When Viva Piñata arrived on the shelves in 2006, it came with plenty of hype and not a small amount of expectation. It was marketed as a kind of cute kids version of The Sims where you tend a garden with the goal of attracting and nurturing a menagerie of beasties, all the time fending off the evil intents of the diabolical Professor Pester and his horde of sour piñatas.
Now developer Rare Ltd. is set to release Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise, and with it they promise to add to almost every aspect of the original. Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise will include many more species of piñatas, more customisable and unlockable content, as well as different locations, villains and multiplayer options.
As far as the story goes, Professor Pester has managed to delete from the Piñata Central computer all the information collected on the various piñatas. So, starting from scratch you have to tend your garden, making it the kind of place that Pengums, Shellybeans and all their friends dream of moving to.
When the Piñatas first start to arrive you will get an idea of what they like and dislike, and if you make them happy enough, they become residents. Once you have collected enough information on the multi-couloured critters you can build for them the environment they love, using sand, snow and water, as well as providing them with their favourite foods. Then they will start raising their own little piñata families. In this way you can acquire more then 100 various piñatas, all with their own needs, wants and eccentricities.
Along with the extra species, Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise also includes different playing modes. Added to the standard play found in the original game, there is a mode for younger players which runs at a less demanding pace and includes instructions and tips. There is also a fun mode that allows you to get into the gameplay immediately. Both these simpler modes will be far easier to begin playing, but they will not give access some unlockable content or to the rarer piñatas.
When it was originally released, Viva Piñata had the feel of a franchise in the making. To some extent this has been realised with the television version arriving together with various games on different platforms. However, it never really caught fire in the intended (Pokemon) kind of way. In some regards you get the feeling that somewhere there is an enormous warehouse full of Piñata lunch boxes and sleeping bags just waiting to be bestowed on an adoring public.
So in September we will all get to find out if Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise has what it takes to secure the cute and colourful critters a place in popular culture, or if the fickle public is happy simply to beat it with a stick and sample the goodies that fall out.