Viva Piata: Pocket Paradise Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Viva Piata: Pocket Paradise Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

A Rare Breed

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.

Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise screenshot

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.

Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise screenshot

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.

Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise screenshot

While the tutorials and Playground mode are great additions, it is this game’s controls that really make it stand out. The stylus is used for everything in the game and is a major improvement over using a traditional controller. Players can move the camera around their garden by using the D-pad, dragging the stylus, or by touching a set of arrows found in the corner of the screen.

Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise screenshot

Touching a piñata will bring up its vital information on the top screen, making it much easier to attend to all their needs. Dragging your stylus around the screen to clear rubble or sprinkle grass seeds is very satisfying and definitely speeds up the process of renovating your garden. There is also something to be said about how much fun it is to touch a misbehaving piñata, delivering a disciplinary whack with your shovel. Additionally, all the game’s items and stores are never more than a few stylus taps away with its well set up and easy to navigate menus.

Although the controls are exceptional in Pocket Paradise, there are a few problems that tend to arise from time to time. Since the game makes use of a three-quarters overhead view, some objects can become completely obscured by other objects in the garden. If you plant a tree behind a piñata’s home, you will likely not be able to utilize its fruit. When the game starts off, your garden is also fairly claustrophobic, with very little area not being used for piñatas’ homes. This limited space only further aggravates this problem and even causes another. It is sometimes difficult to touch exactly what you want when objects/piñatas happen to overlap. When you have several piñatas standing on top of each other or on plants, touching the screen may not select what you are actually trying to target. However, these are minor complaints, as your garden continues to grow in size and you can always build fences to help separate your piñatas from each other and your plants.

For players looking for a way to play Viva Piñata on the go, look no further. Pocket Paradise succeeds in condensing a console experience into a portable game without many sacrifices and even some improvements. Newcomers to the series will also find themselves right at home, learning the basics through the game’s helpful episodes or by just experimenting in the game’s Playground mode. There is a lot to like here, making Pocket Paradise an excellent addition to almost anyone’s DS library.

The game’s 2D background complements the fairly impressive-looking piñata models quite well. 4.3 Control
Gardening with the stylus is great, only creating problems when objects happen to overlap. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Ambient sounds mingle with good sound effects and piñata noises to create a more involving experience. 4.0

Play Value
There are a surprising number of things to do that can keep players entertained for as long as they wish. With no real end to the game, one can play until their desire to garden and breed piñatas is fully quenched.

4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Customization: Design a beautiful and welcoming garden environment to attract piñatas, working up to rare and exotic breeds.
  • Caretaking: Ensure the happiness of piñata residents by tending to their needs and maintaining the garden environment.
  • Collect Them All: Complete the Piñata Pyramid with over 60 piñatas to collect, including seven brand-new species.
  • Training Missions: Carry out missions with characters from the TV series including favorites Hudson Horstachio, Fergy Fudgehog, Paulie Pretztail, and Franklin Fizzlybear.
  • Multiplayer: Transfer items – any piñata, accessory, or object – from your garden to a friend’s garden. Some exotic species can only be attracted using this feature.
  • Playground Mode: Create a lush garden in a short amount of time.

  • To top