Gardening seemed like a strange basis for a game, though thankfully, Rare managed to pull it off fantastically in 2006 with their release of Viva Piñata. Two years on and the candy-filled animals return for the true sequel (discounting Viva Piñata: Party Animals). This time round the story behind Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is more understandable and clearly visible: Professor Pester and the sour Piñatas have wiped the Piñata database clean of all Piñata records. It’s the player’s job to prevent further disruption and to recover the records.
Controlling the familiar cursor seen in the previous title, the game starts players off in a garden with the basics, including a few plants and paving. Similarly to the previous title, Leafos is once again on hand to provide players with a tutorial and Seedos also returns for you to hit ask for seeds. The more advanced gardener will be pleased to know there is an option to skip the tutorial, though it can prove to be helpful; specially with the new features.
One of the most obvious new features is the ability to leave your garden’s boundaries; leaving the boundaries gives the player access to various places and objects such as the label designer and a crate for packing Piñatas off for challenges. As well as leaving the garden boundaries, you can also leave the garden itself. Using the signposts around the garden, players can access the Desert Dessert and the Piñarctic. In these areas, players can set traps and use bait to capture Piñatas which specialize in the habitat. Once a Piñata falls for your trap, the crate is delivered to your main garden and can be unpacked, ready to become a visitor in your garden. Unfortunately, a lot of the time you find your traps failing and it can prove to be a waste of chocolate coins. The new habitats open up new options such as the snow and sand surface packets, as well as items, plants and the Piñatas themselves. I would have liked to have seen more done with the new areas, possibly even had the choice of running a true garden there, but it’s still a very welcome addition to the game.
Unlike the first, Viva Piñata: TIP contains co-operative play, which can be done over Xbox Live and locally with up to four players. The owner of the garden has full control whilst the guest will only have the option to use the watering can, shovel and surface packets. From my experience, I never witnessed any lag whilst playing online and thoroughly enjoyed helping fellow gardeners – especially those new to the game. The major letdown in the co-op is the slightly awkward camera angle when players are at opposite ends of the garden – mainly when a big garden is involved.
Arguably the most exciting new feature within Viva Piñata: TIP is Piñata Vision, in which players can scan Piñata Vision cards in order to unlock certain Piñatas and accessories. The process of holding a card in front of the Xbox LIVE Vision camera sounds pretty simple but this isn’t the case. The settings have to be spot on otherwise the process will fail; from the lighting to the focus on the camera, it can be challenging. Once you’ve “perfected” the Piñata Vision, you will be unlocking new Piñatas and accessories with ease.
There are many more new features I could have mentioned but Rare have jam-packed Viva Piñata: TIP with so many, it would almost be impossible to mention them all. As well as new features, Rare have also improved on some of the old features. This includes adding more items and objects for the shops available within the Piñata village. For example: Willy Builder now has the option to remove obstacles so new Piñata can visit your garden. There’s also the option to buy trains for your garden, one I highly recommend for the comedy value of a Piñata colliding with it.
Rather than challenges randomly popping up out of the blue, players can now access challenges from the in-game menu. The challenges are mostly obtaining certain Piñata at full candiosity. Once they have been obtained, players simply need to pack them in the box and send them to Piñata Central where they get rewarded with various coins and objects. Another change to the challenges is that they are now split into regions. It’s a good way of splitting up the challenges but it loses the whole “magical” world feel.
Graphically, Viva Piñata: TIP is a delight to look at. The vibrant colours stand out and prove a game doesn’t have to be dark to be good. Every detail, even in the Piñata introductory cutscenes is superb. However, I was devastated when I first loaded up the game to not find the embarrassingly catchy theme tune filling my ears once again. Despite this, there are still some very familiar sounds from the original which will appeal to players young and old.
Unlike the original Viva Piñata, the achievements for the latest instalment could take a lot longer to unlock the full 1000 GamerScore. Completing every challenge in all the regions will almost certainly prove to be a challenge for even the most-experience gardeners though at the same time achievable. Once again we are treated to a flurry of secret achievements which mainly consist of unlocking certain Piñatas and completing some bizarre tasks such as playing golf with seeds.