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Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise

But you might be forgiven for assuming that past all of the tactile bells and whistles, Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise is just going to be a cut-down version of what you've already played. You'd be wrong on two counts, but don't feel bad. You'll be glad you were. For a start, this is going to be a seriously big game. So much so that Rare told us that the sheer scale has been the bane of their playtesters' lives - though no doubt it's been a happy burden to bear.

The play time is promised to be huge. All of the original characters and Pinatas are included, as well as a whole bunch of new ones, and we were given a tantalising promise of hidden surprises as well. No details on what they're going to be of course, but the size of the grin that accompanied that particular statement spoke volumes.

The 360 game was great because it truly let everyone play successfully at their own pace. A gentle, narrowly-focused, pottering approach would work wonders, but so would diving in and frantically micro-managing your flora and fauna as if they were part of an agricultural StarCraft. Rare really seems to be going all-out to maintain the franchise's balance between hardcore play and ambient enjoyment throughout this new edition, and we were shown some mightily cool new features which have been implemented to boost the appeal to fans of both approaches.

Pocket Paradise will now drop in twelve increasingly advanced training episodes in order to progress the player from a seed planting newbie to a veritable horticultural alchemist across the course of the game. All of them are skippable, but they'll make becoming uber-pro a very friendly experience for those who want it, while throwing the more sedate players a few handy hints as well.

Similarly, as the game tracks your pinatas' development from visitor to resident to fully paid up, domesticated mating machine, you'll recieve up-to date stats for them on the top screen. As a result, you'll rarely be running around trying to keep track of everything, or be stuck thinking about what to do next. Again, it will keep relaxed players topped up with ideas, but let hardcore players plough through with the focus of a laser on Ritalin. And naturally, the screens can be flipped at any time to allow you to pore through your achievements via the stylus. Throw in a real-time map showing the current location of each of your garden's inhabitants and you've got all the tools you need to keep a hold on things, however anarchic you choose to make them.

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