Review: Viva Pinata
Don't let its bright colors and cute, fuzzy animals fool you: Viva Pinata isn't some kiddie-game that's being targeted at elementary school tykes.
It certainly will appeal to that demographic but it has enough going for it that even hardcore gamers should give it a whack.
PROTIP: Some animals won't show up without a daisy or buttercup to sniff, so planting flowers becomes a necessity.
The fantasy island of sentient pinatas has fallen into disrepair, with once-luxurious gardens of rich greenery now caked in hard soil, and you've just been given a slice of it to cultivate back to its former glory. Using a set of tools- you start off with a shovel and a bag of seeds but you can get more- you tend to your patch of land, which in turn attracts two ridiculously cute pinatas to your garden. Build them a habitat, let nature take its course and you'll soon find yourself with a few more pinatas to care for.
Home on the Range
But it's not all Garden of Eden bliss: with each level of experience you gain, life becomes just a little more complicated. Sour pinatas swoop in and drop sour candies that make your pinatas sick. Fail to call in the village doctor quickly enough and the evil Dastardos will invade and crack the poor guy open, spilling his candy all over the place. Hell, even your own normally good-natured pets will sometimes find another resident intolerable, and get into tear-jerking little fights.
PROTIP: Keep incompatible pinatas separated, and make sure sour pinatas don't drop their candy poison to save on expensive doctors visits
Once you've gotten a glimpse at everything the game has to offer, you start to see how all the little elements come together to form a surprisingly complex "doughnut of life." Nearly every animal eats, or is eaten by, another member of the ecosystem, and who you attract to your garden is a direct result of those relationships. Helping a couple of worms raise a child only to have him be eaten by a sparrow neighbor is simultaneously fulfilling and heartbreaking.
Add in the eye-catching, and retina burning graphics, the clever use of audio cues to alert you to events and problems, the elegant control and menu interface and a design philosophy that doesn't unfairly penalize you for mistakes, and you've got a recipe for fun that's simple and enchanting. If you're one of those people that isn't happy unless you're killing something, you can just spend all your time braining anything that moves, but Viva Pinata is most satisfying when you leave your inhibitions aside and just go with the flow. You'll be surprised just how much fun you can have in this deep and vibrant world of seemingly never-ending surprises.
PROTIP: Sour pinatas often leave behind nasty little "treats" in fancy wrapping that sweet pinatas can't resist, but make your animals sick.