|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rare||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 8, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
June 24, 2008 - Conventional wisdom states that generally bigger is better. However, with games this isn't always the case. When an established series goes portable, generally there are good results. We can see this with the success of handheld titles that sprung from console franchises like Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, and Dragon Ball Z.
Of course, there are always titles that go against this trend, like Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles, but generally I find these titles to be more of the exception than the rule. Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise, the newest and smallest member of the Viva Piñata family, looks like it will improve upon the original's success and will please both fans of the series as well as newcomers.The gameplay in Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise will remain largely the same as it's console big brother. The aim will still be to create a garden where little lost Piñatas can grow, breed, and thrive. You will have to tend to your land (which starts out as little more than brown mud and rocks) and turn it into a lush garden with multiple environments for potential piñatas.
One of the biggest criticisms of the original Viva Piñata was, while it appealed to many younger gamers, it ended up being a little too difficult for them. To help combat this criticism, Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise has an all new "Playground" mode, which takes out some of the more difficult elements of the game like the initial garden cleanup and the currency aspect, and just lets gamers create whatever they like in their garden with no restrictions. This makes it easier for younger or newer gamers to jump right into the gameplay. Of course, the regular mode of play will still be available for those of you who still crave the full piñata experience, but the option to tone down the difficulty will probably be a welcome change for those who were frustrated with the first title.
Another aspect of Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise that is sure to please younger (or newer) players is the inclusion of informative cutscenes. These cutscenes are unique because they will be fully animated and feature the original voices from the Viva Piñata television series. This is a great way to include gamers who haven't played the original, and it will definitely be a boon for fans of the television series.
But the biggest new feature of Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise will probably be the new intuitive use of the DS' touch controls. Because of the sim-style nature of the game, the touch controls were basically a guaranteed upgrade and incorporate a very intelligent point-and-click system. This improves the interface greatly and not only allows for easier mobility in your garden but also cuts time scrolling through menus.
The touch screen functionality also makes it much easier to gain information about your piñatas. Instead of trying to find your piñata and then looking up information manually, you are now able to simply touch a piñata and pull up all its relevant information instantly. There is also a zoom out function that allows you to view your entire garden, and all the piñatas in it will be represented by icons. You can then snap to a certain piñata by clicking on its icon. The touch functionality in this title seems to be implemented extremely well and will definitely cut down on management time and maximize play time.
The visual style of this game looks to remain largely the same. There are still many bright colors, and the graphics, while still greatly downgraded from the console version, still look great on the DS. The biggest change comes in the form of the garden environment, which has been squashed to be rendered in 2D. But the animals retain their 3D forms and still look as cute as ever!
Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise also looks to use the DS' wireless capabilities to enhance the community aspect of the game. Players will be able to find, share, and trade piñatas with other players and will also be able to unlock exclusive piñatas. This feature is somewhat reminiscent of the trading feature in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and will probably inspire a lot of community activity as well as Piñata-themed get-togethers.
So far, it looks like the Viva Piñata franchise is going to be another one of the handheld translation success stories. The DS is the perfect system for this title, and the touch controls look like a really welcome improvement over the console version. They will make this Viva Piñata one of the easiest to manage and probably most rewarding Viva Piñata titles so far. With a whole host of new features as well as new ways to play, if you love Piñatas, then you may want to keep your eye out for Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise, which is poised for release this fall!.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer