Rare Ltd.'s original Viva Pinata was a big hit among those who actually played the game when it was released back in 2006. If you looked beyond the kid-friendly pinatas and abnormally colorful and bright presentation, you would've found an addictive simulation game that anyone, at any age, could sheepishly enjoy. Rare is following up with Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, in which Professor Pester and his band of ruffians have wiped out Pinata Central's computer records. It's up to you to rebuild the database by sending candy-filled pinatas to parties around the world. We return to Pinata Island to build an inviting garden to lure in familiar faces--as well as new species--in an effort to ensure that each pinata is carefully packaged and fully loaded with goodies before it's sent off.
Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise is an excellent place to start if you've never had a chance to experience the joy of tending your own pinata garden. The tutorial is extremely helpful for newcomers to get a grasp of the basics. Instead of being given a junkyard where you need to get rid of the trash and pat down the dirt, you begin the game with a semi landscaped piece of land that should immediately attract the festive pinatas.
In standard mode you're introduced to all of the elements of the game in small doses. We see that Professor Pester is up to no good, but familiar faces like Leafos and Langston help us get things back on track. Langston walks you through tasks by highlighting the objects that you need to interact with. When you're done, Langston will always have a list of challenges for you to accept so that you have something to do. For those who need motivation to play a sandbox game, completing Langston's challenges will earn you more chocolate coins and ultimately helps rebuild the computer database. The challenges that we fulfilled included getting a specific pinata ready to be shipped off to a party. For example, Celeste is having a party in France, and she would like a pretztail in order to make a good impression. Our goal, then, was to lure a pretztail into our Eden and fill up its candiosity meter. Candiosity can be increased by renaming your pinata and by feeding it. Feeding pinatas their favorite food will increase their meter faster. Once the meter is full, you can pack the party animal in a crate, and off it goes.
There are more than 100 pinata species this time around, 32 of which we've never seen before. You also have the ability to leave your garden and venture off into the Dessert Desert or the Pinarctic to trap new pinatas with bait. Once you've trapped it, you can then send it to yourself and release your newfound pinata in your own garden. However, because desert dwellers and arctic animals prefer their own environment, you are given snow and sand packets to sprinkle on the ground so that they can feel right at home.
Pinatas seem to show up and take up residency relatively frequently and more easily this time around, probably because your piece of land is much more hospitable and inviting to begin with. Seedos will still make his rounds, so be sure to talk to him as often as you can to get a variety of new seeds. When new pinatas appear, you can exit your garden and take a closer look to see what they require to become a permanent resident. Pinatas are also more interactive this time around, and it's fun to sit back and see what they do. You can even teach them tricks with the trick stick to raise their value. Romancing minigames are back, where you need to guide your pinata through a maze, collecting hearts and avoiding loathers who are there to see you fail. You will level as a gardener as time goes on, which will grant you access to upgraded tools, more garden space, and new pinatas.
Pinatas can also join your garden via the Xbox Live Vision camera, a cool new feature that has been added for Trouble in Paradise. Rare recently released a Viva Pinata vision card to download so that you can place it in front of the camera to scan. You can also create your own pinata cards; just use your in-game camera to take pictures of your pinatas, transform them into a pinata vision card, and then send it to a friend. When your friend prints out the card and scans it in front of the vision camera, the pinata will appear in his or her garden. There's also a Just for Fun mode in which you have unlimited chocolate coins to spend on the garden of your dreams. Seeds and decorations are available from the get-go, so all you need to do is start building and the pinatas will appear. In this mode you don't have to worry about negative effects such as illnesses, and sour pinatas won't be here to disturb you.
Online features include trading items and pinatas and inviting friends over to compete in races or beauty contests. You can choose the multiplayer garden from the main menu to play with up to four players to cultivate a garden together over Xbox Live. The player who sets up the garden will be able to set permissions, so you don't have to give full access to strangers if you don't want to; until they gain your trust, they can look but not touch. You can have people join you as you start your garden from the beginning or have people visit later on when you have something to show. Alternatively, you can have a second player join in at home by using a second controller to help with watering, digging, and sowing. By helping with these tasks, his or her magic gauge fills. When it's full, he or she can be more productive by healing a sick pinata or filling a candiosity meter. This is a perfect way for a parent play with a younger child, or you can pair up with a friend who is still learning.
It's difficult to look at a candy-filled pinata the same way again once you've carefully tended to a garden that all sorts of pinata species call home. We look forward to seeing more of Pinata Island and what fancy new pinatas we can obtain via the Xbox Live Vision camera. Be sure to see what the full Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise has to offer when it's released on September 2 in North America.