How is Viva Pinata, hombre?

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Please someone tell me what they think of this game. Rare is the perfect company to do an Animal Kingdom-style sandbox game. I'm hoping they get a hit on their hands, the company deserves it.

I've put about 8 hours into it so far. Here's how it is. I enjoy playing it more than Gears of War and Tony Hawk. I'll write more after breakfast. For now, think Animal Crossing mixed with the Sims.

After watching the 230mb video that comes preloaded on the Xbox 360 I was almost sold. If the sharing of creations (like Animal Crossing) works well, I am tempted to get this. I bet this game looks stunning in HD.

However, there were a lot of slowdowns in the video I am referring to. Did they clean that up?

IGN 8.5

Sephirotic wrote:

I've put about 8 hours into it so far. Here's how it is. I enjoy playing it more than Gears of War and Tony Hawk. I'll write more after breakfast. For now, think Animal Crossing mixed with the Sims.

I'm wondering specifically about the complexity of play? A 360 may very well be in my near future and I'm interested if this might be something that an 8-yr old might be able to swing

From the preliminary impressions on this week's 1up Yours podcast, it sounds promising actually. Definitely a rental sometime soon.

Chum wrote:

I'm wondering specifically about the complexity of play? A 360 may very well be in my near future and I'm interested if this might be something that an 8-yr old might be able to swing

I thought that was the target age for this game. I know that my brother's toddlers watch this show on TV. Is there something I'm missing on this?

As far as I can tell this game is a cutesy Dungeon Keeper/Startopia type game. So I'm going to buy it.

Jayhawker wrote:
Chum wrote:

I'm wondering specifically about the complexity of play? A 360 may very well be in my near future and I'm interested if this might be something that an 8-yr old might be able to swing

I thought that was the target age for this game. I know that my brother's toddlers watch this show on TV. Is there something I'm missing on this?

My thoughts as well (it being intended for a younger audience). But when I read "enjoy playing it more than Gears of War", I begin to wonder.

The agency I work for is doing a marketing campaign and website for Viva Pinata - it's silly, but they say that the target audience are 5-10 year olds, or so.

Seems nifty.

1up Yours made it sound like there was some sly adult humor in the game as well. I dunno, I'm certainly interested in it, but I'm not a big Animal Crossing fan.

Ok, Back from breakfast, lunch, etc.

Here's my gaming experience, thus far:

You start the game out watching some annoying start up videos. The talking pinatas kind of grate on me, but thankfully are nowhere in the game proper. The first menu you are faced with is to create a new game or to watch "Child safety on the internet". I started up a new garden and named it "The Sephirotic Combine" with the idea that all my animals would be named "Agent XX001" etc.

The first thing I am faced with is a sad girl named "Leafos" who acts as my guide through the mechanics. Her voice is pleasant enough, and I make it through the monologue and am given a shovel.

The art direction is fantastic! Rare is in, well... Rare form. In front of me is a barren patch of ground, cracked from the lack of water with the occasional yellow stalk of grass to break up the monotony. In the background are a series of buildings behind a sickly yellow haze. I am given a shovel which is in pretty bad shape and am told that i can use it to "whack the hard soil" into fertile ground.

I do just that. I also take a whack at the junk embedded in the landscape and it breaks into chocolate coins, the currency of "Pinata Island". As soon as I have cleared the junk and have some workable soil, my first pinata appears. It is a wormy creature labelled a "Whirlm".

The way the pinatas work are that each have requirements for "visiting" "Resident" and "Romancing". A pinata whose "visiting" requirements have been satisfied will be spotted nearby and a small movie will play out showing it to you. The movies are cute, and short enough to not detract from the game. Once a visiting pinata has crossed the border into your garden plot, it will wander around a bit and interact with your garden.

If you satisfy the residence requirements for a pinata in your garden plot, it will make its home there. Each pinata starts out white and when it becomes a resident, the colors slowly fade in, showing that it belongs there. The Whirlm's residency requirements were simply that I had soil in place. As soon as it made its home there, my next pinata showed up.

While this is going on, you are given a grass packet to plant grass on your soil areas. Then you are given a few random seeds when "Seedos" comes out to introduce himself. Every time after this that you click on him, he will toss out a random seed. You can pick them up and plant them, or point a pinata to them and see if he will eat it.

Features are revealed at a good pace, and the game progression centers around how well you do with your garden; how many different pinatas are residents, and how many plants and trees you grow.

Another note on seeds. If you haven't planted a particular seed before (they all look completely different) it is labelled "mystery seed" and given a short description on what it might be. Some of these are pretty easy to guess, like the bluebell and apple seed. Some seeds grow into plants, others into bushes and trees. The trees and bushes can create fruit. Some pinatas will only show up if you have a specific type of fruit or plant. Some types of fruits and nuts are poisonous to certain pinatas.

