It’s time to slide on your piñata gardening gloves and get a little dirty with Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise. Rare’s second pet paradise (Party Animals doesn’t count) comes with a list of new features with a focus on making piñata gardening more social. The world of Piñata horticulture has evolved in Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise.
The magical world of Piñata Island is in trouble as Professor Pester and his gang of Ruffians have trashed Piñata Islands super-computer that hosts the records of all the species of piñata's. With the valuable piñata data erased the existence of parting around the world falls into jeopardy. It is up to you the player to rebuild a healthy piñata habitat and restore the computers records. Yes, a heavy dose of candiosity might have been involved to think up that one, but candiosity or not Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is a rare sequel indeed.
The main focus of Viva Piñata has always been garden management and this hasn’t changed in Trouble in Paradise. It is still the creative Piñata micro-management experience it always was, except now we have a larger cast of piñata friends and a few new gameplay touches to explore. More so than ever, Viva Piñata focuses on the family friends approach by letting the whole family play. Viva Piñata: TIP (Trouble in Paradise) is much more social then the original game with a new found focus on multiplayer co-operative gardening and piñata swapping.
The size of the game has also increased with two new areas to search out new piñata friends. These locations are temperate opposites called the Dessert Desert (desert/sand) and the Piñartic (arctic/snow). Piñata’s from each area can be trapped (another new feature) and imported into your garden. To make them feel at home you’ll need to sprinkle snow or sand in your garden before they will become a resident. Creating alternative terrain toppings like grass, dirt, snow and sand can all be done with the seeding pouch (right on the d-pad). This is a welcomed adjustment for making dirt which is definitely easier than pulling out the shovel and re-landscaping your garden. In the desert and Piñartic you will find more exotic animals that are new to Viva Pinata along with achievements that deal with piñata's from the new zones. The idea of region specific piñata animals isn't a major leap in the gameplay department, but it is a nice addition that makes the Piñata universe feel a little more boastful.
Thirty-two new piñata species have been added to the games previous 60 unique piñatas. If you add the sour piñatas into the mixture you are looking at over a hundred piñata creatures. Besides added new piñata’s like penguins, geckos, vultures and camels, the artificial intelligence has been improved upon. I must stress this is only for the piñatas, the hired help in the game will still walk into walls and stumble around without a clue... don't even get me going about Seedos! That bumbling buffoon. At least the focus was made to improve the priority of the game, the animals. The food chain mechanics are noticeably enhanced which is more important then the little water can lady finding the right plants to water.
Invite a friend to do your dirty work.
The social aspect of has been a major focus of Trouble in Paradise. Co-op play has been improved tenfold with the ability for a second player to drop into the mix at anytime. Two players can help out on a single console, or four players over Xbox Live. Instead of giving the other players full control, they are delegated as the first players helper. The helper can give their hand at the minor details, watering, planting, and using the shovel. For a little motivation to grab another shovel, Rare has come up with a little bonus inspiration. For being a good helper, you are rewarded with magic that can be used to max out a animals candiosity or to heal a sick piñata. This is great for whipping though some of the mini-challenges that have been added into the mix. The only downside to the co-op is that the camera is limited on how far apart you can be from each other. This results in one person following the other one around without full freedom of control, I guess that’s why they are called the helper. A split screen option would have been nice with full control, although that would have required some more streamlining of the code to get both sides to run at a steady framerate.
The all-seeing, all-reading, Vision
Viva Piñata: TIP tries to take an innovative approach to extending the world of Viva Piñata. Now with the help of the Xbox Vision camera you can access Piñata Vision. Piñata Vision allows gamers to scan in cards that can printed from the Pinata website, or even off a portable screen. Doing so lets you import new pinatas without going through the work of capturing them. The images have a unique bar-code system that decodes in the game similar to Sony’s strategy interactive card game The Eye of Judgement. The same problems seem to exits in both games, and that problem is the reliability of the camera to scan the card. In Piñata the camera is automatically activated when it senses movement which was the first bad idea. Half the time the camera is going off and on if you’re are sitting close its location, or it doesn’t come on when you want it to. Once the camera realizes you are trying to scan a card it pops up a real-time screen showing the scanning of the card which helps you to get it in the right position. Again, half the time, it recognized what I was showing it and the other times it would just shut down. The best way to fix this would be a option in the menu system that you could calibrate the camera and make sure the whole system is working 100% Besides the unreliability of the whole card scanning system it is an fun feature to experiment with, and best yet, it's free.
