Viva Piñata 2: Trouble in Paradise (360)

Review: Viva Piñata 2: Trouble in Paradise

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Puzzle/Strategy/God-Sim

Rare’s inbreeding simulator is back.

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Rich

Rare’s original Viva Piñata game came as something of surprise to me when I rented it out last year during a spell of gamerscore whoring. I was only after the relatively easy thousand points and didn’t expect to get any enjoyment out of what I saw as being a kid’s game. Especially one made by Rare, probably the most overrated developers of all time (and yes, that goes right back to their Ultimate days).

However, Viva Piñata completely won me over with its mix of technicolour cuteness, deceptively deep gameplay and time-stealing addictiveness. The game’s appeal ran out some time before I got the final ‘play for fifty hours’ achievement but I definitely got my money’s worth out of it and was looking forward to this sequel.

Colombian opium farm for the win.

If I had one regret about Viva Piñata it was that I played the whole thing using FAQs and so was determined to give Trouble in Paradise a fairer crack of the whip, relying only on the advice of Leafos and the other characters in the game.

In case you never played the original, the idea of the game was to attract pi̱ata (sweet-filled paper animals Рyes, really) to your garden using fruits, flowers, seeds and other pi̱atas and then breed them. Each pi̱ata was enticed into visiting your garden by different combinations of items and would also need various conditions met in order to breed (a process that involves a simple but cumbersome mini-game where you guide your Pi̱ata through a maze).

If you played the game the way it was intended, you’d need to experiment with the various items in the game which would in turn lead you to discover new animal variants. A helper, Leafos, was on hand to give you advice but this was often patchy and not specific to the solution you are looking for. When combined with the often obscure nature of the piñatas’ requirements, frustration was never far away in Viva Piñata.

Complete with facial tattoos, the Bispotti - straight outta borstal.

Put those previous two paragraphs into the present tense and you’ve got an exact description of Trouble in Paradise. The conditions for piñatas from the first game are the same as they were whilst new piñatas continue in the same way often requiring nonsensical requirements for residence and breeding.

This would all be a lot more tolerable if it were not for Professor Pester, the main baddie in the game and arguably the worst bastard in the history of gaming. The Professor turns up periodically and kills your most valuable piñata. There are ways of dealing with him but the game isn’t very forward about telling you them. The solution I found involved a breeding process so complex that I was literally forced by Rare to check out the nearest FAQ.

Once he’s dealt with, you can get back to enjoying the game but for me the experience was soured and with all of my lovingly accessorised and named piñatas dead, I was left with the likes of Pretztail 3 and Sparrowmint 14. I’d stopped caring and this was reflected in my garden which had gone from being idyllic and cosey to fenced off and compartmentalised. With all the breeding being carried out in fenced off areas and with specific zones for trees, plants and different species. If I could have changed my garden’s name it probably would have switched to Auschwitz.

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Steve

Secondary Review

Rare broke my heart with Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo. They were both shit. However Viva Piñata came along and was a joyous burst of candy-flavoured fun which I bloody loved.

Once again in this sequel you’re tasked with the upkeep of a garden, attracting and keeping a wide variety of piñatas and fending off sour piñatas and ruffians. The problem here is that the vast majority of the piñatas are existing ones from the first game, they look exactly the same with no makeover or redesign and their animations are the same.

Yes, there are new piñatas but these are mainly relegated to the arctic or desert areas to which you have no direct control. And thats the problem here, it just feels like a lazy update which could have been done in either DLC or as an expansion disc, which probably explains the budget price in the USA. Don’t get me wrong it’s still a great game and you can easily lose hours of your life into watching your piñatas grow up and breed but, and this is the fundamental problem, the game basically hasn’t changed since the first one.

Secondary Score: 6/10

Aside from the slightly unhelpful nature of the game, I’ve got concerns with the similarity to the first game. It’s not just similar, it IS the same game. The graphics, music, dialogue and help text are identical. Costalot still runs the shop and has the same lines as before, so do Gretchen Fetchum, Willy Builder and everyone else you remember from the first game.

The tweaks, and that’s all they are, do make the game slightly better (if you’ve never played the first game, you can go straight into this one) and the new piñata species are as cute as ever but nothing in the game suggests this couldn’t have all been done using DLC. The almost full-retail price point seems a bit pricey for what is blatantly just an expansion pack.

Another odd thing about the game is its use of the Xbox Vision Camera. Using the camera you can ‘scan in’ cards which unlock piñatas and shop items for use in your garden. It’s a nice idea but you can also get the images off of the internet. Fancy a Limeocerous? Google is your friend. It makes certain actions in the game utterly redundant and when you can bypass the often obscure puzzles and just scan in an image. If you don’t like being made to jump through hoops, the temptation to use them is considerable.

Another addition to the game is in the form of desert and arctic gardens which you can visit in order to trap the piñatas that inhabit them. This is a very shallow experience and you’ll soon be wanting to get back to your garden. The ‘caramello’ camel piñata is definitely worth trapping though!

The newly added online co-op is a great touch and nice way to while away some hours but overall the game doesn’t really do enough to justify its release (although it’s the one to get if you’re new to the series) but then I’ve spent all day playing it, so it’s still as addictive as ever.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

7/10

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