Part of the charm of the game is figuring out how to attract new pinatas. I think there are around 60. I have about 10 so far.

As you go on, you meet the other denizens of Pinata Island. Each of the performs a function. The first one you meet provides you with the opportunity to build houses for each of your pinatas. The first one is free. Each house is designed specifically for a pinata species. The Whirlm gets a garden pipe, the Mousemallow gets a grandfather clock, the bees get a hive, etc.

If a pinata has a house and has met the other requirements for "romancing" a heart will appear over its head. If two of the same pinata species have the heart, you can lead one of them to the other (clicking on one and clicking on the other) and the will begin the romance minigame. In the romance minigame you have to lead one pinata through a dangerous maze (the walls will explode if your pinata touches them) into the arms of its mate. You collect coins on the way, adding to your total. Once you succeed, the pinatas go off to the confines of their house where they perform the "Romance Dance". This is another short movie. Each of them are cutely funny and worth watching. Once the romance dance has been completed, Storkos (another character) will deliver an egg which will hatch into a baby pinata. A quick note: You can only attract two of a species to your garden. At two, no more will show up. The only way to get more of a type is to romance them.

Once the baby has been around for a few minutes, it will form a coccoon which will shortly break into a full grown pinata. Each of these new pinatas will sport a tag which you can design from another menu, showing that it's yours. You can trade these pinatas with other people over xbox live.

What sort of conflict is there? You are quickly introduced to "Sour" pinatas which will leave Sour candy around the garden which can poison your regular pinatas. They can also attack your pinatas. Both of these will make your pinata ill. If it is ill, you can pay the doctor to make a house call and heal them. I find it easier to take a few whacks with my shovel and either break the sour pinata before it can perform any nefarious deeds, or what my ill pinata until it breaks, spilling its precious candy onto the garden floor. The other pinatas love the candy and will make a break to eat any of it they find. Cannibals. You can tame the sour pinatas if you have the right things in your garden, and once you do, it will no longer bother you unless you want it to (utilizing the "Tower of Sour").

You are also introduced to Dastardos at this point. He is the main antagonist of the story, and he will appear any time you have an ill pinata. If you don't heal it in time, he will break it open with a stick and take the candy.

As you progress in levels, the former gardener "Jardinieros" will provide you with shovel upgrades and will slowly reveal the story of pinata island. I have read about 4 chapters, and they seem pretty interesting in a story book way. Each of them is narrated, so the young ones can still enjoy it.

One of my favorite features of the game is to find "Variant Pinatas". This is done by feeding your pinata something it would normally not eat. I fed my Shellybean (one of the sour pinatas I tamed) a gooseberry from my bush and it turned green. I got a note in my journal (more on the journal in a moment) saying that I discovered a variant pinata. You can also evolove your pinatas. I managed to feed one of my birds something in the gardenn and it turned into a different pinata species (after coccooning up). there seem to be up to 6 variants per pinata, but not every pinata evolves into antoher species. If you click on Leafos when she is wandering through your plot, she will give out hints, such as potential evolutions.

As you go, your garden grows in size. It can become pretty crazy, but you can purchase fences and such at some of the stores that open up. You can buy hats for your pinatas, or you can purchase any seed you have already discovered. I think you can even buy a pinata that has already made its residence in your garden.

Some Pinatas hate other pinatas. You will find that one species despises another species and they will duke it out, causing one of your pinatas to fall ill. Another potetntial problem is that some pinatas eat other pinatas for food. It can become an interesting balancing act if you like to have different species in your garden.

The interface is very clean and easy to navigate. Most everything resides in the upper right corner of the screen. There is a flower that tells you how close to the next garden level you are along with keeping time. Any button press descriptions will be located around the flower perimeter. The game has a day/night cycle and it is absolutely beautiful.

Every thing you touch/purchase/whack with your shovel will have a corresponding entry in your journal. The journal has clever descriptions for everything in the game. As soon as a species has visited, there is an entry telling you what you must do to make it a resident (sometimes these have a ? on them and you must figure them out) every seed you plant will have an entry with the history of that plant species and so forth.

The game is really suitable for anybody. I find it relaxing and entertaining at turns and can see myself playing this for some time. I had yesterday off and had intended to devote it to playing through Gears of War, but I just couldn't tear myself away from Viva Pinata. Well done, Rare.

I know that was a bit rambling, but I am happy to answer any other questions you may have.

More:

The graphics are brilliant. The lighting and atmosphere were incredibly well designed, but this IS rare. The characters are all interesting. Jardiniero is a terror on his wheelchair, and Seedos looks like he has braces. The pinata design is perfect and the animations are exactly what you would want them to be. The color pallette is well thought out. There is weather as well. Rain, fog, etc. I haven't seen snow, but it might be in there. I wonder if things are tied to holidays? I bet at christmas something happens.

