Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise Review

It is Rare to find a TV or movie franchise that actually puts out a decent game as it is rare to find a TV or film adaptation of a game that is done well. In the case of Viva Piñata, the TV show was created in conjunction with the game. I can’t recall exactly how I heard about the game, but I know when the words “garden”, “piñatas”, and “romancing” all appeared in the same sentence, I had to play it. At first glance, Viva Piñata looks like a children’s game. It is loaded with colorful and cutesy characters. However, the first game of the series was probably a little too difficult for the children that the TV show was aiming for. That’s not to say that young children didn’t enjoy the game, but it does have a level of difficulty that can make it challenging even for the seasoned gamer. The pacing of the game was spot on if almost a little too fast. You would at times find yourself overwhelmed with activity and at other times you would pray for something to happen so that you could just level up already!

Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise addresses a lot of these issues in the first game. In fact, new modes added to help along those that are maybe too young to fully understand how the game works as well as helps less experienced gardeners understand the flow of the game and offers some brilliant tips and tricks that I had to hunt down online to learn in the first game! There are Single Player and Multiplayer Modes as well as a mode where you can just jump in and play for fun. You can even play your garden online, setting permissions for the visitors as to what actions are available to them. You can start off an entirely new game online or you can begin a garden on your own and then make it available for people to drop by for a visit. You can even use the Couch Social function where, at any time in your game, a second player can join in and help you out. They will get their own cursor and access to all the tools. Anytime they do something helpful, a magic meter fills up and once full, it can be used to heal a piñata, tinker an item, or fill a candiosity meter.

You start out the game with three introductory challenges (tutorials) that will get you into the flow of the game. These deal with how to use your gardening tools and tips on how to get the piñatas to reside in your garden; how to get new piñatas from the Dessert Desert and the Piñartic; and how to romance your first piñatas. You can skip them, but you won’t be able to go back to them later. This game flows even faster than the first game. In just a short amount of time you are leveling up and seeing the first size increase to your garden. There are a lot of tips and tricks given in the loading screens so be sure to read those when loading your game.

One of the more noticeable changes to the game is the piñata challenges. In the first game, Langston would pop up with his request for piñatas and you would either accept or decline the challenge. In VP: TIP, you must got to Langston, found in the Main Menu, and choose and accept a challenge. There is no time limit on the challenge fulfillment and, on one side of your garden, there is a crate that you put the piñatas into that will automatically send them to the party once the challenge has been fulfilled. You can also choose not to do the challenges, which will prevent you from completing the story line objective of the game as well as some achievement points.

A lot of new items, piñatas, seeds, plants, and other features have been added into the game. These include the Piñata Vision Cards. All you need is the Xbox Live Vision Camera and you can scan these cards to get new piñatas, items, terrains, and more! Your game comes with a 2 sided Piñata Vision card that gave me more Chocolate Coins and a fully dressed Pretztail named Jerome. There is also a functional card in your game manual as well as the one found here.

As to where else you can find the cards, I know that the strategy guide comes with a few exclusive cards and that others will be released later and Rare’s website has some featured here.

I had some issues with getting the cards to read, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. Suggestion for the ones you print off the web: don’t do it so large. Make it closer to the size of a real card. The camera has to be able to read the data on the side as well as see the entire card in the frame of the lens.

Another addition is a camera that you can use it to photograph your garden, piñatas, and more. You can even register on the Viva Piñata website and upload and share your photos.

There is also a handy dandy Piñata Finder that will allow you, at the push of a button, to find any of your resident piñatas. This can also be tweaked to find seeds, houses, plants, and more. You just need to highlight an item in your garden before you bring up the Piñata Finder.

There are two new areas to explore for new piñatas: the Dessert Desert and the Piñartic. You can visit these areas to trap piñatas local to that terrain and bring them into your garden. Note that they will only become residents once you have fulfilled all the requirements. Once you are able to visit these areas, you will notice that you will get new surface packets for sand and snow so that you can adapt areas of your garden for those piñatas.

Another addition to the game are the competitions. You can take part in races and beauty contests. You can face off over Xbox Live or locally through Piñata Central. The Beauty Contests are automatic but the races require you to take control of your piñata to win the race. Winning can increase the value of the piñata and it’s happiness. So you will want to participate in these competitions whether it’s locally or over Live.

Some of the things that were frustrating are things that were frustrating in the first game. You are constantly fighting for space in your garden. At some point in your game, you will become so overloaded with plants and piñatas visiting that you will be told that you can’t plant something because there is not enough space.

Weeds, in addition to being frustrating in a real garden, are even more dangerous and damaging in VP: TIP. The weeds spread like wildfire and can end up killing your piñata population pretty quickly. I made the mistake of planting a weed seed that ended up taking me almost a hour to rid my garden of. It killed almost half my piñata population and nearly wiped me out of chocolate coins from all the Doctor’s fees! This is when having a friend – Local or Live – would come in handy. I intended to grow the weeds in order to level up and it was quite a lesson learned. For the newer weeds, I got smart and built an enclosed area that piñatas could not get into and I was able to control it better. Note: I did know this from the first game, however, the weeds are quite a bit more nasty in VP:TIP.

The graphics are on par for a next gen game. The colors are crisp and vibrant. The game is best viewed on a HD TV, as I’m sure most games would be. I have a 54″ projection TV and I had a difficult time viewing the menu items clearly despite the size of my TV. This could mean that I need better glasses or an HD TV. I say the latter. The music is similar if not the same as the first game. The game’s music is on my list of favorite game music so I was very pleased that they kept it similar. It’s a great mix of ambient music that helps set the mood of the game. I really enjoy the nighttime suite.

A word of warning- this game can be extremely addicting. You will find that HOURS will fly by while you are tending your garden. I have found it very difficult to peel myself away from the game and even after 5 hours of straight playing, I always have something that I want to accomplish. The achievements are harder to get in this game, so if you are looking for that easy addition to your gamer score, this isn’t the game for you, you will have to work for it and put in the time.

I recommend this series to every gamer. Of course, there are those that pre-judge the game as a children’s game or a girlâ’s game. All I can say is keep an open mind and allow yourself to have some fun. After all…that’s what gaming is all about and Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise delivers fun in a cute and entertaining package!

Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is available now for the Xbox 360 and retails for $39.99. (Yet another great reason to get this game!)

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