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Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise

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We can't help but feel that Viva Pinata has found its spiritual home on the DS. Now don't interpret that statement as meaning that we didn't like the 360 version - on the contrary, we love it and still suffer embarrasingly late bed times at its merciless embrace to this very day. And don't think that we're referring to the "Nintendo is f0r teh kidd3hs" misconception either. The original VP is one hell of a textured, hardcore experience when you plumb its deceptively cuddly depths, and none of that seems to have been cut out in this new version.

No, what we mean is that via the streamlining afforded by the DS hardware, all of the (admittedly small) niggles we once had seem to have been ironed out completely and all of the things that we loved work even better. A great game on its perfect platform? Could well turn out to be.

Take for instance the sheer level of immersion in this new Pocket Paradise iteration. Viva Pinata was always a game that would suck you in like a hoover in a whirlpool in a black hole, but the extra accessibility of the DS version makes it a potentially very dangerous monopoliser of lives indeed.

Naturally, the touch screen controls work beautifully with the hybrid terraforming/RTS mechanics at the core of VP, the instinctive two-part targeting system working better than ever before, with a quick point, drag or tap putting everything you need at your disposal. But beyond the obvious, the stylus control has brought a host of subtle but highly beneficial tweaks to the game.

Building your garden? Brilliantly organic. The old tile-based path building has gone in favour of a "draw your own terrain" approach, whereby flowing strokes of the stylus dictate the route of your installation. Viva Pinata has always been a lush-looking game, but this new, more free-flowing approach to personalising your garden's layout takes things to a whole new level.

And in the spirit of keeping the player immersed within their creation as much as possible, Rare has implemented a new, in-garden, drop down menu system in order to make shopping, hiring and building as slick, quick and flowing as they could possibly be. There's very little sense of leaving your beloved garden behind, so owner/pinata separation anxiety should be kept at a minimum this time around.

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