STAFF REVIEW of Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise (Xbox 360)

Friday, September 12, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise Box art Growing up as a kid I never once had a pinata at any of my birthday parties. So in all honesty, until I grew older, I really did not know what a pinata was for, or the goodies it could contain inside. Well, the first Viva Pinata title for the 360 was my first experience with pinatas, and I have to say it left a lasting impression. I was in love with the little buggers from the start and played the death out of the game. So to my delight earlier this year I come to find out a second Viva Pinata game was coming. Okay, so it's actually the third if you include Party Animals, but that one doesn't count in my book. Well let me just say that this game rekindled my love for those cute little candy filled characters once again. The folks at Rare have done an outstanding job on delivering a quality title for everyone to enjoy no matter what your age.

Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise is everything the first game was and more. You'll be able to team with up to 3 other players in one single garden both offline and online. You'll be able to trap and bring in exotic pinatas from the Artic or the Desert regions of the game, and once again you'll be able to send your favorite little pinatas off to parties to gain notoriety among its peers. If you loved the first game, then there is no doubt in my mind that you will absolutely adore this game. The depth of the game is measured by how much effort you put into it. But trust me, the game is excessively deep and there is plenty to keep you busy literally for months to come.

The game is pretty much pick up and play for the grizzled Garden Masters of the first game, and its very easy to pick up and play for new players introduced to the game for the first time. The wealth of information and tasks is abundant in this game and will keep you busy for hours on end. Yes, you literally could lose a whole night of sleep easily with this game because it just keeps pushing you to do more and more and entice bigger and better pinatas into your garden. The basic concept of the game is the same as the previous version which was basically make the best garden you can and keep all your pinatas happy.

There are plenty of new features in this game such as the previously mentioned online/offline co-op, mini-games, new pinatas, terrains, items, etc. The game is loaded with new items and pinatas that its almost overwhelming to a degree at times. You never know which pinata to focus on making as a new resident in your garden. Maybe you just want to focus on one species and romance the heck out of them until you have a whole herd. Thats all up to you!

Graphically the game is very well done. Everything in this game looks fabulous. The colors are bright, the details are extensive, and the animations are cute, funny and very well thought out. The game is both attractive to the younger crowd and the older crowd. There is enough humor in the animations of each pinata to have any aged person chuckling at times, or saying how cute. What's even more impressive than the colors and animations, is the attention to detail on everything. When you have snow terrain laid, you'll notice that the precipitation that always falls over that terrain is snow, while when you have grass or dirt it's purely rain. The transition from one precipitation is flawless from what I have seen and there is almost a mixed bag line of rain and snow at the grass and snow common border. You'll also notice that each and every snowflake falling is not just a blob of white stuff falling, but actually is an intricate snowflake design. Those are the kinds of subtle details that this game has and make it a top notch title.

In the sound department, again the game excels in almost all aspects. The interludes during cut scenes seem to match up perfectly to what is being displayed on the screen. The subtle background music while working on your garden does not really get annoying at all as its more of a soothing and soft musical score which once again fits the game perfectly. I am sure there will be plenty of folks firing up the stereo or iPod to listen to their own tunes while working in the garden. Each pinata has its own distinct sound it makes. For example a Piena is basically a representation of the real life hyena and you will find him chuckling, especially when he decides to lift his leg and pass some gas from time to time. He thinks that is quite funny. The game features the same voices of characters as the last version, or so it sounds like it and once again each voice fits its character perfectly. Including Professor Pester who proclaims his victory when destroying one of your prized pinatas. Okay, that I found a bit annoying, but mainly because I know he just destroyed one of my most valuable pinatas. Heck what am I saying. Professor Pester is just annoying, period.

You get quite a few game modes to tinker with this time around. You have your standard campaign mode where you build a garden in single player continually advancing in levels and earning new items, upgrades, garden expansions, etc. You'll also be able to play the Just For Fun mode, which is a sandbox mode which allows you to just go in and play the game without the challenges that arise in the normal campaign and most tools and options are available to you immediately upon entering. There is a system link feature that allows folks to connect over a LAN and play some co-op in your garden. And finally, there is the new Xbox Live feature that allows you and up to 3 others to participate in your garden and make it the best out there.

Lets talks about the Live feature for a second. First off, when going onto Live you'll be asked if you would like to load a garden or start from scratch just as you would in the single player campaign. Then you can invite up to 3 friends into the garden to help you maintain the garden. You can set your visitors permissions with 3 different types. The Only Looking option only allows a person to come into your garden and look around. Limited Access allows another player to do some things and Full Access allows a player to do everything you can do as the owner of the garden. Another feature that uses Xbox Live is the mini-game such as races and Beauty Competitions. You can compete against others to once again gain notoriety or just take a break from the day to day business in your Central Garden. You[ll be able to load up your favorite or most valuable pinatas to take place in the events.

The campaign mode is pretty straight forward and if you played the first game you'll feel right at home with all the options and tasks set forth for you to achieve. You'll once again be romancing pinatas in search of wildcards and twins or just trying to get the master romancer award. If you remember from the last game, it was very difficult to land a wildcard or twin pinata, but no worries this time around. Once you have romanced a species 5 times, you will be able to hatch wildcards and twins by collecting all the flashing hearts in the romancing mini-game. If you need a certain leaderboard time, you'll be treated to more wildcard variants as well, so there are some limited rendition of pinatas floating around here and there. But alas those limited renditions can be put up for sale or scanned onto a pinata card that can be downloaded and printed from

Huh? Yup that brings us to a very cool new feature included in TIP. New to the game is the inclusion of something called Pinata Cards. These cards can be scanned by an Xbox Live Vision Cam and the pinata pictured on the card will be dropped right into your game. A card comes packed in the game when you buy it, but you can go to the previously mentioned website and download any pinata you like and drop it into your garden. Of course, the ones you download and print will come at a cost. For instance, if you printed out a Limeocerous card, you will have to pony up 3800 chocolate coins in order to be able to drop it into your garden. The cards that ship with the game are free to drop into your garden. To scan in a card can get a little tedious and you'll need to be sure your lighting and focus are properly adjusted for it to work. Oh and a side note, you'll also have to be at least a level 4 gardener to use this feature.

This review could go on and on with all the details of the game and probably end up being about 10 pages worth of text so I won't go to much farther into it. But I do want to mention another new feature in the game and that is the ability to teach your pinata tricks. You'll notice in your toolbox that there is something called a Trick Stick. This tool is used to teach pinatas tricks and also command them to perform a trick. A pinata can learn a new trick by eating something just as they do when they become a color variant. When a pinata eats something that will cause it to perform a trick you will have to tap the pinata with the trick stick mid way through the trick in order for it to learn it. Each pinata can learn up to 2 new tricks individually. And of course a pinata that can perform is more valuable than one that can not. So get out there and start feeding you pinatas food out of the ordinary diet and you may come across some color variants or tricks.

As I said, this review could go on and on with all the new features and wonderful aspects of this game, but that would just get overwhelming. My best suggestion to everyone would be to go out and get the game and dive into it yourself. You'll soon find yourself addicted and hooked like the rest of us. The game is for all ages and can be as deep as you want it to be. It all depends on the time and effort you invest into the game. Without a doubt this is one of the top games for the Xbox 360 console and should definitely be included in every 360 owner's library.

Give us more downloadable pinatas. I would also love to see even more types of terrain added as well as maybe specially area pinatas according to their world region such as by country or continent. Great game none the less!

Overall: 9.2 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.3 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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