Gaming Today Reviews Viva Piñata (PC)
From the first time I heard about Viva Piñata, I was immediately interested. It was one of those situations where you just knew the game was going to be good, and you were set on playing it as soon as possible. Sure enough, once the game was released last year on Xbox 360, I picked it up and was rewarded with a really fun game, albeit one that led to an embarrassing exchange with an employee at the local Wal-Mart. I championed the game for months, trying to convince others to give it a try.
More than a year later, I’ve now got the PC version sitting on my desk, and I was convinced I was done with the game. But sure enough, after less than 20 minutes of starting a new garden, I was sucked right back in. There’s something really satisfying about luring in all sorts of new piñata to your garden, whether it’s intentionally or unintentionally. (For me, it’s usually the latter.) Sure, the game doesn’t control nearly as well and isn’t all that great of a port, but the game certainly deserves a second chance on a platform where it might have a better chance of selling.
The premise is simple enough: manage a garden by tending to the land and constructing various structures and planting trees, plants and flowers so that you can lure in every piñata possible. Each individual piñata has its own various requirements before it’ll visit and subsequently move in, ranging from having a certain amount of grass to the time of day to already having certain piñata as residents.
You’ll start off with a patch of dirt and the poorest excuse you’ll ever see for a shovel and slowly work your way up, gaining one tool at a time as you’re eased into the different mechanics of the game. It works as a fine tutorial that doesn’t isolate you from the game itself, and will help kids and older folks alike find their footing in the game.
The isometric view and controls seem like a no-brainer fit for a keyboard and mouse, but rather than adapt the controls to do so, Viva Piñata on PC instead handles exactly like the Xbox 360 version, instead you’re left to usually nothing but the mouse (except for a few situations) to emulate the 360 controller. For simplicity’s sake it might make sense in some regards, but to not even provide an option for hotkeys and other keyboard use is inexcusable. To make matters worse, the lack of widescreen support will leave those of you with 16:9 or 16:10 displays out in the dark, forcing you to play with a stretched resolution, since there’s also no option to play in a window.
But the game remains solid. There’s a terrific feeling you get for properly managing your garden and bringing in all sorts of piñatas, and the game is as fun as it ever was, and will certainly lead to a lot of awkward questions about where babies come from.
Incest and sexual references aside, the actual breeding minigame is worse than ever. When you instruct two piñata to mate, you’re brought into a simple maze-like area where you need to guide one piñata to reach the other. That’s fine, but each type of piñata has only one “maze” meaning that you’ll be repeating that same instance over and over and over again – there’s no option to skip it or have it done automatically. And the problem doesn’t stem from difficulty; the mazes remain easy throughout the course of the game, but instead it’s the amount of time you waste doing these challenges that will get on your nerves. For the most basic challenge, you’re looking at 10-15+ seconds every time you choose to have piñatas mate, including unskippable transitions as you go between your garden and the minigame.
As annoying as those minigames are, it’s hard to be angry with the game because it’s so damn cute. The brightly-colored graphics are easy on the eyes and will have kids enthralled, even if they don’t quite grasp what they’re supposed to do in the game. The music is equally as bright and cheery, and it’s hard not to smile at the silly antics that each piñata has.
Even though the game remains a sloppy port with extremely poor controls, it’s undeniably fun. It might not be your kind of game, just as The Sims appeals to some and is hated by others, but it’s a relaxing and enjoyable game for kids and adults alike. While the graphics will clearly be the draw for the younger crowd, older gamers will appreciate the depth and satisfaction from properly planning their garden.
An extremely sloppy port that makes navigating the game’s menus a real challenge.
They don’t look as good as they did a year ago, but thanks to the art style and bright, friendly colors, they still get the job done.
The soundtrack and cutesy sound effects are what you’d expect, which is to say, competent, but nothing to write home about.
A fine game that can appeal to gamers of any age but is marred by poor controls and a lack of effort on the port. Play it with an Xbox 360 controller if you can.