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Review: Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise

Susan Arendt | 4 Sep 2008 20:55
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Most of the mechanics from the first Viva are still in place, though the more repetitious actions - those that involve growing the trees, bushes, fruits and vegetables that you need to make your garden great - have thankfully been streamlined to make them faster and less tedious. You no longer have to visit the store (and see a loading screen) every time you want to buy seeds or fertilizer; you can now simply bring up an in-garden menu and cycle through your choices with the left and right bumpers. You'll have a wider variety of seeds to collect and grow this time around, too, giving you even more ways to beautify and customize your own little patch of green.

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Not that the patch actually has to be green, though. Two new surfaces, sand and snow, have been added to your repertoire, the better to make the piñatas of the Dessert Desert and Pinarctic feel at home. Use the sand packet to create a beach the Custaceans will love, or cover your garden in snow to craft the perfect home for Penguns and Flapyaks. You'll have to trap the denizens of the desert and tundra before they'll deign to visit your garden, but after working so hard to woo piñatas to visit, using a trap feels mean spirited and clunky. Perhaps if it involved some degree of skill, rather than simply placing and baiting a trap, it would be more satisfying.

It's a minor nitpick in what is otherwise a brilliantly accessible, addictive, and above all else personal game. No one kind of garden is held up as "right" or "ideal," leaving you free to experiment with any and all of the resources at your disposal. There's no penalty for completely wiping the slate clean and overhauling your vision, either. Flowers grow in seconds, piñatas and trees grow to maturity in just a few minutes, so as long as you've got the money to fund your changes, you can change, rechange, and re-rechange your garden at will. Trouble in Paradise provides goals for players that want them, but they're suggestions, not commands. Dress your piñatas up, turn them different colors, give them names of all your favorite characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, use them as breeding stock, sell them for profit, feed them to each other, or trap them on an island and watch them cry themselves sick. The fruits of your labors, whatever they may be, arrive frequently enough to provide near-instant gratification no matter what type of gardener you choose to be.

Bottom Line: Trouble in Paradise is the perfect sequel. It smoothes out the rough patches that made Viva Pinatafrustrating and adds loads of new animals, items, and features.

Recommendation: If you enjoyed the first Pinata, picking up Trouble in Paradise is a no-brainer, but get it even if you gave the first game a pass. Yes, it's cute and kid-friendly, but you'll be surprised at how satisfying raising those paper animals can be.

Susan Arendt has yet to persuade a Roario to take up residence in her garden, but finally hatched a white Dragonache that she named Jean Claude.

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