It's also remarkably similar to Pokemon. The overall point of the game is to collect the biggest and rarest pinata, and collecting all 60 is undeniably compelling. At the start of the game, the pinatas come fairly thick and fast but then they stop and you need to start working harder to get them. It's certainly a challenge, not just a primary colour-obsessed pre-school toy, as it initially looks.But small problems start to emerge: the pinata food chain is well worked out and means that while you begin by breeding Whirlms to attract Sparrowmints, the Sparrow-mints will probably then be the prey of something even bigger like a Fizzlybear. Fair enough. But maintaining harmony in your garden is near impossible, leaving you to contemplate throwing yourself onto the nearest rake. It's not unusual to finally attract a big, rare pinata into your garden only for it then to just decide it's not happy and bugger off. Or for an alert to pop up on your screen too late that a pinata is being eaten by another pinata. Or the Hunter (one of the many characters that exist only to make your life more difficult) is battering one of them with a solid object. By the time you get to the scene there's just a colourful pile of sweets where your Horstachio was once
happily grazing just minutes earlier, which all your other pinatas are happily tucking into.
CALL OF THE MILD
Still, if you've just spent the best part of five hours getting the conditions right to get that pinata to move into your garden in the first place, thinking about it will be the last thing you'll want to do. You'll be too busy throwing your pansies out of your pram. On the plus side, if your garden goes completely to shite with your raft of pinatas puking on poisonous mushrooms and exploding all over the place, at least you get the option to buy the pinatas you once had from the village pinata hunter - it's just that you might have to spend a few hours first growing and selling thistle heads to raise the money. Urrgh.
Perhaps, just like a real-life garden, there will eventually be the equivalent of a big, nature-killing frost around every corner. Whether you've got the stamina to keep going really depends on how much you want to see 60 different types of pinata - and they are all very cute - and how much you enjoy turning a patch of mud into a colourful, living pinata paradise.
The truth is, Viva Pinata is a game that gets under your skin and keeps you playing, while leaving you questioning whether you actually enjoyed a single second of it after- wards. Rare have undoubtedly created something beautiful, and something potentially universally appealing, but also something that will undoubtedly leave some gamers as frustrated as others are hooked.
Which camp you fit into depends on how much you want to watch a pair of Lickatoads enjoying a wallow in your freshly-dug pond while a pretty little Buzzlegum checks out your prize pansies.
Viva Pinata is cute and compelling - but also frustrating and repetitive... as well as surprisingly kid-unfriendly in places.
- A triumph of trial and error
- As cute as a rainbow-coloured kitten
- Not enough game