Blue Planet

Blue Planet
Garden of Brutality

Ryan Lambie | 20 Apr 2010 13:40
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In fact, playing Viva Piñata requires a steely resolve, and a farmer's lack of sentimentality. As sweet and disarming as the game's animals are, you'll inevitably find yourself beating newts to death to prevent them from eating your plants, or feeding an unsuspecting squirrel to a badger to encourage it to breed.

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Because in Viva Piñata, breeding, collecting and cultivation are the only objectives; there's no plot to follow, and no boss battles or endgame to reach. Its sole challenge is derived from managing the constantly growing plot of land, and attracting and breeding the animals that flock to it in ever increasing numbers.

Like a real garden, Viva Piñata can be approached in any way you like; you can specialize in breeding chickens, selling the resulting offspring for a few chocolate coins to pay for accessories and the inevitable veterinary bills. You can build pens to keep your animals neatly segregated, or you can choose to let them roam free, though this inevitably increases the chance of conflict between incompatible species. Give a copy of Viva Piñata to inquisitive aliens, and it would provide them with all the information they could ever need about the human race's strange relationship with the animal kingdom. In our society, some animals are revered, others reviled and many subjugated. We humans consume around 50 tons of beef every single year. We keep birds in cages, giraffes in zoos, and tiny dogs in hand bags. The game depicts the mundane brutality of a society that once survived by living off the land, but where now one man's pet is another man's dinner.

Viva Piñata is a constant wrestling match between the human desire for order and nature's descent into chaos. Like Sisyphus eternally pushing his rock up a hill only to see it roll back down again, the life of a Piñata gardener is a thankless toil. The average Piñata garden is always changing, and only constant nurturing will prevent its return to anarchy. But toil and nurture you will, because Viva Piñata taps into some ancient instinct to cultivate - despite the repetitive nature of its menial tasks, there's a curious pleasure to be had from breeding sheep, building hen houses and planting trees. As naive and innocent as it first appears, Viva Piñata appeals to the forgotten Neolithic farmer that dwells dormant within all of us.

Ryan Lambie hails from the soggy recesses of England. His blog can be found at www.ryanlambie.co.uk.

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