Viva Piñata Review

Everyone who plays it says they love Viva Piñata – and if you own a 360, odds are pretty reasonable that it’s a game in your collection. For those of us who have been out of the loop however, we could only turn green with envy as we watched Viva Piñata pronounced as one of the consistently highest-rated games produced for the 360. I was seriously considering buying one just so I could try it out. Luckily, my bank balance can rest easy for just a little longer, as Viva Piñata is finally – finally! – available on the PC.

I really don’t think there are many people around who don’t know what Viva Piñata’s about (we’ve even reviewed it for the 360). Let me just say it’s all about creating a mellow vibe on what starts as a rocky bit of ground, with little more than a broken old shovel. First of all, you meet a lovely young lass named Leafos, who helps you out and points you in the right direction, giving you tools and advice galore. As the game progresses you’ll meet some of the other village folk, all with something different to offer which will help you to further develop your garden.

As things become more developed and well-maintained (whacking that dry old dirt with your shovel turns it into nice fertile soil, for example), you find that in addition to nosey neighbours, you’ll be visited by live piñatas, of all shapes and forms, depending on the conditions in your garden. If certain conditions are met, a piñata will come and visit; if it finds it likes the place (again, by meeting certain conditions – anything from the availability of particular fruits or flowers, or other piñatas, to having water on your section), the piñata will change from black and white to its beautiful natural colour.

As you gain experience, you’ll be able to extend the boundaries of your garden, and in doing so build more structures, flowers, fruit trees and the like, in order to attract more piñatas. You can also employ several workers from town, who will help you with watering, harvesting, and chasing off ‘sour’ piñatas, who will eat your seeds, wreck things or even attack your garden piñatas.

The piñatas themselves, as well as the garden too, are highly customisable. If you so desire, you can name them all, and even adorn them with all sorts of silly accessories. Feeding them different fruits and sweets can also affect their colour – you can really experiment quite a bit.

If it sounds pretty straightforward, well, it is. At the same time, however, the game is so charming that the gameplay doesn’t feel particularly repetitive. The visual style is gorgeous, the ‘romance dance’ for each type of piñata is clever and imaginative, and there’s some great music here too, in a range of styles that won’t have you reaching for the mute button any time soon.

The two main drawbacks to the PC version of this game are to do with the controls, which still retain their ‘360 flavour’, and issues that others have reported pertaining to the Windows Live aspect of the game, which has caused crashes. My graphics card is nearing the end of its usefulness, which has been my problem (I haven’t experienced any crashing due to Windows Live incompatibilities as some others have), but it’s hoped that a patch will be made available soon.

If you can live with these flubs (after all, most PC gamers have the patience of saints anyway), you’ll find that Viva Piñata is definitely worth the wait. And now, if you don’t mind, I have to get back to my Pretztails and Fudgehogs

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