Thursday, December 28, 2006

VG review: "Viva Pinata"


“VIVA PINATA”
Microsoft, for Xbox 360
rated E for Everyone (comic mischief, mild cartoon violence), $49.99. 

From the cover, a cheerful, horse-shaped pinata grinned at me somewhat nefariously. Oh joy, I thought, another anemic, simple-minded game.

Five hours later I emerged from the world of “Viva Pinata,” bleary eyed and wondering where the time went. And how soon until I could play some more?

“Viva Pinata” is the latest salvo in Microsoft’s ongoing attempts to attract folks to Xbox 360. This time around the company is clearly aiming for the family market, as “Pinata” is a colorful, addictive experience, based on a Saturday morning cartoon that I have up until now managed to avoid.

Developed by Rare (“Goldeneye,” “Perfect Dark Zero”), “Viva Pinata” is an intriguing blend of the “Sims,” “Animal Crossing” and “Harvest Moon” games. You start out inheriting a small patch of land to smooth out and cultivate by planting a variety of seeds provided by some of the odd-looking denizens that make up the “Pinata” world.

Once you have some grass and plants in the ground, animals start visiting the garden and, provided certain conditions are met, will make it their home.

When you have two animals of the same type in the garden, you can have them breed by giving them something to eat and then introducing them. A cute, G-rated scene of the animals cavorting plays, with an egg following swiftly afterward.

Part of the fun of “Viva Pinata” is the blazingly fast speed at which it throws a multitude of tasks at you, at least at first. You’ll be busy trying to romance two little birds when suddenly, hey, a new animal is visiting the garden! A new store is open! Two pinatas are fighting! Another is sick; call the doctor! Now, what was that you were trying to do with those birds?

If your garden is a busy place, it’s also a rather violent one. You are building a virtual ecosystem here, and the creatures will feed upon one another in order to survive (or at least be persuaded to romance).

None of the devourings are terribly graphic, but there is something terribly disturbing about watching one crack another one open and then gobble up the candy inside. As a result, it’s not a game I’d recommend for the very young or the easily unnerved.

For everyone else, however, “Viva Pinata” is a blast.

The game can become a bit repetitive as time wears on, but never so much that it loses its charm or sense of exploration.

Xbox 360 owners looking for a game to share with the younger members of their family would do well to check out this game.


Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006

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