Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise - first look

No less than 30 new Pinatas have been drafted in for the sequel. Trivia fans (or hardcore Pinata players) might like that know that the grand total of Pinatas available to whack with a rusty shovel now reaches over 100. And that should keep you all busy.

New surface types (sand and snow) make their debut and both will have different effects on your garden's inmates. The Pinatas also have more behavioural patterns too, so making them engage in a bit of nookie might not be as straightforward as getting them drunk and promising to make them movie stars. Everyone's got their price though, right? If you're good enough to get to the point where your backyard's brimming with Pinatas you'll now be able to easily cycle through each one with the bumper buttons. And that's a lot easier than having to find the little buggers using the camera. Our first garden only had about six of the same breed in there, so we were okay.

A big new feature, and one that was apparently requested for by the game's thriving online community, is drop-in / drop-out co-op play. As its title suggests, a second player can pick up a pad and press Start to instantly become a second shovel in your mate's or daughter's garden. As player two you can then help around the place, maybe tidying things up a little or planting and watering seeds. As you do this a cursor fills up around your spade and rewards the helper. Full details on this are still being ironed out though. We also expect this option to be fully playable over Xbox Live, but no one from Rare was willing to confirm this. They'd only deny it while trying to hide a hint of a smile. We were told that all your gardening activities will be recorded and placed onto Xbox Live leaderboards.

The Xbox Live Vision Camera is also getting wheeled out for the sequel. So for the 12 people out there that own one you'll be pleased to know that by holding special Viva Pinata cards in front of the lens (in broad daylight, we might add) you'll be able to unlock special treats.

Before we journeyed to the developer we were asked what our favourite animal was. We said monkey but somewhere along the way that turned into warthog. Each journo was then given a pack of cards and therewas one Pinata with our name on it. Hold this in front of the Vision Cam and, banjo!, sorry bingo!, something new pops up that wants his oats.

The demo cards we were shown won't be for sale - the developers don't want to charge for them (can you believe it?) - and have actually created a system in which players can create their own cards. You take a picture using the new, in-game camera mode, upload it to the interwebs, and the game will make that pic into a virtual card for you. It can then be printed out and waved in front of the camera, granting you a giraffe with a hat and moustache, a bottle of medicine for your sick gorilla, or possibly even just accelerating the clock by 12 hours if that's what you wanted. You don't even have to print the card out - you can download its picture to your video iPod or other device, and the camera should be able to read it.

It's also worth noting that a true sandbox mode has been added this time around, which will find the player with infinite cash, all the good tools, and pinatas whose needs are both simplified and clearly spelled out in thought bubbles above their heads. It's part of the effort to make the game more noob-friendly, but we're thinking veterans are going to get into it as well. If you can't get that Chewnicorn to stay this time, you're just not trying. And we hope you don't have any pets here in the real world.

Below: Gameplay B-roll vid

Courtesy of CVGwith additional reporting by Eric Bratcher.

May 14, 2008