STAFF REVIEW of Viva Piñata (Xbox 360)


Thursday, November 30, 2006.
by Stephen Cameron



Viva Piñata Box art How do I start writing this review? Oh, I know?.This is the part where I fully admit that I?ve never been so wrong about a game, ever. Folks, I?m man enough to admit that I?m totally in love with Viva Pi?ata, and man, do I ever feel like a total Horstachio?s Ass (Little Viva humor there!) for being wrong about it. Why? Because, you have to understand that I saw this game at E3. I looked at it, I laughed at it, said a few unfair things and then moved on. It just seemed to me like a uber childish, and shallow game. Oh fudge, wrong again!

Never in a million years that I?d expect that this title would later on, come back and lure me into it?s Pi?ata lovin? goodness. I?m willing to bet you guys have never read a more personally involved game review intro? Probably not.

Anyways, on with the review. It?s so easy to judge Viva Pi?ata against it?s rather unsuccessful Rare bothers and sisters. But, believe me that it?s not Perfect Dark Zero, nor Grabbed by the Ghoulies, so please try do NOT make that obvious mistake. Although, I though Kameo was a rather good game, Viva Pi?ata in my opinion, smokes it.


If you?ve ever played games such as Animal Crossings or Zoo Tycoon, then you?ll feel right at home with this game. But, I must warn you, give it a couple of hours before judging it. The main objectives of Viva Pi?ata range from micro managing your way thru your garden growing plants, building shelters and babysitting various pi?atas, so that you can make piles of chocolate money, and level up your gardening skills to no end.

Why is this game so HOT? Because it just appeals to such a broad spectrum audience, period! Unlike Gears of War (Which I also love dearly), I have to wait until my twenty-two month old son goes to bed before I can start playing that bad boy, the wife doesn?t seem to think that chain sawing an alien in front of him is cool, I don?t see what?s she?s talking about (Just Kidding). Viva Pi?ata on the other hand, I can play whenever he?s around, and to some level it?s educational. He?s at the age that he can just barely talk, so I really enjoy hearing him say monkey or snake! He just loves to watch the humorous animals changing into various colors and evolving in to different breeds also. It?s the perfect Dad game!

I don?t think the game will get me watching the television show that?s on the air now, but the game should give me enough insight to see if I should let my son watch it. I don?t know if Microsoft was thinking in that direction, but it?s true. Plus, from what I was told, the show also gives tips for the game, that?s nice.

The bad stuff: I?ve had this dead Bunnycomb in my garden since the beginning of the game, and can?t select it and get rid of it. I?ve cleared everything around him, you name it. It?s strange stuff. This is isn?t a 100% perfect title, but honestly it?s so close. Another annoyance, is that the game chokes when it loads or auto-saves anything at all, this is especially frustrating because there?s a lot of that going on. I double checked this with fellow Viva Pi?ata gurus, and some have the problem and some don?t.


The game progresses by gaining levels in your gardening skills, from what I heard that you can go all the way up to level 80, and then some!

On a side note?I have to share with you the most horrible death of a fellow Pi?ata. I got a local visit from a dude called Professor Pester (a.k.a The Pi?ata Mafia), and he whacked my $6800 Cinnamonkey, man was I ever pissed! I just thought I?d get that off my chest. Now back to the review...

The most surprising part about Viva Pi?ata is that once you've gained higher levels of experience, you keep them. Even if you start a new garden. Which means you carry over all you coins and all the items you've unlocked during the course of your previous gardens, so you don't have to start that all over again. Killer!

In game interface is simple, well thought out and very easy to navigate. Extremely intuitive, well done. Some people have complained about it being a little cluttered. But, everything can?t please everyone.

As I was writing this review, I ventured online to check out the local community. I found two very helpful sites. The first one is called, Pinataisland.info, this site catalogs everything Viva Pi?ata, game tips, the television show, even the MP3 of the theme song! The second one is the Viva Pinata Forums, here you can trade , talk to fellow gardeners. And the folks at both these place seem very cool.


Graphically, this game looks marvelous, it doesn?t have the dark realistic look that Gears of War pushes, but Viva Pi?ata pushes the 360 to a more ?bubblegum-ish? look, bright colors, simple shapes, again, not gears but great looking graphics non-the-less.

In the sound department, the theme song of the television show and game is !&%$@#* catchy! Overall, the in game ambient sounds are actually pretty good. I?m not a sound file by any means, but the sound really does a great job into making you believe that you have a living breathing garden full of Pi?atas.

The bottom line is, do not miss this gem in disguise in your Xbox 360 game collection. Get ready to be laughed at by your Gears of War jocks, but just remember you will have the last laugh when they start talking to you about The Tower of Sour! This is why Microsoft acquired Rare, because they have the ability to create rock solid creative titles like Viva Pi?ata.




Suggestions:
For the love of god, please fix the auto-save, screen choppyness glitch. This is extremely annoying, because it does it way too much. Also, you've got a winner here, the possibility of making Live downloadable content, or an expansion pack or a sequel would be a great idea! On the Xbox Live front, the ability to show off your gardens to other gamers would also be a neat feature, so that other gardeners would be able to check out your layout.

On a final note. The way I look at it, Mexicans wack Pi?atas with an old broomstick handle, Americans wack'em with baseball bats, us canadians since we don't have much experience with these things, we'll just use a hockey stick of course!


Overall: 9.6 / 10
Gameplay: 9.8 / 10
Visuals: 9.4 / 10
Sound: 9.2 / 10

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