|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rare Ltd.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 9, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
When Rare left Nintendo for Microsoft a few years ago, many longtime Nintendo fans felt it was the end of an era. Both companies seemingly worked well together and met with an abundance of success and most importantly, great games.
Unfortunately, Rare's track record with Microsoft started off a little sketchy with titles that didn't rate extremely well with critics or resonate with consumers. It wasn't until the original Viva Piñata was released that Nintendo fans began to truly feel the void left by Rare's departure. Luckily for these fans, Microsoft doesn't have a handheld to speak of, leaving the door open for Rare and Nintendo to rekindle their relationship, if only in portable form.
The concept behind Pocket Paradise is a simple one, take the stellar Viva Piñata, implement touch screen controls, and try to cram it all onto a tiny DS cart. Amazingly enough, the end result is quite impressive. Graphically, nobody will confuse this game with its console brethren, but it holds up incredibly well on the system's two small screens. The background is made entirely of 2D sprites but still manages to be visually appealing. This is thanks mostly to the bright and vibrant colors of your garden, the pulled out three-quarters view used, and the respectable polygonal piñatas wandering about. For a DS game, the piñatas look exceptional, although they do fail to maintain some of the charm that was a staple in previous console iterations. Still, everything looks better than you might expect, given that it has clearly been scaled back to fit on a DS cart.
Surprisingly, when it comes to gameplay, Pocket Paradise doesn't miss a beat. Players are still tasked with managing, maintaining, and evolving their own garden in an attempt to lure piñatas to visit, set up a permanent residence, and eventually reproduce. Every piñata has its own sets of odd requirements that need to be met before they will visit, move in, and romance. For example, you could need a certain kind of flower in your garden for a certain piñata to appear, feed it apples and build it a home to make it stay, and feed it another type of piñata to make it ready to romance. Balancing the needs of all your piñatas while maintaining your garden can be a herculean task at times, but it is every bit as satisfying as in previous iterations.
Fortunately, Pocket Paradise eases you into the experience from the outset. Players start off with a series of episodes that function as tutorials. These episodes will teach you the basics necessary to begin cultivating your garden and managing your initial piñatas. As the game progresses, more episodes will become available that further clue players into the more advanced techniques needed to improve their gardens. The included tutorials do a great job of explaining everything you need to know to create your perfect garden and make Pocket Paradise an excellent starting point for anyone interested in the franchise, especially those who have never played a Viva Piñata title before.
Pocket Paradise further helps out newcomers with the inclusion of the new Playground mode. This mode allows players to create a garden using a semi-controllable random generator, and then populate it with whatever they like without having to worry about money or meeting piñatas' needs. From here you can interact with piñatas, make any changes you wish, and just have a fun time with no real consequences.