Viva Piñata questions what it is to be a man, and whether I'm truly an adult. Can a man with a job and adult responsibilities really be held with respect when he can sit there and tolerate - no, enjoy - the delights of raising dancing, prancing, Technicolor sugar vessels?
The answer is yes. Viva Piñata is a game that defies the traditional kid/adult barrier of gaming. While on the outside it's a colourful mess of cutesy-wootsey nonsense, some light digging will uncover a game more nefariously addictive than Willy Wonka mescaline treats.
Originating on the Xbox 360, Viva Piñata makes you raise a selection of darling little papier-mâché animals, and use them (and their surroundings) to cajole yet more species into your domain.
When they're there, you need to make sure they're content, happy in their environment, and eventually convince them that it's business time, so that you can fill your garden with their babies - which you can sell, trade online with other wannabe piñateers, or even force to perform disgusting, incestuous acts. If you want, you can create an entire family out of their own brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers - it's rather perverse actually.
But wouldn't you know it, your garden isn't all about rutting. You can also grow and care for plants and flowers, which can be used to evolve piñatas, lure in particular beasts or convert the evil bastard sour piñatas to your own sickly religion.
These miscellaneous flora can also be used to garner the game's currency, chocolate coins. Chillis, for example, can be manipulated with fertiliser to turn your garden into a green-fingered Dragon's Den overnight.
This is where the true addiction lies in the game - Rare have succeeded in creating a world that drip-feeds you success (and achievement points, LIVE fans), while it levels you up at such a rate that just as you feel bored, you'll get something different to do or a new piñata to fawn over.
You'll be so curious as to see what they do, or how you can manipulate your garden, that you'll keep playing way past what would be called sane hours.
Climax's PC version also builds on the 360's version by adding in keyboard and mouse support - hoorah! This clearly lends itself to garden management, such as grassing terrain and digging ponds.
However, the menus are unchanged, and still force you to select things in the top corner of the screen and making you negotiate the at-times frustrating 360's menu system. This, compounded with the usual Windows LIVE interface nonsense of assuming that we're all surgically attached to a control pad, is an irritation.
These annoyances aside, Viva Piñata is a tight, gorgeous-looking game. The graphics are easily the most colourful I've seen outside of bizarre Japanese MMOs. Even the most hardened will find themselves astounded by this conversion - it's even smoother than the 360, and that's impressive.
The graphical beauty makes it impossible to not fall into the wonderland of your garden, where the clicking, chirping and barking fauna feel like they're alive. You'll find yourself making the garden great, and of bringing more of these creatures into the world.
Viva Piñata is great for gamers of any age. If you're a casual player, play it for an hour at a time with your kids and it'll go down a storm, and if you're a power gamer you'll find many hidden delights.
There's so much to do, and so many things to discover, that you'll be wandering the gardens for many a moon. Just forget that this game has a multicoloured horse on the cover, close your eyes, and get lost in the madness.
- Visually stunning
- Fun for all ages
- Insanely addictive
- Interface not perfect
- Windows LIVE still irks