|Developer(s)||Rare (Xbox 360)
Climax Group (PC)
|Publisher(s)||Microsoft Game Studios|
Viva Piñata is a life simulation game developed by Rare Ltd., originally released for the Xbox 360. The project was headed by Gregg Mayles and the team behind the Banjo-Kazooie series, based on an idea from Tim Stamper. Although rumours of the title circulated among fans for some time, Viva Piñata was officially announced on March 15, 2006, and first released in November 2006. With a "general audiences" or "everyone" rating, the game provides bright, colourful visuals, intended to appeal to children and more casual gamers. The game received a positive reaction from game critics, eventually selling over 1.5 million copies. A Microsoft Windows version of the game was released in November 2007. An Xbox 360 sequel Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise was released in 2008. A Nintendo DS version of the game entitled Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise was also released in 2008. The game is also included in the Rare Replay video game compilation, released for the Xbox One in 2015.
Likened to The Sims, Animal Crossing, and Story of Seasons, the game tasks the player with turning a neglected plot of land into a beautiful garden. As with many sandbox games, the game is open-ended, with no strict winning or losing requirements. Instead, players are guided only generally towards the objectives of increasing their garden's value and attracting piñata residents. Players are free to determine their own sub-goals and work towards them.
Developing a successful garden requires setting up the land and foliage appropriately to attract piñatas, as well as purchasing various items to place within the garden (e.g., homes for the piñatas). When certain requirements are fulfilled, the garden will attract a simple black-and-white version of a given piñata species. After fulfilling additional requirements, the piñata will become a resident, changing into a full-color version. Once two piñatas of the same species are residents and their mating (romance) requirements are met, they can perform a romance dance, resulting in a baby piñata egg. No piñata has a gender specific design, and hence any two piñatas of the same species can mate (with inter-species romances possible as well in a few cases). After a given piñata species has successfully romanced, the player no longer needs to fulfill the full romance requirements for piñata of that type, but can instead simply have the piñata eat a specific type of candy.
When piñatas get together to mate, a maze-navigation minigame is initiated. Completing the mating minigame successfully will result in a piñata egg being delivered shortly thereafter. For species encountered early in the game, the minigames are simple, but as the game progresses, minigames become increasingly difficult. The difficulty also increases as more members of a given species are resident, as the more piñatas in a garden, the fewer the number of lives the player receives during the minigame. The first time the minigame is completed successfully for a given species, the player is rewarded with a unique video sequence which shows the two piñatas dancing to music.
The player must also watch out for Ruffians and their leader, "Professor Pester". as well as sour piñatas who enter the garden with the sole intent of wreaking havoc. Their mischief includes eating seeds and produce, destroying objects, or dropping sour candy which causes resident piñatas to become ill if consumed. If the player is resourceful, sour piñatas can, however, be won over and turned into productive garden residents. Additionally, players can earn or purchase individual parts of a totem pole-like structure known as the "Tower of Sour" to deter the type of sour piñata each section corresponds to. Different sections of the pole become available as the player meets certain requirements. Players can pay Ruffians to leave the garden temporarily, but to keep the Ruffians from returning, players must purchase a "Captain's Cutlass" from one of the merchants.
Each piñata which is a resident of the garden can be customised as the player sees fit. Customization options include:
- The name of the piñata.
- The piñata's decorative tag (which stays with it, wherever it goes).
- Unlockable accessories the player can purchase for their piñata, ranging from hats, to backpacks, to large teeth. These accessories can increase a piñata's value, or can grant the piñata additional abilities.
Customizations, including accessories, are lost if a piñata is broken (Viva Piñata's version of death) for any reason, including being eaten by another piñata, being hit with a shovel or by Professor Pester, or after being sick for an extended period of time, after which the witch doctor Dastardos breaks the piñata.
Xbox Live functionality
The game supports Xbox Live/Games for Windows - Live, but does so in a strictly non-interactive fashion to remain "family friendly". It also includes a safety video for children and parents, explaining potential issues with using the service.
While the game supports leaderboards and score comparisons, its primary use of Xbox Live is to allow players to send presents to friends. Piñatas and other items can be packaged up and shipped off to other users. The contents of the box are unknown by the recipient until it is opened, at which time the contents emerge into the garden of their new owner.
Lastly, players can use the Xbox Live Marketplace to download several Viva Piñata related items. These include accessory packs and an interactive video which acts as a brief tutorial for the game. During the video, the user can decide which piñata that they would like to walk them through the features of the game. Xbox Live members can also download several episodes of the television series from the Xbox Live Marketplace, with the precise number available varying by locale. These episodes are available in both standard-definition and high-definition for no charge.
The game features a wide variety of piñata types (60 in total), in most cases inspired by real-world animals. The names of the piñata species appear to have been generated by combining an animal name or sound with that of a food or candy, producing creatures such as "Buzzlegums" or "Shellybeans". The species include both wild and domestic animal types, with the latter being purchased rather than simply appearing. Rarer species based on fictional animals, such as the Dragonache, are also available.
Some of the animals are "piñatavores", and must eat other piñatas to become residents or reproduce. An intricate food chain (referred to as the doughnut of life) exists, with a number of piñata species having one or two others that are considered prey. When such piñatas are visiting the garden, they can and will devour garden residents to satisfy their own residency requirements. However, once piñatas are residents, they will not eat each other unless instructed to do so by the player, although fights can break out between residents who do not share the predator-prey relationship.
