Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise Review

When the first Viva Piñata came out, most people had one thought in mind: this seems more like a Nintendo DS game than a Microsoft 360 one. In fact, consumers may have felt the same way as evidenced by the lower-than-desired sales compared to the critical success the game achieved. Still, Microsoft stuck by the franchise, and it has consequently spawned a cartoon, a spin-off party game, and a full-blown sequel. Even with all the various Piñata titles roaming the world, there was still one thing missing: Piñatas on the go.

With no Microsoft handheld, Rare was left with two choices: Sony or Nintendo. Despite past differences, Rare stuck with Nintendo once again, and the result is one of the more captivating handheld titles this year.

For those not familiar with the franchise, Viva Piñata plays like one part Sim City, one part Harvest Moon, and one part Animal Crossing. You start out by getting a small plot of land known as a Garden, and through cultivating, planting, and taking care of it you’ll receive animal visitors (in glorious piñata form). Meet certain requirements, and those piñata will stay with you, allowing you to build houses and ultimately force them to reproduce for your own sick, twisted piñata fetishes.

Overall, Pocket Paradise plays almost identically to the 360 counterparts, albeit with a stylus and touch screen rather than analog sticks and a cursor. The goal is to still amass more piñata, and it’s still strangely addictive despite having no actual ending point or conclusion.

The two big differences relate specifically to the DS hardware. Using a stylus to tap and point your way around the Garden is a nice change of pace, and despite my early reservations it’s extremely easy to control and navigate in the Pocket Paradise world. After an hour of play, I was finding it easier to play Pocket Paradise than the original 360 title.

The other big difference is how information is displayed. Rather than loading through menus and losing sight of the action, the piñatas and garden display in the bottom screen, while notices and information appear in the top one. This eliminates those pesky moments when you would have to check then re-check information in Viva Piñata, only to groan as you were forced to go through the menu system again.

Outside of those, nothing has really been changed. Sure, some plants change how they get water and a couple other tiny things show up here and there, but ultimately Pocket Paradise is a picture perfect port of the Viva Piñata franchise. While piñata appear easier and the game may be slightly dumbed down for the handheld audience, that shouldn’t put off any piñata veterans. If you’ve found yourself sitting on the couch late into the night giggling as you forced piñata bunnies to get it on, you’ll feel right at home with Pocket Paradise. Due to the general pick-up-and-play-then-stop nature of the game, I’d even argue that this DS version is the true embodiment of the Viva Piñata experience. So don’t let the jaggier graphics fool you: Pocket Paradise is the real, piñata mating deal.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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