Viva Piñata PC DVD
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Climax
Release Date: Out Now
When Viva Piñata was released on the Xbox 360 it surprised reviewers and gamers alike. Many thought the game would simply be aimed at children because of the TV show of the same name. Whilst the game definitely appealed to children with its bright colours and wonderfully designed piñata creatures, the game had a level of strategy that surprised many. It was one of those games that just kept rewarding the hours you invested in it and kept offering surprises even when you had spent more than 20 hours or so playing the game. Needless to say then, the decision to bring the game to the PC is a welcome one.
Viva Piñata puts you on Piñata Island and charges you with looking after a garden that’s initially in a fairly poor state. To begin with you’ll have to clear away some of the junk and whack the hard, cracked soil in an effort to make the garden more appealing. As soon as you’ve done this your first Piñata will show up to pay your garden a visit. Piñata are essentially animals (made up of sweets of course just like piñatas in the real world) who will only come to your garden when the conditions are right and when you, as a gardener, are experienced enough (yes you do level-up in the game). Of course visiting your garden is one thing but you’ll also have to persuade a piñata to become a resident and eventually to breed (piñatas are neither male nor female you simply need two of them to breed). To persuade a piñata to become a resident you’ll have to meet certain conditions and the same goes for persuading them to breed too. You’ll also have to keep your piñata happy, build homes for them and send for the doctor when they are ill.
Viva Piñata really succeeds because it’s a game that just keeps on giving. It’s structured in such a way that even after playing for over a dozen hours or so, you'll keep finding new things about the game and keep acquiring tool upgrades and piñata you haven’t seen before. In total there are over 60 different piñata and you’ll really have to work in order to acquire a fair portion of them. To begin with your garden is quite small and you’ll only have access to a few piñata. Your shovel and watering can are quite basic and you won’t have access to many of the game’s features. As you level up you’ll acquire shovel upgrades, be able to purchase a better watering can, hire helpers, acquire a bigger garden, have access to more piñata, earn gardener titles, and be able to cure sour piñatas (nasty red and black piñatas that leave sour sweets behind that can harm your piñatas) and much, much more. There are special fertilizers to use on your plants and some have an amazing effect on certain plants. There’s plenty of scope for experimentation too, particularly as the game doesn’t tell you everything there is to know, allowing you to discover new things on your own. Every one of your actions has an effect though and getting the balance right can be tricky particularly when a new piñata that visits your garden manages to upset the stability that existed for a time. Rarely is this kind of depth seen in a console game and I would whole heartedly recommend it for anyone looking for a game that rewards your creativity.
Of course younger gamers might not take the game as far as it can go and see everything the game has to offer but that doesn’t matter because right from the beginning the game is very entertaining. Piñata can be named and accessorized with all kinds of objects, which is something children definitely will appreciate. Small children might not be keen on the idea that certain piñata have to eat each other in order to breed but there’s nothing gory or gruesome here. On being finished off, a piñata will burst into pieces with sweets emerging from their empty shells (the shells simply spin into the air). Even the breeding has been handled in a tasteful way. Once two piñata are ready to breed you’ll have to carry out a mini-game where you control one piñata and have to navigate a path leading to the other one. If you’re successful you’ll see the two piñata boogieing away on the dance floor.
Unfortunately the transition to the PC hasn't been without its share of problems. There have been quite a few reports of the game conflicting with other software. I have to say that we haven't experienced such issues. Whilst you can use the keyboard and mouse to control the game, it's certainly not as intuitive as using a controller. Seeing as the 360 controller works on Windows XP and Vista, this isn't much of a problem (unless you don't own a 360 controller of course). You'll also need to setup a Windows Live account just to be able to save your games. Of course you can login with your Xbox Live details if you wish. As this is a Windows Live title you'll also be able to earn achievements and they are independent of those you earn in the 360 version of Viva Piñata so if you have both versions, you can earn the achievements from both games.
Graphically Viva Piñata looks great. The game is wonderfully colourful and the character and piñata models all look fantastic. There’s some pretty impressive lighting effects on show too and the day and night cycles look fantastic. If you have a fairly strong PC you'll pretty much have the game looking as good as the Xbox 360 version. Of course the PC version is capable of running at higher screen resolutions but this isn't a game that really benefits from it too much apart from things looking a little sharper.
Deaf gamers will have no problems with Viva Piñata as it's exactly the same as the Xbox 360 version is this respect. All of the dialogue is subtitled. All tutorial information is subtitled too. All of the important information in the game is shown in text. Your journal contains the game’s story (we’ve deliberately not given any details away of the game’s story so as not to spoil anything) amongst other things. In fact the only thing that’s missing in Viva Piñata for deaf gamers is some kind of visual alert for when a sour piñata drops a sour sweet. Hearing gamers will notice a particular sound that plays when this occurs but there is no visual clue to inform deaf gamers of this occurrence. Apart from this, the game is absolutely fine for deaf gamers.
Viva Piñata was a great game on the 360 and the same is still true for the PC version. There’s so much depth here that you can play for dozens of hours and still see things you have never come across before. We haven’t really scratched the surface of what the game has to offer in this review. Some may find having to setup a Windows Live account a bit of a chore (if they don't already have an Xbox Live account that is) and it's a shame that this is something that has to be done if you are to save your progress. It's probably also unfortunate that the game is best played with a controller. That said, Viva Piñata is a unique experience and an impressive game for every member of the family.