Viva Pinata

Wednesday 19 April 2006
Apparently the brainchild of Chris Stamper and the Banjo team, this game of environmental management and creature collection looks like an attempt to blend some of the most rampantly successful and yet hardest-to-imitate concepts in videogaming: Pokemon and The Sims, with a little Animal Crossing for good measure.

Microsoft is certainly not shy of the Pokemon comparison, as the deal with Saturday-morning kids TV network 4kids for a Viva Pinata CG animated series, and the expected march into merchandising, implies. But tempting as it is to intimate that Rare still can't quite bring itself to let go of Nintendo's apron strings, this looks like the most original design to come from the studio in years.

The concept is that pinatas, the candy-stuffed papier-mache creatures beaten open by children at parties, live in the wild on Pinata Island. The TV show will take place on one half of the island, and feature named pinatas whose neurotic, self-aware wisecracking aims them straight at both the parents and children of the Pixar generation.

The game, however, takes place on the other half, and doesn't feature these characters (although crossover references are expected). Instead, the player will sculpt the unruly landscape into a garden - with the help of some strange, masked humanoid inhabitants - aiming to create a balanced ecosystem that will ultimately attract and sustain over 60 species of pinata.