Why I Love: Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise's cheesecake

The cheesecake in Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise is a wonderful thing. It is, perhaps, my favorite thing in the game, because of what it represents. All of TiP’s creativity, depth, charm, and weirdness can be summed up by that one slice of delicious dessert. But let’s back up a bit first.

In case you’re unfamiliar, your mission in the Viva Pinata games is to cultivate a garden to your liking, filling it with the plants and decorations you find most pleasing, while also enticing the local wildlife - all named after candy or other sweet confections - to take up residence. Wooing a couple of Whirlms to your garden takes no more than a nice bit of lawn, but larger animals like Roarios and Horstachios take far more effort. You don’t 'win' Viva Pinata (unless you consider having a garden full of Quackberries winning, which I most certainly do), you simply tailor it to your own tastes. It’s delightful and also deceptively deep, with systems layering upon systems and intertwining with other branching pathways, which brings us right on back to that cheesecake.

There are sour pinata that will do all sorts of terrible things to your garden if left unchecked. They’ll cough up candy that makes your resident pinatas sick, they’ll smash things, turn fruit rotten, and wilt plants. They are, to be blunt, a real pain in the ass. If you can tame one, then it’ll turn its frown upside down and take up residence in your garden, but each sour pinata has different needs: the sour Smelba (skunk) needs to eat four roses, and the sour Sherbat needs to chow down on a jack o’lantern. All of those comes with their own complications, but the sour Mallowolf needs to eat three Hoghurts. A Hoghurt is not a naturally-appearing pinata, however: it’s a mutant you get by feeding a slice of cheesecake to a Rashberry. So the first step would be getting a Rashberry, then.

To attract a wild Rashberry, you need to have a gooseberry bush and some chilis growing in your garden. Not terribly difficult, but that’s only good enough to get a wild Rashberry to visit your garden. To get them to stay, they have to eat two rotten gooseberries and two rotten chilis. (You could wait around for them to rot naturally, but it’s much faster to just tap them with your shovel - little Master Gardener trick for ya.) If they take too long to get to your decaying produce, the fruit will degrade past the point of consumption and you’ll have to get some freshly rotten offerings. Once the paper piggie tucks in, he’s all yours. Groovy.

Ok, so you’ve got yourself a Rashberry resident. Hooray! Now you just need the cheesecake. To get that, you have to get a bottle of milk, then have the Tinker work his magic on it to turn it into cheese, and then have him tinker that to turn it into cheesecake. Then you just tell the Rashberry to eat it; a few sparkles later, it will have transformed into a snorting Hoghurt. Ta-da! You now have one Hoghurt in your garden, ready for the sour Mallowolf to eat! Just...two more to go. (It’s ok, Gretchen Fetchem will catch one for you for a small fee.)

It’s a very complex series of events required to solve a very simple problem: prevent the sour Mallowolf from messing with your garden. If you’d rather not arse around with rotting fruit and tinkered milk, then you can just save up to buy the Mallowolf block for the Tower of Sour, which will prevent the jerk from visiting ever again. Each approach has its merits: Buying the Mallowolf block is a quick and easy fix, but taking the time to tame a Mallowolf not only gets him to stop wrecking your stuff, it also inspires him to chase away other destructive intruders.

The ability to get elbows deep into something or bypass it entirely is what makes Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise so damn incredible. There’s tons of stuff in the game - pinatas to attract, color variants to discover, star mutations to chase, romances to consummate - but the game doesn’t pass judgment on what you choose to do. Don’t feel like discovering all the color variants for the Flutterscotches? You don’t have to. But if you do, you’ll end up with a dazzling rainbow of butterflies flittering around your garden (and you’ll attract a Jameleon in the process). There’s a wealth of secrets to unearth, but nobody’s forcing you to go down that particular rabbit hole. Or Bunnycomb hole, I suppose.

You quite possibly missed Trouble in Paradise the first time it came around, or assumed its immensely adorable exterior indicated a game for kids. Its inclusion on Rare Replay for Xbox One gives you another shot at discovering the copious joys of paper animal husbandry, whether you want to delicately dabble or get really down and dirty.

Also, the milk is cheaper if you get it from a Moozipan instead of the store. Now, in order to attract a Moozipan, you first need to grow enough long grass...