With some exceptions, piñatas each have different appearance or coloration variants. These variants can be produced by fulfilling certain requirements in the game. For example, a given piñata species may be able to change from its default color to a yellow color by eating a sunflower. Additionally, certain piñatas can evolve into other species altogether, e.g., when a Sparrowmint eats a buttercup flowerhead, it turns into a Candary. The piñatas can also only evolve at certain times of the day.
The original concept for the game began under the name Your Garden in 2002, and eventually evolved into the colourful world of Viva Piñata. According to interviews with Rare by Eurogamer TV and others, the game was originally designed for the Pocket PC platform. After Rare's acquisition by Microsoft, the title was then moved to the Xbox video game system before finally being developed for the Xbox 360 video game system. At various times, more than 50 different people contributed to the project.
During development, Microsoft and Rare realised the growing popularity of the project and began searching for licensing partners; they eventually teamed up with 4Kids Entertainment. As a result, in addition to being a video game on Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, it is also a computer-animated television series produced by 4Kids Entertainment. The show began airing on 4Kids TV on August 26, 2006, on Canada's YTV on September 9, 2006, and on the UK's Nick Toons on March 5, 2007. Animation for the television series is done at Bardel Entertainment in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Recently, the show began airing on ITV2 in the UK as part of the "Action Stations! " children's programming block.
Released as a launch title with the Brazilian launch of the Xbox 360, it was the first game ever translated to Portuguese for the Xbox 360. It was also the first non-PlayStation console game to be translated into Polish and Korean.
Microsoft collaborated with Six Flags Mexico to promote the Xbox 360 as well as Viva Piñata. To do this, a 14.6-meter tall, 16-meter long piñata, specifically a Horstachio, was built at the park. At the time, it was the largest recorded piñata ever built.
A "Special Edition" of the game was released with a unique box. It includes separate disc with product demos.
At E3 2007 during the Microsoft press conference, a Microsoft Windows port of Viva Piñata was announced. The conversion was handled by Climax Group and runs on both Windows XP and Windows Vista. The game is part of the Games for Windows program which offers easier installation and support for Windows Vista's Games Explorer, Xbox 360 Controller for Windows, Parental Controls, and the use of Games For Windows - Live. The game was released on November 6, 2007 in the United States, followed by the release in Europe on November 16, then in Japan on January 18, 2008.
Viva Piñata received positive reviews attaining overall scores of 84 for the Xbox 360 and 78 for the PC on review aggregation website Metacritic. The game also attained scores of 85.37% for the Xbox 360 and 78.67% for the PC on aggregate website GameRankings. A number of gamers and gaming journalists proclaim that Viva Piñata is one of Rare's best outings yet, with IGN indicating that it is the best Rare game since Microsoft acquired the company in 2002. In addition to IGN's positive 8.5/10 rating, it has received an 8.3/10 from GameSpot, an "A" from 1UP.com,. While published sales figures for the game appear relatively low and failed to gather as much momentum as Nintendo's Pokémon craze, Justin Cook (of Rare) insists that the game has sold "close to half a million". During a later 1UP.com interview with Gregg Mayles, Mayles noted that he wasn't expecting immediate blockbuster sales, explaining, "Viva Piñata, it's come out; it's now sold really well; it's been a very steady seller like we thought it would be. We didn't think it would suddenly fly off the shelves. It was going to take time for people to appreciate it or give it a try beyond the initial, quite mixed reaction." Despite the initially discouraging sales figures, the game quickly gained a loyal cult following. Hyper's Cam Shea commends the game for being "charming, open-ended and plenty of surprises and depth". However, he criticised it for "uneven pacing and patronising voice over of the first guide".
Viva Piñata was nominated for 6 awards by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences for its 10th annual awards covering 2006, the most nominations a Rare title has had since GoldenEye 007. Nominated categories included:
- Console Game of the Year
- Outstanding Innovation in Gaming
- Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction
- Outstanding Achievement in Character Performance - Female (won)
- Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering
- Family Game of the Year
- Most Unique Game of the Year
The game's music score by Grant Kirkhope was nominated for Original Score at the 2007 BAFTA awards. The game was nominated for "Best Original Game" in X-Play's "Best Video Games of 2006" awards. Other accolades include a Parents' Choice Award from the Parents' Choice Foundation. and GameSpot included the title as one of their 10 nominees for their "2006 Game of the Year" award, although it later received only 3% of the total votes.
A sequel, Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise was announced in May 2008 and released in September 2008. The sequel adds more than 30 new piñata species, a "Just for Fun" sandbox mode, and new co-operative modes, as well as new desert and arctic environments.
Rare announced plans to release a Nintendo DS version of the game at Comic-Con 2007. It was later revealed to be titled Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise and was subsequently released in September 2008. Key changes include a control scheme which makes use of the stylus, as well as the presence of additional context-sensitive information on the second screen.
On October 30, 2007, a party game spin-off, Viva Piñata: Party Animals was released. Developed by Krome Studios, the game features the TV show piñata characters competing in races and close to 50 party mini-games including activities such as apple eating, bug stomping and paint splattering.
An animated TV series, Viva Piñata, was produced in conjunction with the Xbox 360 game, which aired on the CWs 4Kids animated block. The show is available on DVD.
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- Viva Piñata heads to DS