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Viva Piņata: Pocket Paradise Package Art

Viva Piņata: Pocket Paradise

After a Saturday morning TV series and a (marginally) successful Xbox 360 game, sequel, and spinoff, Rare's Viva Piņata franchise has finally gone portable on Nintendo's dual-screened handheld. Built from the ground up for the DS environment by Rare's handheld software team -- the same team that developed Diddy Kong Racing DS -- Viva Piņata: Pocket Paradise packs a lot of content into one tiny DS Game Card.


The folks at Rare did an impressive job with the tools available. All Piņatas featured in Viva Piņata: Pocket Paradise are instantly recognizable, if a bit lower-res than in their console counterparts. This is actually a good thing, as it makes it far less disturbing when Piņatas are "killed" and explode into bundles of yummy, yummy candy. While the lower screen is used for the bulk of gameplay, the top screen is vital in several ways, displaying the status for any Piņata, flower, building, or item selected, as well as a small play-by-play commentary of what's happening in the Piņata garden at any given moment, including new visitors, fights, births, or other major events. Some full-motion video from the Viva Piņata television show is also included as part of in-game tutorial. It's not the highest quality, but a good feature that helps immerse players in the game environment.


While the visual quality of the FMV sequences is acceptable, the audio seems overly soft and somewhat scratchy, leaving a little more to be desired. Fortunately, the rest of the game's soundtrack is far more polished, from the ambient daytime and nighttime themes to the punchy sound effects that permeate every aspect of the game. The background music itself is pretty sublime and musical cues accompany various aspects of gameplay, such as when two Piņatas are ready for "romance" or when a sour Piņata is making things miserable for the good, fun-loving Piņatas.


The basic core of Viva Piņata is unchanged from its Xbox 360 predecessor. Create your own garden and, under the right circumstances, groups of mobile, lifelike Piņatas approach and. If you're very lucky, and if you've cleaned your garden and collected the proper plants, they will stay in the garden. Much like Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon, the game proceeds at the pace of the player's choosing, and there are very few requirements to meet, although certain goals must be met in order to expand the garden itself. Piņatas can be evolved, bred, or fed to other carnivorous Piņatas. Feeings are a bit disturbing the first couple of times it happens, although one gets used to it.

The game features an alarming amount of freedom. While cleaning up debris and trash in the garden is a must, almost every other aesthetic decision is entirely left up to the player, including designing flower and vegetable gardens, walkways, pools of water, housing for Piņatas, and fencing. In addition, the game can be enjoyed entirely at the player's own pace, although certain aspects need to be taken care of quickly, including watering plants and feeding Piņatas in order to keep them happy. Anyone who's out of line can be taken care of with a quick whack of the shovel. With the sheer volume of Piņatas, plants, structures, and collectibles available, there are literally dozens of hours of gameplay waiting in Viva Piņata: Pocket Paradise.

Other than the game's main mode, Viva Piņata: Pocket Paradise also features a mode called "Playground," which mimics the main mode, only without sour Piņatas or Ruffians attacking and causing mischief. This is a better mode for younger or newer players, but is much more relaxing and, in some ways, even less restraining than the main game. Since items cost nothing in Playground mode, it also provides a nice staging ground for setups that could be used in the main mode.


Piņatas, seeds, and plants can be traded with other players over local wireless connections. While items can be both sent and received through the Piņata Post Office, only a limited amount of items can be traded at one time. The trading is offline only; no option exists to trade Piņatas over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.


Viva Piņata: Pocket Paradise packs everything from the console original into a DS game. With a touch-based interface, wireless connectivity, Rumble Pak support, and some extra species of piņata, the only feature that really seems to be missing is online capability. If this was the first Viva Piņata game ever created, it would be a flaw that could be overlooked, but seeing how online was enabled in earlier iterations of the franchise, it seems like a gaping hole in the DS game. Other than this, though, Viva Piņata: Pocket Paradise is a great version of the game and a worthy purchase for lovers of flowers and candy-filled animals.

final score 8.2/10

Staff Avatar Aaron Roberts
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