|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rare||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 2, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
In addition to the online co-op functionality, you are also able to share unique items and piñatas with your friends worldwide. So, if your friend has their eye on a wildcard Bispotti in your garden, you can send it to them if you are so inclined. You can also take pictures of your garden and send them to your Xbox LIVE friends as well.
One of the most interesting new functionalities in Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise has to do with the Xbox LIVE camera functionality. The game comes shipped with a special card with a barcode on it. This card can be scanned through your camera and will unlock special items and piñatas. This system works similarly to the PlayStation 3's Eye of Judgment, but there doesn't seem to be much support for it at the present time. The game comes shipped with two cards, and you can download and print some off of Rare's official Viva Piñata website. But, we'll have to wait and see how this feature evolves as time goes on.
Although the new features in Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise are very impressive, I have to say that it wasn't the new features that really drew me back into the garden. It was the deep and creative gameplay style. Because the new Viva Piñata world is greatly expanded, there's so much more potential gameplay time and, as a result, the experience becomes even more immersive than before. Since there is a wealth of customization options, you can make your garden into the picture-perfect paradise you've always dreamt of. The play value in this title is quite large because, like the original, the game never really ends. While an eventual wind-down in the gameplay is expected (once you max out your garden and unlock all the piñatas, there's not too much else to do), I wouldn't anticipate reaching that mark until at least 65 hours; and that's being conservative.
Visually, this game takes most of its style cues from its predecessor, but it still manages to sneak in a few technical upgrades. One thing that is noticeable right away is the improvements in the contrast between day and night. Instead of the nighttime garden going almost completely black and washing out all the bright colors, the nighttime scheme only darkens the environment, and softens the piñatas' colors. On the whole, the graphics are somewhat sharper and more detailed than the original; these changes aren't incredibly noticeable right away, primarily because the graphics from the original were so impressive that there weren't many improvements needed.
The sound in Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is particularly good, and I really enjoyed the classically-inspired score. The relaxing orchestral tunes really provide an excellent catalyst for creativity and definitely help you feel like creating a piñata masterpiece. The different piñatas' sound effects are also quite good and give the various piñatas a life of their own. Oh, and they are super cute as well. Character voiceovers are pretty good, but in order to give the game a "global" feel, they all have some outrageous accents, which you either love or hate.
Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise is definitely a worthy successor to the original. While it doesn't radically change the formula, there are enough new features to keep longtime fans interested and coming back for more. This follow-up really proves that even though a game is perceived as belonging squarely to the casual genre, it can still mature and come into its own as a series that nearly everyone can appreciate. So, if you are a fan of the original Viva Piñata or are interested in casual sim-style games, you owe it to yourself to check this one out! Of course, if you're like me, then you may find yourself addicted quite quickly, so make sure to clear your schedule!
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor