We're going wild and wooly this week with games that are centered on the animal kingdom. Everybody knows about the wildly popular Pokémon series, so instead I'm going to talk about three other games that involve creatures in different ways.
This colorful simulation game involves growing and decorating a garden full of living piñatas that resemble a wide variety of animals. It may look like it's for kids at first glance, but it's got plenty of all-ages appeal. Players must discover how to attract various species to their garden and learn how to breed them and make them happy. Like real animals, some piñatas eat plants and fruits, while others are carnivores (candyvores?) and can only be convinced to remain in your garden if you allow them to hunt prey piñata species.
While collecting and breeding piñatas, the player must meet certain goals from Piñata Central in order to progress in the game, unlock new shops and items, and discover rare species. There are also the requisite bad guys, who will attempt to mess up the player's garden unless dealt with in various ways, and these baddies get progressively meaner and more dangerous to the piñatas as the game goes on. In fact, the game's biggest flaw is that there's no way to get rid of the worst of these enemies, Professor Pester, for good, but fortunately he can be bugged by using a particular fence layout if a player just wants to enjoy creating gardens and raising piñatas.
Trouble in Paradise is the sequel to the original Viva Piñata, and improves on the original game in almost every way. There are more habitats, creatures, and decorations, more objects can be put in each garden, and there's no limit on the number of gardens that can be created. It's a well-crafted game that can be enjoyed in many different ways, and will appeal to creative types, collectors, animal lovers, and anybody who thinks it's funny to watch a fox piñata chow down on a bunny piñata.
Known in some circles as "the fish-poking game," the original Endless Ocean was a lovely meditation on the life under the waves that may have lacked a bit in terms of gameplay. Its sequel, Endless Ocean: Blue World, goes a long way towards fixing that problem, giving players a great many goals to meet and challenges to overcome. It also features some of the nicest graphics available on the Wii, particularly underwater where the player will be spending the most time.
Endless Ocean: Blue World puts the player character in the shoes of a diver who has been hired to work for an oceanic tourism and research company. Over the course of the game, the player will dive in a diverse selection of underwater environments, including places like a coral reef, the deep ocean, the Antarctic, and a jungle river. Along the way, the game challenges the player to solve a global oceanic mystery, submit photographs of ocean life to magazines, map the various dive spots, salvage sunken treasure, create an artificial reef, heal sick and injured wildlife, train dolphins, and manage an aquarium. Unlike the first game, not all the ocean life is friendly, and certain hostile fish and sharks will need to be tranquilized lest they attack and take a bite out of the player's valuable air supply.
Overall, Endless Ocean: Blue World is a nice, mellow game with a ton of activities to participate in and a wide variety of encounters with the strange and wonderful life forms found beneath the sea. It's a great way to while away a lazy summer afternoon, and you'll learn a few things about the creatures who share our planet, to boot.
On a different note than the previous two games, Okami is a Legend of Zelda-style action adventure in which the player portrays Amaterasu, a goddess who has manifested in the form of a white wolf and come to Earth in order to save a mythical version of Japan. Wicked demons have taken over the land, and Amaterasu must use her celestial powers to vanquish the demons and rejuvenate the earth. Amaterasu's canine form allows the developers to play with her character as a being both godlike and earthy, so the player will be alternately creating miracles and urinating on enemies, adding some levity to the game's proceedings.
Okami is firmly rooted in Japanese folklore, from the various animal deities Amaterasu encounters to the beautiful Japanese watercolor style of its graphics. It made its debut on the PlayStation 2, but its Wii remake provides a better way to control Amaterasu's celestial brush, which requires the player to draw figures using the controller in order to cast various spells. Along with successfully fighting off demonic enemies and keeping up her ink supply so that she can cast spells, Amaterasu must solve puzzles and breathe life back into the dying landscape as she frees the people from the attacking miasma. Bringing the cherry blossoms back to the trees and watching the land spring back to life is one of the most satisfying parts of the game, as is helping out the many colorful characters met along the way. The game's combat system isn't terribly exciting, but the boss battles are fun and the rest of the game is an experience well worth having.
By Becky Cunningham
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*