Just for Fun
Now if all the candy dropping, vision camera and co-op action sounds confusing, don’t worry because Rare has added a new mode called “Just for Fun” that lets you have fun in a Viva Piñata garden without worrying about money management or unlocking items. It’s straight forward and great idea warming up area for new players to get familiar with the inner workings of a Piñata garden. The only thing to remember with the Just for Fun mode is that the addictive Xbox achievements will be disabled.
Speaking of achievements, Trouble in Paradise isn’t the achievement gathering festival of the first game. In TIP you're going have to work for all those 50 achievement points. Unfortunately, Rare has gone against the general consensus and added achievements directly related to the scanning in a cards, which means you need a Vision camera. Hopefully completists can pass this one up if you don’t have a camera already, that is a small chunk of cash for a few gamer points. I wouldn’t suggest picking one up just for a few achievements, however if you are really into Viva Piñata and want to explore the new card system, then this could be the excuse to pick up Xbox’s camera accessory. There are some games coming down the pipeline in the future that will focus on the camera, but for the most part the little guy will be collecting dust. Uno anyone?
Little changes make a BIG difference
Aside from all the new modes a few other minor adjustments have been made to the gameplay that really make a difference when you add them up. First off you can go past the boundaries of your garden to get information on visiting piñatas. This is helpful to learn what qualifications need to be done to make that piñata visit your garden instead of randomly waiting for one to show up. Rare also added new objects and toys in the game expanding how your piñata’s interact with the environment and how diverse you can make your garden look. Add that up with the improvements that done with the interface and Viva Piñata: TIP is a lot easier to get into. There are still some needless waiting for menus to come up, but overall Viva Piñata has changed for the better.
Piñata Bating isn't for Everyone
Even with all the improvements made to Viva Piñata, the game can still be rather monotonous. The problem is that Viva Piñata looks like a kid’s game with its child-like charm, but brings in some heavy repetitive action along with a surprisingly deep ecosystem that might throw off a lot of gamers. The target audience is rather hit or miss and likely is composed of those who thought they would hate it because it is for kids (the televised cartoon doesn’t help) and turn around to love it... and others who wanted a Pixar Saturday morning cartoon adventure to simply throw it to the side. The positive aspect to all this is playing it once. You’ll likely know from the first twenty minutes if you’re going hooked on the world of Piñata mating. If you take the bait from your first sour shellybean turn then you’ll be hooked for good, and this is a good thing. Underneath the chirping of the paper feather bird dance is a strategic animal kingdom similar to play around with in a light-hearted, non-blood and guts reality way.
Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise evolves Rare’s piñata garden party up to the next step, not the next landing. A lot has been done to improve the minor problems from the first game mainly the piñata intelligence and the general control of the game. Trouble in Paradise is easy to get moving and more focused in giving the player some new asset to explore. Along with these welcomed changes the social aspect of Xbox Live co-op support and a new trading card system make Piñata farming more interesting when you add in a few friends.
If the original Viva Piñata wasn’t your cup of tea, the formula hasn't been changed enough to make you want to attend this party. That being said, Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is fun, quirky, and addictive and the type of game any gamer can get into. The only real negative quality is the amount of micro-management you have to deal with when your gardens start to grow, however with the new improvements you can call in a friend to help you out in times of need. Rare’s unique charm still has legs and when other developers go towards the dark and gritty, Rare can still pump out a hit while being colourful and happy. Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise isn't the whole party, but it certain can get things started.
Gameplay:9, Graphics:8.5, Sound:8, Innovation:8.5, Mojo:8.5 Final: 8.5 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 09.10.08