Viva Pinata: Trouble in ParadiseESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer – Rare
Publisher – Microsoft Game Studios
System Link: 4
21 MB to Save Game
Xbox Live Vision
Last year the Viva Piñata franchise took a bit of a hit. Viva Piñata: Party Animals was released at and many Piñata fans were somewhat disappointed as the creativity and depth of the original game vaporized as Party Animals was targeted for younger social gamers with a quick pick-up and play party game style. It has been two years since the original Viva Piñata game was released and finally a true sequel has arrived. Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise picks up where the first one left off making a great game that much better. Gardeners can rejoice as all the core gameplay of the first one returns. Not to mention all your favorite characters too such as Fergy Fudgehog, Paulie Pretztail, Franklin Fizzlybear and Hudson Horstachio. After sitting down with the game I would have to say that there is no question Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is a worthy successor to the original, however does it offer up enough new content to keep hardcore fans satisfied? Let's find out shall we.
Overall, the visuals in Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise are very good and seem improved since the original. There is plenty of eye-candy to behold as the game is rich in color and incredibly engaging. Everything in Trouble in Paradise is appealing and lively from the environments to the Piñata themselves. The game has a ‘cartoony’ look to it and it works.
All-in-all, the in-game characters look nearly as they do in the animated cartoon series and will have your significant other and/or your kids telling you how cute they look… repeatedly. Even the new characters look equally appealing. The piñatas move fluidly and their expressions are priceless. The bright and vibrant themes used in the original game are also back this time around. Granted you will not get Halo 3 or Gears of War detail however the visuals do suit the game and won't disappoint the high definition crowd out there. The environments themselves are also very solid as they feature bright colorful landscapes and locales. The menus are also very clean looking and easy to navigate. Overall, I have no major complaints with Trouble in Paradise’s visuals as they are appealing and quite sharp looking.
As far as the sound is concerned, Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is about what you would expect from such a game. It is nothing great but does the job. The soundtrack is very similar to the original and although it does not appeal to my tastes many fans of the franchise will most likely be pleased to hear some of those repetitive Viva Piñata tunes all over again. The in-game character voices are also adequate but can be annoying at times. The games sound effects are well done, but again it is about what you expect from such a game. For instance, sounds of other inhabitants in the area, birds chirping, wildlife and other environmental sounds are all executed quite well. Overall the games audio is good but don't expect anything incredibly original or innovative here.
Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise was developed by Rare who also produced the original instalment. You can tell that they wanted to maintain the authenticity of the original and clearly wanted to take that ‘if it ain’t broken…’ approach to the game. As a result, the core gameplay is back meaning Trouble in Paradise follows the sandbox based style which we all loved two years ago. Before I get into these new additions and other aspects of the gameplay, I should point out that there is a story to Trouble in Paradise. Piñata Island is once again under siege by Professor Pester and his gang of Ruffians. The Professor and his gang have wiped out Piñata Central’s computer records, which poses a threat to parties everywhere. To help Piñata Island, you must restore order and rebuild the computer database. To do so you must entice specific piñatas to inhabit your garden, keep them happy and ultimately send them off to parties around the world.
Those of you who are new to Piñata land, the premise is simple and picks-up where I left off with the story. In Trouble in Paradise you start out with a big patch of land and your goal is to turn this land into a Piñata paradise. You accomplish this by planting, digging, building and doing anything the game allows you to do in order to attract more Piñata's to the land. There are over 100 types of Piñata's (32 are new this year) who all have their own unique personalities and quirks. For those that played the original the premise is the same and many will argue Trouble in Paradise is a glorified expansion pack. However there are a few more additions this time around which makes it a quality stand-alone game.
One of the main additions is the different types of modes available. No longer are the days of just merely gardening and tending to needy Piñata’s. First, Viva Piñata fans will undoubtedly spend the majority of their time in the standard mode which is the basic premise that I describe above. However, there is also a ‘Just For Fun’ mode where players can hop in and immediately begin working on a garden without worrying about running out of money or having to unlock various items. This mode is great for younger gamers not looking for the level of depth hardcore Piñata fans embrace. That being said, certain more exotic piñatas are not available in this mode, nor are Xbox Live Achievements. There is also a ‘Contest’ mode where players can enter their piñatas in beauty contests and races. It is very similar to the games seen in Party Animals and is a nice break from the regular gameplay.
Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is a very deep game which can be played for countless number of hours. This year the standard mode features the ability to travel to ice and desert regions where you can capture new types of Piñata’s and lure them into your garden. In doing so, you can now add snow and sand to your garden which gives the game much more depth. The vast level of customization within your garden is truly incredibly and even after a several hours playing the game you will have only scratched the surface. As was the gameplay in the original, most of your time is spent attempting to please different Piñata’s in order them to get them to stay in your garden or mate with another species to make a new creature. It takes some time and there is no question Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise tests your patience. Nevertheless, the game is addictive despite some minor flaws.
A pretty neat and innovative new feature this year is the use of the Xbox LIVE Vision camera which is aptly called Piñata Vision. Here you can scan an image from a card and use the embedded matrix barcode to allow in-game content to be imported or activated. The bonus here is that the images do not have to be purchased. They are primarily downloaded from the game's website or you can use the cards which may come with your game. It is not a bad little mode and adds to the whole “what do I get next” feeling, but the process of uploading the photo’s is more complex than it needed to be.
Finally, the most welcomed addition to the franchise, which adds even more playtime, is the co-operative gameplay. This adds a great multiplayer component to the game. The original Viva Piñata had a system in place where two players could mutually control the single game cursor using different controllers. This time around Trouble in Paradise adds a full drop-in and drop-out offline cooperative mode for two players and online cooperative mode for up to four players. This allows piñata collectors to join in at any time to assist the primary player with gardening tasks. It is a welcome addition indeed and makes for a far more enjoyable experience especially for those with busy schedules.
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