Have you ever sat up from your in-depth studies of world philosophies and long-dead languages and thought, “Where do those festive little piñatas come from, anyway?” If so, you probably need a break. And Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise could be the perfect way for you to unwind.
This sequel to Microsoft’s original kid fave is ready to fill you in on all the papery animal facts you’ve longed for. It opens the door to a virtual world where birthdays are pointless without a candy-stuffed creature hanging around. And gamers learn that all those colorful wildlife party favors aren’t glued together in some remote factory. No, no. They must be captured or homegrown in the middle of a flower and vegetable garden tended by a skilled and loving gardener.
Can You Say Cute? Sure You Can
Players put on their gloves and sunhat after a troublesome guy named Professor Pester—who looks like a cross between a totem pole and a fire hydrant—tries to steal data about the world’s piñata inhabitants. In the process, he accidentally erases all the knowledge from Piñata Island’s main computer banks. So it’s the player/gardener’s job to breed and photograph his charges and repopulate that virtual encyclopedia while supplying the needs of parties all across the land.
The gardener starts out with a rather humdrum patch of ground. He must sprinkle grass seed, spade up the soil, plant flower bulbs and veggie seeds, water properly and eventually turn his or her plain plot into a plentiful paradise. Each of the required duties—including use of a camera to snap encyclopedia photos and a journal to keep track of the game’s progress—pops up in a simple little flower petal onscreen menu.
And as the work begins, cute, curious piñatas start showing up to check out the now green and growing place.
Once these initial flower-lovers peek in at what’s going on, your gardening duties expand to taking care of the piñatas as well. The first inquisitive grazers—such as the wriggly Whirlms and the pretty ladybugish Bispottis—only require a nice grassy spot or well-tended flower to keep them happy and encourage them to move in.
But as the game goes on, and more of the dozens and dozens of colorful piñata species are intrigued by your gregariously green thumb, you have to figure out how to keep transforming your garden—including mixing up the vegetation and creating the proper climate and soil—to best satisfy their needs.
Then, after convincing some nearby animals that this garden is the happening place to be, it’s time to make some baby piñatas. But don’t worry, piñata romance doesn’t include rude come-ons or paper monkeys in lingerie. Players simply put together two of the same species with little hearts over their noggins and—after a cute disco ball dance—a critter runs through a minigame maze grabbing hearts while making its way to egg-laying bliss.
Sparrowmint Chicklets and Moosey Flapyaks
From there it’s all about fulfilling challenges and sending happy piñatas off to the parties of their dreams while maintaining and defending your garden from the ever-pesky Pester who shows up with his minions to hamper your progress. Hit the shops for the latest seeds or fertilizer. Visit nearby lands to capture exotic piñata breeds. And keep the cute, delightful, candy-stuffed world happy and singing.
Sound like too much work for grade-schoolers to tackle? It’s not really. Sure, it takes a little quiet thought. But it’s a simple fun. And it comes with the side benefit of parents not having to worry about young Jimmy dodging bullets or little Mary getting any unwanted anatomical instruction.
Speaking of parents, a few might actually like this game, too. Kids, of course, will love the flashy little critters with their Candy Land charm. But Mom and Dad will appreciate the goals and rewards built into the gameplay. And if that’s not enough, there’s always the tantalizing idea that Viva Piñata just might help you solve all those papier-mâché mysteries that’ve been keeping you up at night.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.