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While it may not feel like a true sequel, Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise is near papery-perfection. Everything that was great about the original Viva Pinata is back, with more pinatas and a few tweaks and improvements. Some additions disappoint, like the finicky, nearly impossible to use “pinata vision” which requires a vision cam and special trading cards. The best additions leave the original gameplay intact, like the new pinatas (there’s a freaking dinosaur!), new terrains and new plant species to experiment with.
The bulk of Trouble in Paradise plays identically to the first Viva Pinata; you’re given a plot of land that you can cultivate any way you want, and depending what’s in your garden certain pinatas will decide to make their home in it. Being a successful gardener means being in tune with the pinata ecosystem, and getting the most exotic and desirable pinatas requires many steps up the food chain. Plant a few carrots to attract a Bunnycomb, and the Bunnycomb will in turn attract a Pretztail who wants to eat it, and so forth. Part of the addiction with Trouble in Paradise is that there’s always something new within your grasp – planting one new seed can attract three new species, which then attract more species, which unlock new abilities, and suddenly it’s 3 AM and you need to get up for work in 4 hours.
The 28 new pinata species are easily the biggest draw for fans of the first Viva Pinata. Of course, you won’t get any of the really cool ones (Tigermisu, Polollybear and Choclodocus are some favorites) until you’ve put in some serious gardening time. The downside is that the first few hours of the game play out nearly identically to the first – romancing Whirlms and Sparrowmints and planting daisies and buttercups may seem too familiar for Pinata veterans. Arctic and desert regions have been added to spice things up, but don’t really add much other than being a means to acquire new species. You can’t have a garden in these regions; you simply visit, lay traps to attract the pinata you want, and then transfer captured pinatas to your garden.
Above: Setting a trap for a Syrupent in the Dessert Desert (Sweetle in foreground)
A lot of old pinatas return, and are left unchanged for the most part, except that some have different appear/resident/romance requirements. Domestics from the first game like Cluckles and Kittyfloss now appear in the wild like regular pinatas instead of being purchasable at Paper’s pets. Factory request challenges are also back, but are more structured this time. Instead of requests for pinatas (for example, a kid in China wants a S’morepion for his birthday party), popping up at the most random, inopportune times, you can now fill requests for pinatas at your leisure, and even browse requests to pick and choose which ones you want to do first. As in the original, pinatas are always magically returned in one piece after being sent away to parties. Better not to question it.
As the subtitle implies, Trouble in Paradise isn’t all polychromatic utopia – ruffians and sour pinatas are back in full force, frequently countering your hard work with their mischief. From making your pinatas sick, to messing up your landscaping and even breaking up pinata romances, sours are designed to disrupt your work and thwart your progress. It sounds annoying, but the ability to turn the sours good and ban ruffians from entering your garden makes it a welcome challenge. Like the original, it’ll take time to sort them all out, but once you do you’ll never have to deal with them again if you don’t want to.
A handful of minor features have been added, all of which are easily ignorable. You’re now able to teach your piñatas tricks with a special wand, which is rather silly, because it’s still more enjoyable to simply watch your pinatas stroll around the garden peacefully than wave a stick at them to make them dance. Another feature that encourages pinata interaction is the addition of toys and train sets you can buy for your pinatas can play with, but it just doesn’t seem like natural pinata behavior. Can’t pinatas just be pinatas? All they really want to do is nap and eat and romance each other.
It’s slightly disappointing that TIP often feels more like an expansion than a new game, but deep down we’re relieved that the core gameplay we loved so much from the original has been left intact. If you didn’t like the original Viva Pinata, you won’t like Trouble in Paradise, and if you only mildly enjoyed the original, the new content won’t be enough to interest you. But for more serious pinata fans, as well as newcomers to Pinata Island, Trouble in Paradise is nearly flawless.
Sep 15, 2008