Review of Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise (indeed)


We are big fans of the Viva Piñata franchise in our house. When we went to pick up the game on Thursday afternoon, the kids (4 & 2 years old) immediately saw it displayed at our local GameStop and yelled, “Eva Pin-yadas!! New Pinatas!!” I think there may have been some sort of dancing and jumping as well.

Three days worth of gameplay hasn’t curbed their enthusiasm. At breakfast, our 4-year old boy declared, “I was thinking about playing Piñatas today.” With the local co-operative mode allowing him to water plants, dig holes, and whack weeds in my garden, he really can play this time too.

The game starts out quite fast-paced with a three-challenge tutorial to cover the basics in about 15 minutes. This is definitely a sequel made for fans of the original. While the original was a nice leisurely stroll (with a few yawns) through a well-paved zoo, Trouble in Paradise is more like a backpacking trip in the wilderness of Montana where you pray you won’t get eaten by a wolverine or fall into a patch of poison oak.

Hit the jump for a full review of my gameplay experience with Viva Piñata: TIP.

A few great changes have been made to the familiar Viva Piñata gameplay.  In TIP, you must restore the records of Piñata Central through a series of challenges (much like the party crates of the first one). Now, you have three different challenges to choose from, each from a different area around the world. I enjoy having an objective to obtain a certain piñata animal and figure out what it likes to eat or do in order to get it to full happiness (called “candiosity”). There are plenty of new piñatas, and plenty of new plants, although the original garden characters are all the same and perform the same functions.

In addition to short and long grass, you can obtain packets to cover your garden with sand for desert animals or ice for animals in the polar regions. Animals from those regions will not visit your central garden – you must go out to the other locations with bait and traps to try to nab the creatures, and then fulfill their resident requirements to keep them in your central garden.

While experimenting with foods to feed your piñatas, you can also teach them tricks. Or so I hear, since I have a trick stick and taught a bird how to do a cute little dance. Or something. I still have much to learn about the new trick function. Piñatas now level up when they fight each other, becoming more valuable with each win. You can also race piñatas, play mini-golf in your garden with candy and your shovel, and otherwise waste mass amounts of time just goofing around.

However, there is not much time to goof around. Weeds grow fast, and they seem to attract piñatas to their deaths much too strongly. Plants grow slowly, and run out of water quickly. Watering cans at the lower levels take a long time to water plants (precious seconds, anyway). There are twice as many sour piñatas, and they are destructive. Ruffians are constantly prowling the place, tossing weed seeds and knocking down buildings. The Doctor is slow, and Dastardos (the Dr. Kevorkian of VP – he will break sick piñatas if he gets there before the Doctor) is fast. Professor Pester (the serial killer of VP, who will take out an animal every time he walks in to the garden) is no longer held at bay with a cutlass in the garden – only a Dragonache will do to keep him out these days. Helpers are not very helpful, and I could not find an option to give them a bonus to make them more helpful.

In those aspects aforementioned, the gameplay can become incredibly frustrating. While playing yesterday, with no money left after trying to trap a silly little robin in Iceland, a Ruffian came in and tossed a Hemlock seed on the opposite side of my garden. I was watering tulips for a harvest to be able to buy a new watering can and missed the sound of danger. Suddenly, I was flooded with warnings: “A piñata is ill.” When I got there, there were at least 5 hemlock plants spitting seeds all over the place, all of my piñatas laying sick on the ground crowded around it (my hired Weedling lollygagging around by the pond half a mile away), and Dastardos (who has another not-so-nice name in my head) breaking all my lovely little animals. With no money, I could do nothing but hit the weeds with my shovel (which knocks seeds out), and try to hit the seeds before they started to grow too. By the time all was said and done, it was a terrible tragedy. I had lost 14 of my 16 piñatas. It was almost like starting over from the beginning.

All of that might have made me too frustrated to continue, expect that the game is so incredibly addictive. Thankfully, most animals (given that their residency requirements are met) will pop right back in to the garden fairly quickly. However, I would like to warn anyone going into it for the first time not to get too attached to any single piñata for a while. Be prepared to watch a lot of them die, especially the ones you are particularly trying to get to max candiosity for challenges. Professor Pester seems to know exactly what you do not want him to do at any given moment.

I could definitely recommend the game to anyone who has played and enjoyed the first one. I think it is a wonderful sequel with great additions. The difficulty level seems to have been bumped up a notch, with little time to master the basics (or maybe I just leveled up too fast), which leads me to recommend playing the original Viva Piñata to anyone thinking of purchasing VP: TIP.

As for me, I even gave up some Call of Duty time to work in my garden yesterday, it was that fun. So when the boy tells me, “I was thinking of playing some Piñatas today,” I reply with, “That’s funny. I was thinking the exact same thing.”