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Viva Piņata

Viva Piņata

Viva Piņata

Viva Piņata is a life simulation game developed by Rare, for the Xbox 360 and PC. The project was headed by Gregg Mayles and the team behind the Banjo-Kazooie series, based on an idea from Tim Stamper. Although rumors of the title circulated among fans for some time, Viva Piņata was officially announced on March 15, 2006, and first released in November 2006. With a "general audiences" or "everyone" rating, the game provides bright, colorful visuals, intended to appeal to children and more casual gamers. The game received a positive reaction from game critics, eventually selling over 1.5 million copies.

A Windows version of the game was released in November 2007. An Xbox 360 sequel Viva Piņata: Trouble in Paradise was released in 2008. A graphically degraded Nintendo DS version of the game entitled Viva Piņata: Pocket Paradise was also released in 2008.

Viva Piņata Gameplay

Likened to The Sims, Animal Crossing, and Harvest Moon, the game tasks the player with turning a neglected plot of land into a beautiful garden. As with many sandbox games, the game is open-ended, with no strict winning or losing requirements. Instead, players are guided only generally towards the objectives of increasing their garden's value and attracting piņata residents. Players are free to determine their own sub-goals and work towards them.

Developing a successful garden requires setting up the land and foliage appropriately to attract piņatas, as well as purchasing various items to place within the garden (e.g., homes for the piņatas). When certain requirements are fulfilled, the garden will attract a simple black-and-white version of a given piņata species. After fulfilling additional requirements, the piņata will become a resident, changing into a full-color version. Once two piņatas of the same species are residents and their mating (romance) requirements are met, they can perform a romance dance, resulting in a baby piņata egg. No piņata has a gender specific design, and hence any two piņatas of the same species can mate (with inter-species romances possible as well in a few cases). After a given piņata species has successfully romanced, the player no longer needs to fulfill the full romance requirements for piņata of that type, but can instead simply have the piņata eat a specific type of candy.

When piņatas get together to mate, a maze-navigation minigame is initiated. Completing the mating minigame successfully will result in a piņata egg being delivered shortly thereafter. For species encountered early in the game, the minigames are simple, but as the game progresses, minigames become increasingly difficult. The difficulty also increases as more members of a given species are resident, as the more piņatas in a garden, the fewer the number of lives the player receives during the minigame. The first time the minigame is completed successfully for a given species, the player is rewarded with a unique video sequence which shows the two piņatas dancing to music.

The player must also watch out for Ruffians and their leader, "Professor Pester". as well as sour piņatas who enter the garden with the sole intent of wreaking havoc. Their mischief includes eating seeds and produce, destroying objects, or dropping sour candy which causes resident piņatas to become ill if consumed. If the player is resourceful, sour piņatas can, however, be won over and turned into productive garden residents. Additionally, players can earn or purchase individual parts of a totem pole-like structure known as the "Tower of Sour" to deter the type of sour piņata each section corresponds to. Different sections of the pole become available as the player meets certain requirements. Players can pay Ruffians to leave the garden temporarily, but in order to keep the Ruffians from returning, players must purchase a "Captain's Cutlass" from one of the merchants.

Screenshot of a garden

Each piņata which is a resident of the garden can be customized as the player sees fit. Customization options include:

The name of the piņata.

The piņata's decorative tag (which stays with it, wherever it goes).

Unlockable accessories the player can purchase for their piņata, ranging from hats, to backpacks, to large teeth. These accessories can increase a piņata's value, or can grant the piņata additional abilities.

Customizations, including accessories, are lost if a piņata is broken (Viva Piņata's version of death) for any reason, including being eaten by another piņata, being hit with a shovel or by Professor Pester, or after being sick for an extended period of time, after which the witch doctor Dastardos breaks the piņata.

Viva Piņata received positive reviews attaining overall scores of 84 for the Xbox 360 and 78 for the PC on aggregate website Metacritic. The game also attained scores of 85.37% for the Xbox 360 and 78.67% for the PC on aggregate website GameRankings.

A number of gamers and gaming journalists proclaim that Viva Piņata is one of Rare's best outings yet, with IGN indicating that it is the best Rare game since Microsoft acquired the company in 2002. In addition to IGN's positive 8.5/10 rating, it has received an 8.3/10 from GameSpot, an "A" from 1UP.com,.

While published sales figures for the game appear relatively low and failed to gather as much momentum as Nintendo's Pokémon craze, Justin Cook (of Rare) insists that the game has sold "close to half a million". During a later 1UP.com interview with Gregg Mayles, Mayles noted that he wasn't expecting immediate blockbuster sales, explaining, "Viva Piņata, it's come out; it's now sold really well; it's been a very steady seller like we thought it would be. We didn't think it would suddenly fly off the shelves. It was going to take time for people to appreciate it or give it a try beyond the initial, quite mixed reaction." Despite the initially discouraging sales figures, the game quickly gained a loyal cult following. Hyper's Cam Shea commends the game for being "charming, open-ended and plenty of surprises and depth". However, he criticised it for "uneven pacing and patronising voice over of the first guide".

Viva Piņata's concept artist, Ryan Stevenson, stated that, regardless of sales numbers, Rare is planning to expand the series with new elements including new piņatas and new characters.

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