So youâ€™ve bought Gears of War, played for six hours, saw the ending (or lack thereof) and got bored? And you desperately need something to during the Christmas holiday? Look no further because RAREâ€™s back. Donâ€™t get fooled with the kiddie image or the fact that Viva PiÃ±ata is tied in with a television series on 4Kids because there’s a lot more to this game than it leads to suspect.
In Viva PiÃ±ata youâ€™re given the responsibility of a garden on PiÃ±ata Island. As a gardener your job is to make the garden as attractive as possible to the piÃ±atas scavenging the island. You can dig ponds, grow flowers and trees, build houses for them and so forth. As your garden improves youâ€™ll attract piÃ±atas and your task is to keep them happy and get them to romance.
The piÃ±atas are a demanding little bunch and throughout the game youâ€™ll find yourself doing all sorts of stuff to keep them happy instead of fighting each other. Each of the piÃ±ata species has a list of demands to visit your garden, to become a resident and to romance with another piÃ±ata. The demands vary from having a certain amount of grass in your garden to having eaten a certain other species and as you get to higher levels of piÃ±atas the demands get more difficult to meet.
Though the increasing demands arenâ€™t the only factors that make the game more challenging than it appears. The biggest challenge in the game comes from sour piÃ±atas. Sour piÃ±atas are the evil counterparts of certain piÃ±ata species, with the sole intent of wreaking havoc in your garden. Theyâ€™ll spit up sour candy, causing your piÃ±atas to get sick, theyâ€™ll destroy your carefully crafted landscape, theyâ€™ll cause fights among other piÃ±atas and so on. They can prove to be quite the nuisance and they wonâ€™t stop until youâ€™ve tamed them by meeting their demands. Luckily theyâ€™ll unlock parts for your Tower of Sour, preventing the species you tamed from entering your garden again.
RARE put a lot of effort into designing all these species of piÃ±atas, the game has sixty or so, and thatâ€™s what makes this game work. The amount of work that has gone into making the Viva PiÃ±ata universe believable is immense and you can really tell. Each time youâ€™ll be introduced to new species youâ€™ll be amazed with the great character design. Every piÃ±ata species has its own sounds, animations, demands and its own house. Youâ€™ll be spending an estimated 20 hours to even get to see all of the species, and thatâ€™s rushing.
From the get-go Viva PiÃ±ata was advertised as a kidâ€™s game, it was announced simultaneously with a Saturday-morning kidâ€™s show on 4Kids.tv and the game has a lot of kid-friendly features, such as an optional simpler control scheme and the ability to assist using a second controller. However, looks can be deceiving and this is an excellent example. It takes a lot of effort to keep your garden clean and your piÃ±atas happy and youâ€™ll be flipping through menu screens quite a bit. Youâ€™ll often find yourself looking stuff up in the PiÃ±ata Encyclopedia or on sites such as the PiÃ±ata Island wiki to get the most out of the game and itâ€™s safe to say that 6 year old Timmy wonâ€™t. Sure the television series has some gameplay tips in it but those will only get you so far.
But thatâ€™s tough luck for little Timmy because weâ€™re left with an awesome and deep god game that youâ€™ll be playing for weeks, if not months. And when you finally do get bored with this game then chances are that the Live co-op patch is finally there. The manual that comes with the game and certain menu screens hint towards the ability to play around in your garden cooperatively. As of now the only Live functionality thatâ€™s implemented is the ability to send friends crates with piÃ±atas. This feature might seem simple but youâ€™ll probably find yourself trading and sending piÃ±atas with your friends quite a bit.
However, there are a few things keeping Viva PiÃ±ata from being perfect. The most annoying thing would be the amount of menus youâ€™ll have to go through in order to get stuff done. Simply buying a seed, planting it and then fertilizing it forces you to go to the village menu, then to the store that sells the seeds, then back to your garden to plant them, then to the village menu, then to the store to buy the fertilizer and then back to the garden to fertilize the plants you just bought. After a while youâ€™ll get used to the process but it could easily be simplified. Other than that itâ€™s a smooth ride. Certain players have complained about a glitch that makes items invisible but RARE said that theyâ€™re addressing the issue and the problem only presents itself in certain copies of the game. Our own Jordan Blanco has the glitch and it really keeps him from enjoying Viva PiÃ±ata but other crewmembers reported that they havenâ€™t had one single item disappear. Donâ€™t let this keep you from buying the game.
Viva PiÃ±ata is highly addictive, easily memorable and truly unique on the Xbox platform. Donâ€™t get fooled by the kiddie image and be sure to give this game a chance when you see it lying around somewhere. The game isnâ€™t only unique in terms of looks but the gameplay is something you, regrettably, donâ€™t see on consoles very much either. RARE hasnâ€™t showed as much promise on the Xbox platform as they had back in the Nintendo days, but the tide has turned, and Viva PiÃ±ata has become my sleeper hit of the year, and might very well be my personal game of the year. I sincerely hope weâ€™ll see more titles as unique as this one because, honestly, Iâ€™ve seen more than enough shooters for the next couple of decades.
Final Score: 9 out of 10 - Very Good (how do we rank games?)