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Rare's 'garden sim' returns for a second throw of the dice, with promises of new features and more...
Despite being a bit broken in more than a few ways, we have to admit to having quite a soft spot for Viva Pinata. The first Xbox 360 title from Rare after they produced the double header of Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo for the console's launch in 2005, Viva Pinata's playful characters and Latino visual style proved that there were still plenty of creative juices flowing through the halls of the UK studio.
So, two years after the original, the Horstachios, Lickatoads, and Cinnamonkeys are back on Xbox 360 in Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise. Set for release in tandem with a Nintendo DS version of the original, Trouble in Paradise aims to be game that (in the words of Rare) "people would play", a nod to its predecessor's lacklustre performance at retail.
But can it succeed? TVG walked through the new pastures of Pinata Island recently (otherwise known as Spring Showcase 2008) to find out more...
Take Me Back.Despite its best intentions, the original Viva Pinata wasn't best suited to the younger, more casual audience that Microsoft had hoped for. The garden management was fairly limited thanks to its restricted size, and trying to attract some pinatas into the player's oasis was the definition of patience...not exactly a trait most kids are associated with. There was also very little storyline, and therefore very little drive once a certain level was achieved.
Fast-forward to Rare's objectives for Trouble in Paradise, which is being tailored to suit a broader audience...and this time, the studio actually seems to be mean it.
Two major features in the game certain suggest that things are moving in the right direction. The first is the expansion of the two-player co-op gameplay, allowing an adult to play the game in tandem with their kid/younger sibling. Further thought has gone into the co-op play in Trouble in Paradise than just throwing in an extra cursor; the second player also has the best tools unlocked for them, injecting a greater sense of freedom to the game and lowering the chances of the little ADHD-suffering whelps tiring quite so readily. It's also worth pointing out that the co-op gameplay includes drop-in/drop-out functionality. The second major mechanic introduced will be a 'free-style' mode, which strips away a lot of the strategy in the standard game, opens up all the shops, and features infinite amounts of dosh to spend, which again, should mean that kids won't have to worry about developing their patience skills here.
Even on the seemingly tranquil and peace-loving Pinata Island, there seems to be an over-reliance on bureaucracy. Although the pinatas are care-fee and nurtured for birthday parties the world over (especially in North America), the cogs of the machine are driven by towering records of every pinata type there is. Which is where the new and improved storyline comes in; for one reason or another, the records over every pinata are destroyed, throwing in a sub-plot for players to try and restore the catalogue by collecting as many different 'species' of pinata as possible. Whilst some will no doubt welcome the addition, let's just hope that it doesn't bog down the otherwise open gameplay.
There's A Party At My House Elsewhere, Rare is refining and expanding elements of the original just as you'd expect. There'll be 30 new pinatas to collect this time around, with some tailored to the new environments added to Pinata Island, including scorpions (s'morepions) and camels (camellos) in the desert area, and penguins (pengums) in the white-topped snowy area. The size of the default garden won't be larger however; instead, Rare are making it 'better judged'. Make of that what you will. The romance mechanic of the original naturally makes a return for the second outing, though this time there's a new camera for the maze sequences. Rare also confirmed at the San Francisco event that twins can also be born in Trouble in Paradise, although it's unclear whether they're a random occurrence or something that appears according to a player's actions.
The introduction of toys in the game expand the interactive possibilities for gamers, with the example of a train set used at the Showcase. When the red signal shows on the track, the train stops, allowing flying pinatas to land on top of it and fill its enjoyment stat bar. So-called 'Golf sweets' have also been added, allowing players to play a round of mini-golf around the garden, which throws in the prospect of some pretty creative obstacles being used when Trouble in Paradise lands later in the year.
But whilst these are the sorts of refinements you'd expect in a sequel, Rare's innovative use of the Xbox Live Vision Camera came as something of a surprise (even it's a feature lightly borrowed from Eye of Judgment). A new photo mode in the game allows players to take shots of pinatas and their garden at will, and unload them up to the upcoming Viva Pinata community website. From there, other players can download and print off photos of individual pinatas, which are given specific barcodes. Using the Live Vision Camera, the barcode will be read, unlocking the pinata in the new player's game (accessories included), offering a different way of 'gifting' items between the Xbox Live Community. The cards can also capture the various surfaces of different gardens, as well as the time of day, expanding the customisation on offer.
It's also worth remembering that Rare aren't planning to sell the cards at retail, keeping the feature within the control of the community; though whether Microsoft will agree later down the line is debatable...
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Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise
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