Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise Xbox 360
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Rare
Release Date: Out Now
One of the more original and enjoyable Xbox 360 titles to date is Viva Piñata. The game may have appeared as if it was squarely aimed at children thanks to its adorable characters but it was a game that was as challenging and addictive as it was charming and cutesy. In fact it was a real injustice that the game didn't sell more copies than it did. Thankfully here we have a sequel, something that doesn't always happen if a game hasn't sold really well, and it's a sequel that fans of the original game will really love.
Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise basically gives you the same task of filling up your garden (or gardens) with all kinds of piñata. Those who played the original game will know that isn't as easy as you might think it would be. You have to satisfy the needs of each piñata species and just as in real life, you can't please everyone. Some piñatas will only appear if other piñatas are present in your garden (so that they can eat them) and the presence of some piñatas hinders the possibility of others appearing. You'll also have to engage in some mating mini-games to help your piñatas reproduce. As you complete objectives and attract more obscure piñata to your garden you'll level up, gaining more powerful shovels and expanded gardens. Of course you also have to deal with sour piñatas and the troublesome Professor Pester once more. Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise provides a good assortment of additions to the core game-play to make the game even more addictive.
There were over 60 different piñata in Viva Piñata but Trouble in Paradise contains all of these and around forty new ones making over 100 in total. The new additions, such as Pengum, Tigermisu, Robean and Bispotti are just as adorable as those in the original game. Most of these piñata won't simply fly, walk or crawl into your garden however. Trouble in Paradise has two regions, Dessert Desert and the frozen Piñarctic are two locations where you can visit and attempt to trap a piñata. After doing so you can transport them back to your garden. Of course you'll have to provide a suitable environment for them and you now have the ability to place sand and snow terrain in your garden. You'll also get to enter your piñata into competitions and take part in mini-games. You'll even have Piñata Central Challenges thrown your way (you don't have to take any of them after completing the two tutorial challenges). These challenges involve shipping different piñata to different regions around the world and you're rewarded for completing them.
Viva Piñata allowed two players to play co-operatively and Trouble in Paradise also allows this. It also takes the multiplayer aspect a little further by allowing up to four players to play co-operatively over Xbox Live and System Link. It's a nice addition and makes for a nice change of pace to the action heavy games that are usually played co-operatively. Trading is also supported over Xbox Live and you can trade seeds, plants, accessories and piñata with your friends, which is certainly a welcome feature. You can now take photos of your piñata and upload them to www.vivapinata.com. You can even send them to your friends by transforming them into a Piñata Vision card.
So what's a Piñata Vision card? Well if you have an Xbox Live Vision camera you can scan piñata and items into your game. You'll even get a card in the game pack to allow you to try this out. It's an interesting idea in theory but there are some problems with being able to scan piñata directly into your game. For one the process is rather fiddly and the game is really picky about lighting conditions. Secondly it feels like you're cheating as you haven't had to earn the right to obtain the piñata. I experimented by holding the Xbox Live Vision camera up to my PC screen and with some effort I managed to scan in rare piñata from the aforementioned Viva Piñata website. The only barrier to importing what you want is the cost in chocolate coins (the in-game currency). Of course if you do this in the Just For Fun mode, the cost isn't a problem and you can import whatever you please.
Trouble in Paradise adds a new mode called Just For Fun. This mode provides a simplified Viva Piñata experience for those who don't want all of the challenges that the normal game provides. The gardens you create in Just For Fun are kept separate from the main game and you'll begin with a massive garden as well as unlimited funds. There are no nasty sours to deal with or Ruffians to sort out. The requirements for obtaining piñatas are simplified and it's a great mode for younger gamers and for those who just want a more sedate experience. You can't earn any achievements in this mode but you can import your piñata from the main mode (although you can't do the reverse). In short it's a welcome addition, although hardcore Viva Piñata fans are probably only going to use the mode to experiment with various garden designs.
In regards to the graphical quality and the game's deaf gamer friendliness, Trouble in Paradise is just as good as Viva Piñata which is certainly good news. There are some nice new weather effects such as the snowfall you'll see in the icy Piñarctic. The frame rate is good (and the stutter that came with the auto-save has all but disappeared) and the general interface feels more polished and it's now possible to not have to wade through an assortment of menus for basic tasks. The load times feel shorter too. All of the spoken dialogue is shown in text and deaf gamers will have no problems at all with the game.
Those who enjoyed Viva Piñata will love what Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise has to offer. None of the new content fails to enhance the overall experience and in every respect Trouble in Paradise is the better game. There's enough new content here to more than justify the asking price if you've already invested many hours in Viva Piñata and it has the same addictive nature that make hours seem like minutes. If you have yet to experience a Viva Piñata game then this is the game to go for as it's a more polished game overall and the extra features give it the edge over the original game.