E3 06: Viva Pinata

The next big game from Rare will be a brand-new franchise called Viva Pinata. An original idea by game developer Rare, the game will debut this holiday, just a few months after the tie-in CGI animated cartoon debuts on American television. The game is not based directly on the show, but instead takes place in the same world of Viva Pinata Island.

In Viva Pinata, pinatas are living creatures. You tend a garden to attract them - if your dirt looks particularly inviting, worms will make your garden their home. They in turn attract sparrows who want to eat them. Grow some grass and snakes move in, and cartoon carrots will logically attract cartoon rabbits. Since all the pinatas have candy-based names, this food chain is a particularly sugary one. Your garden is threatened from time to time by bad pinatas, but they can be reformed and made to be positive members of your little microcosm.

While there is a linear story to guide players, the game doesn't really have an ending - it's an open-ended, Sims-style creative sandbox world with the collectible creature elements of Pokemon. The game will leverage Xbox Live heavily, allowing players to send creatures and elements from their garden to anyone on their Friends List. Two players can cooperatively tend a garden as well. Could this kid-oriented playground become a guilty pleasure for adults? We'll know by the end of the year.

May 11, 2006