For those that have never played it, Viva Piñata is a life simulation game which has seen two main editions and a party game spin-off on the Xbox 360, the last one coming in 2008. Tasked with cultivating a plot of land into a fully functioning ecosystem paradise for cleverly named living Piñata animals, by fulfilling various criteria you will have a wide variety of colourful creatures in your beautiful garden. Of course, the immediate difficulty before I even start writing any more words here revolve around the fact that the developer of the series – Rare – are a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft. However Rare did produce a DS version titled “Pocket Paradise” in 2008 which was released by the now defunct THQ, so this does open up the possibility that this could happen if they so wanted to in the future. The series does appear to have stalled somewhat, so what better for the franchise than a new beginning?
Featuring more than 80 different species of candy themed creatures, the game is open-ended with no ultimate finish. Starting with a small patch of land and a rusty shovel as you progress through the levels you will unlock more tools which can make tending to your garden easier, but also your level also affects when the creatures may visit you. With a small patch of land you will initially only attract worms and sparrows, but by the time you have invested a fair few hours into the game you will have Lions, Tigers and Bears (oh my) as well as various smaller beasts. Many of these can serve a purpose for others, and of course the “catch-’em-all” mechanic will require that you have others as part of the food chain.
By building houses for your creatures and by successfully meeting their breeding requirements you can start a production line of creatures to generate an income, as you will need funds to continue to expand your environment, but you can also earn money by entering contests, playing mini games and sending your Piñata away when required. This provides the overall aim in the game; to enhance the value of your garden and attract the higher echelons of Piñata which are worth considerably more than your basic early animals.
Along the way you will encounter the nasty sours – nasty little animals that will come into your patch, leaving sour candies and generally cause mischief and will require some serious effort on your part to manage and protect your own species. You also have Professor Pester and his Ruffians regularly turning up to also cause carnage, the former with the ability to destroy your creatures on touch. Luckily the latter arrivals that you will discover have tendencies to make them stay away. A Limeocerous charging at you will do that, I suppose.
Why do I think that this would be a perfect fit for the Vita? The game features many hours of fun. It’s a perfect example of a pick up and play game, and you garden will need regular – but not constant – attention. With the ability to take and play it anywhere you could attend your garden at regular intervals at your leisure. The DS version was exclusively touch screen based, and this did get mixed opinions, so I would like the option of both for the Vita version so that gamers could use whichever control system they felt more comfortable with. The benefit of a 5 inch screen would make for a much easier gardening experience though, it must be said and the power of the Vita would make for a much stronger recreation of the world that Rare created on the console, although it must be noted that the DS did do a decent job with what it had.
Near could get some great use with the title for generating challenges and requests to others and for gifting items around to adorn your animals. Trouble in Paradise also used the Xbox 360 camera to great effect, with the ability to scan Piñata cards and have them appear in your game, and this could also be put to good use with the Vita’s built in cameras. The game wasn’t a solo affair either, and you could invite others to help you in your garden if you so wished, and with the Vita’s party chat you could have some great co-op fun with others who have the title.
It’s a series that has attracted a following but seems to be at the back of the parent company’s mind right now and although it sold more than a modest amount, I feel it is easily something that would suit a handheld platform more than a console. In the absence of a Microsoft handheld console could allow them to make some money off the back of a competitor, whilst at the same time give Vita owners an a great title to play.
What do you think? Did you play any of the Viva Piñata titles? Any favourable memories? Do you think it would suit the Vita and would you buy it? Do you even think that Microsoft would sanction a Vita version?