Reviews// Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise

Posted 6 Sep 2008 10:52 by
When I first turned on Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise I was pretty alarmed to find that there was no trigger button for firing a gun. I then realised that there was no way for me to lop someone's head off with a sword, nor could I punch anyone in the face. There was no way for me to accelerate at breakneck speeds and hammer a vehicle into a wall at stupid miles per hour and I couldn't perform a kick flip. There didn't even appear to be any mind-bending puzzles for me to untangle my brain around. Then someone told me that the game is a gardening simulator and I realised the Evil Editor was feeling particularly cruel and unusual in his feature allocations. Which is a roundabout way of saying – Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise was always facing an uphill battle in winning me over.

Games with cute animals are not, typically, my cup of tea. BUT! If you're of the same mind and preparing to click off to elsewhere on the big wide Internet, hold on a sec'. Pocket Paradise might just hold something for you. The game started the process of winning me over when I previewed it back in June and I'm happy to report that a fuller experience with it hasn't enshrunkenised its appeal.

The basic concept behind Viva Piñata is you're a gardener. A gardener who starts his time in the game with a barren plot of land and wants to bring life and loveliness to his little corner of the world. The larger part of that loveliness will be made up with piñatas. You know, those adorable cardboard things kids from the Americas like to hang from trees and beat relentlessly with a stick until candy comes out. Those metaphors for the American way of life. Those guys. Garden well and you'll find your plot of land brimming with life, cock it up and you'll find yourself endlessly mulling over your boring old carrots.

If the premise didn't make it plain enough: this is a kids' game. Except... it's one of those kids' games that are kinda-sorta for adults too, if you drill down a bit.

Things kick off in tutorial mode. It's just as well, since looking at the game from a distance in later stages reveals it to be pretty bloody complicated. It's testament to the success of the tutorial mode, then, that you don't really notice how complicated the whole thing is while you're in the game. The tutorials (dubbed 'episodes') guide you through things at a steady pace, imparting the necessary information, not boring you to tears and not taking too long about it. Once you've got the basics down you're off to your own garden, with further episodes cropping up as and when you need them.

So – your own garden. As I said, it starts off looking like Wakefield council has owned it for twenty years, so it's up to you to get it looking purdy. You're basically armed with seeds, tools and the option to purchase assorted houses for your piñatas to start with, with your arsenal growing to include elements like paving and ornaments as you progress.
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