romancing', after all the game is aimed at the younger audience and i think people would be in uproar if they referred to the birthing cycle of a Piñata as a '2's on a B*stard' or 'a quick shag'. Romancing your Piñata's requires your to play a small mini game wherein you have to guide one of them to the other, this also allows your to earn some extra cash and watch the Piñatas dance inside their homes, hence the Romance Dance. Like in real life some Piñatas are carnivores and thus feed on the papery flesh of your residents or visitors for that matter. The game also has a leveling system like a lot of games in this era, levels are gained by improving your garden by a certain degree, once enough experience has been gained for a level up new things become available such as new tools, new shops and new Piñatas. The game uses a currency system which is usually refereed to as CC, short for Chocolate Coins which can be used to buy an array of things for your garden such as fences, fruits and foot paths.

Graphics: The game looks very cartoony as you would have guessed or expected but the game still looks visually attractive at the same time, the scenes are colourful and bright and the animations of the
Piñata's are well suited for their personalities. The Piñatas themselves look like they are made out of paper and such but at the same time feels like it's a real creature (for a Piñata anyway) and thus captures a rather peculiar essence of the game.

Music and Sounds: The games sound track suits the game well, though it might not be something you would go out of your way to listen to, it suits the rural garden scene of which the game is based, like animals,
Piñatas have their own sets of calls and noises usually similar to that of the animal of which they are based. Chuckles sound like chickens and Sparrowmints sound like birds, though some of these Piñatas have sounds which are foreign to the animal they are based on but suit it well, the Whirlm for example sounds a but like a puppy. The music transitions well with the game as for night and day, the music during the daytime is somewhat uplifting and pleasant but at night the music becomes some what more sinister and gloomy but fits in perfectly for the scene. Though the sounds are well placed and suite the game well sometimes these sounds can be a bit of a nuisance, for example should one of your Piñata fall ill it will lie of the ground whining every couple of seconds until it his healed (or until Dastardos batters it) which might not seem like a massive issue and it isn't, unless you don't have the money to pay for Dr. Patch's services

Controls: The controls to this game i somewhat usually fall out with, because the game text can be slow at times i usually find myself bashing 'A' to skip the dialog and usually go to far and choose something i did not want, now for me the i have a habit of pressing 'Back' Instead of 'X' so i usually undo everything i have just done which can be a real pain in the ass if you have just spent 5-10 minutes working on a new fence or planting some seeds in the right place. Though i have complained about the button placement which i am pretty sure is only a problem to me and a few other people out there, the games controls itself are OK. at times the controls seem somewhat slow and the cursor looks like it could take forever to reach where you want to go, but other than that the controls are not a complete gripe and you would familiarize yourself with in time.

Other: As mentioned before the game is made for children and thus comes with its own set of precautions which help protect the child from possible threats in online play and also make the parents aware of what the children will be doing with the game which i give to Microsoft for as you don't usually see much effort with this issue other than a label saying "...Online play my differ to regular play" or something on these lines but Microsoft went one step further and wrote a small booklet to help it's consumers protect their children and so forth.

Viva Piñata does feature an online service, this is purely on a non player to player basis. unforunatly i have not tried to play Viva Piñata online for myself but it is stated that the game is played solo still.

Viva Piñata is a strangely addictive game that will keep you entertained for a lenghty period of time should it be your cup of tea, though the game might suffer slightly in certain aspects the game as a whole is a excellent title and is well worth playing even if it is just to see what it is like and is visually pleasant, if i was to relate it to another game i would probably go with Sims or Animal crossing, Sims because it is essentially a life simulator and Animal Crossing because though you don't seem to do much, it keeps you comming back for more.

Rating: 78% - Very Good

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