Gardening is pretty dull, unless you’re mad, old or both. So you might not think it’s the best pitch for a game. But then Viva Pinata comes along, full of dirty hoes, constant mating and general abuse of animals. Viva la watering can!
This is basically a straight port of the Xbox 360 game – a mighty impressive feat in itself – that comes with a few extra bells and whistles. The biggest change is the stylus control, which works perfectly and makes boring jobs more bearable – cracking a pinata on the head, digging up barren ground and planting seeds are now that little bit more engaging. The visuals have translated remarkably well to the DS: there are none of the ridiculously detailed 360 textures, but the overall feel of the game and the bright colors keep the feel of Viva Pinata wholly intact. Even the FMV and horrible sugary theme tune find their way in. It’s a miracle of miniaturization, and a real technical achievement.
But despite the looks, the game itself is surprisingly complex. You’ll build up a small patch of ground into a basic garden, then through attracting pinatas and buying bits and bobs it starts to snowball. This is where things start going wrong: pinatas fight each other, sour pinatas come in to ruin things for everyone, and there are one or two nasty types who turn up to mess about. A swift blow with a spade usually sorts them out, though.
It quickly boils down to micromanagement, but one of the best new DS features is a series of ‘episodes’ that tutor you in more advanced tactics. With some clever planning you can leave the small tasks to an army of helpers while you get on with the important things – like whacking the little buggers with your spade o’ justice. Pocket Paradise is one of the most engaging strategy titles on DS and, while collecting piñatas never becomes as life-consuming as something like Pokemon, it’s unlike much else in gaming.
Sep 11, 2008