There are leaderboards to see who has the most valuable pinata, but it doesn't look like you can sort through your friends who actually have the game, so you have to look at everyone. I haven't tried trading pinatas/parts with anyone, because it appears that I am the only one with the game, thus far.

The control scheme allows for another player to have equal control over the cursor, so Parents should have an easy time helping out their kids.

Did I mention I played this for 8 hours straight? Not many games can hold my attention span for that long. I play TONS of games (it's part of my job) and rarely do I find one this engrossing. There seems to be a perfect mix of casual gameplay and achievements (not the live achievements, just the "sense of"). Speaking of live achievements, there are 50 of them. They all make sense and I am always surprised when they pop up as the majority are "Secret".

Damn your hide, Sephirotic. I've got enough to play already!

Yeah... I'm selling my magic cards.

I'm gonna wait on this game, but it sounds like something I'd love to get. Maybe come summer it will be $40.

Nice writeup, Sephirotic; this is actually looking pretty interesting.

I love the fact that the reviews people post in the GWJ forums are often far more detailed, well-written and useful for potential buyers than the 'professional' reviews at other sites.

vbl wrote:

The agency I work for is doing a marketing campaign and website for Viva Pinata

This has got to be the one thing that's really shied me away from this game. You, vbl. No, just kidding, but everything I've heard about this game from the mouths of the developers and publishers is, "look at how directly and scientifically marketed this product is toward children! It'll be the next pokemon, statistically!" Just seems so... soulless. Like they built the game from the ground up to be an addictive kid's game with tons of tie-ins. Oh, and Major Nelson playing the theme song didn't make me any more excited.

Gary Coleman: Isn't it possible for a corporation to make people happy?

souldaddy wrote:

I'm gonna wait on this game, but it sounds like something I'd love to get. Maybe come summer it will be $40.

That's my thought too, in general on the 360 games. I'm only spending $60 on multiplayer games that I need to have during the interest window (or huge must-haves like Oblivion).

I was really interested in this when I first saw the original trailer. Good to see it's a good as it looked to be. I wonder if my (just now) five year-old would enjoy it? What am I saying? He managed to build a Total Annihilation base with queued construction when I had left it running on my workstation.

I was thinking about getting this in the hopes my g/f would like it. No other reason than it looks really cute. Though if it is to involving like it sounds, she'll just have me play while she watches.
I should probably still rent it 1st.

Hey, it even has a bargain MSRP of $49.99.

Great writeup on the game Sephirotic. I was hoping someone would post a review on this game soon as I was really intrigued by what I've seen so far. I'm not sure if this game would appeal to my kids but I think I could get some fun out if. But I'm also in the camp that finds it hard to drop $60 on this right now (that price point is just tough to get over). I'll be keeping my eye on it waiting for a price drop.

tmembrino wrote:

Great writeup on the game Sephirotic. I was hoping someone would post a review on this game soon as I was really intrigued by what I've seen so far. I'm not sure if this game would appeal to my kids but I think I could get some fun out if. But I'm also in the camp that finds it hard to drop $60 on this right now (that price point is just tough to get over). I'll be keeping my eye on it waiting for a price drop.

Read the post above yours. It's not $60. For some reason its only selling for $50, I'm not exactly sure why though.

All Microsoft first-party games will sell for $49.99, MS has said it several times before. Looks like the game has some minor interest, but anything compared to the Sims is pretty much an instant out in my book. I'd rather not remember how much of a time-sink that game was.

Aren't most MS 1st party games $50?

Yeah, but GoW says its published by MS, but costs $60. So, what's the deal there? Are they just being greedy?

Rocky wrote:

Yeah, but GoW says its published by MS, but costs $60. So, what's the deal there? Are they just being greedy? :-)

Loophole, they don't OWN Epic

Side note:

Are we still doing sell-thrus with gogamer?

Right, it's $50 (forgot about the MS first party price breaks). Well there goes my excuse for not getting this game. How the heck am I supposed to hold out now? It's not like I'm going to have any time to sink into this with all the other great games begging to be played. Somehow I felt better when I thought it was $60. It made things easier.

I can bend but won't break until $40!

Is there no demo for this game? I don't know if I would want to run over to Blockbuster and drop whatever it is they want for a rental on what may be a 5-minute experiement, but if there were a demo...

Fedaykin98 wrote:

Is there no demo for this game? I don't know if I would want to run over to Blockbuster and drop whatever it is they want for a rental on what may be a 5-minute experiement, but if there were a demo...

I think there is some type of interactive video/demo on the XBL Marketplace but I never took the time to see what it was.

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