Keen on taming papery animals you can send to their deaths at the hands of kids with sticks? I thought so.
Viva Piñata 2: Trouble in Paradise is exactly this, in case you didn’t already know. The basic gist of the game is to cultivate your little garden, attracting, looking after, and ‘romancing’ all manner of paper critters. Occasionally a frog will pop up and give you assignments from Piñata Central for particular piñatas needed at various parties across the world. The party requirements of small children everywhere depend on you! Of course, no piñatas are harmed in the making of this game (although I don’t see how) and all are restored and returned to you in the course of time. Being shot out of a big cannon to a place where they will be smashed open as they hang from the ceiling doesn’t seem to faze them.
Being a fan of the first one, I excitedly agreed to review its sequel in the hopes that the few serious flaws in the first would be fixed. Unlike its predecessor, Viva 2 has a somewhat more lucid, if completely cracked, storyline. The first version requires that you read a Journal, which is unlocked as you go, provided you actually figure out it’s there. Viva 2 adopts the direct approach. The game starts with a cut scene, describing Professor Pester’s dastardly plan to steal all the information on the individual piñata’s on Piñata Island. Heaven knows what this will do for him, but there you go. One of his dunderhead goons screws up and deletes all the information instead. Oh ho ho. Now it’s up to you to rediscover all the information. Get your gardening gloves on and your pooper scooper out – the party world needs you.
So what’s right about it? Well, provided you have the requisite HD television, it looks absolutely fantastic. And it’s readable. I remember squinting at the first version on the old CRT TV. Ergh. It’s also clearer about what to do and what becomes available as you go up a level.
Mostly, it seems Rare have spent a lot of time tidying up little bits and pieces in the new game, tightening it and adding new modes. You can now play Just for Fun mode, which means you have access to all the tools, accessories, buildings and all that guff – plus unlimited money. It also means you won’t be bugged by sour piñatas, Professor Pester’s goons, or by your piñatas fighting one another. Wicked – my almost perfect Zoo.
There are also new areas you can travel to in order to catch piñatas from other climes, which is pretty neat. It also means that you can use the ‘snow’ or ‘sand’ surfaces to keep these piñatas in your main garden, or attract a few without having to trap them. Like a Walrusk. Seriously. Awesome.
And what’s wrong with it? My main gripe – and for me it’s a huge one – is that you are limited as to the amount of stuff (flowers, trees, toys, etc) you can have in your garden at any one time, and that set amount is ridiculously small. I should be able to fill my garden with as many flowers as I like, thank you very much. Especially when you give me such a selection to choose from. Seriously, this really almost killed the game for me. Other than that, the romancing mini game is a bit too involved, if you forget to press ‘a’ when it tells you to at a plot point then you miss it entirely, and the tutorial sequence is exactly the same for the main game as the Just for Fun mode (with no option to skip it).
At the end of the day, I’d have to confess that I did get bored, despite the amount of tightening that they’ve done to make game play a whole lot better. In fact, there are a great many improvements made (a seed bag so I don’t have to deal with that old bag Costalot so much? Yes please). I can’t help but feeling that, while a good deal of effort has gone into enhancing the essential Viva Piñata experience, the limitation of things I can put in my garden when there is so much on offer really does kill my buzz.