Review by Malorkus
Reviewed: 09/26/16 | Updated: 06/08/18
Viva Pinata killed pinatas for me. In a more innocent time, I was happy to bash these cardboard animals open with a baseball bat at other kids’ birthday parties, then brawl my way through the hoard of other greedy kids in order to claim my rightful bounty of candy. Then Viva Pinata did something horrible – bring these paper mache specimens to life. These objects you mercilessly battered in real life suddenly had emotions and could feel pain. Everything you knew in life was a huge lie. The game even let you break open the living pinatas to obtain treats for other pinatas. That candy was their organs, and you were feeding their organs to their friends and family! And yet all was forgiven, because Viva Pinata was a phenomenal game, and easily Rare’s finest post-Nintendo output. Under Microsoft, Rare still published portable titles for Nintendo under THQ for a while, with mixed results. Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise was the final such effort, and leaves me feeling equally lukewarm.
Viva Pinata is essentially a farm-raising simulation game – with pinatas. You must build your garden and help it flourish in order to attract various kinds of exotic pinatas to live in your community, as well as breed them with each other to make pinata babies. Yeah, don’t think about it too hard. The game will begin by dropping you into a tutorial with a horse creature named Horstachio to familiarize you with both the experience and the controls. Pocket Paradise is controlled entirely with the touch screen, as you must use the stylus to plant seeds and move the camera around your garden. The result of this approach is mixed. On one hand, the top-down view might actually be the one thing this DS iteration does better than its Xbox counterpart, as it is easier to keep track of everything going on in the garden at one time. On the other hand, moving the camera around feels like it would have been smoother being allocated to the D-pad.
When you begin your garden with your first pinata, an orange worm called a Whirlm, the land will be paltry. Characters from the home console iteration like Seedos and Leafos will provide you with seeds and crops to help your garden thrive. If your garden attracts more than one of the same species, you will be able to romance them to breed more of them. If up to this point, you are thinking that Pocket Paradise is a miniature replica of its original brother, you are correct, albeit with some caveats. While the game is easier to multi-task (the latter stages of Viva Pinata sometimes got too stressful for their own good), this is largely because there is less to do, and noticeably less. There will be periods of playing when absolutely nothing is going on in your garden, and you will sit there moving the camera around just waiting for a new pinata to appear, or for two pinatas to interact. In a gardening game, you are watching grass grow.
While some of Pocket Paradise’s scaled down features do not come as a surprise, there is one especially notable and disappointing omission – a soundtrack of any kind. There is no music in your garden. Notwithstanding a few cries and grunts here and there, you will be gardening in silence. For a Rare title especially, this is a baffling exclusion, and the lack of audio makes those dull moments where little is happening even duller. These factors add up, and where the bigger Viva Pinata becomes a very addictive experience, Pocket Paradise becomes tedious quickly. The game still does its job of giving DS owners a taste of “Viva Pinata Lite”. The core experience is replicated well, and the game always has an easygoing pace. But it’s almost too laid-back at times, with extended periods of waiting around with nothing happening. For Rare’s final game on a Nintendo platform, I’m surprised this received such little fanfare, but the superior Viva Pinata experience really is with the Xbox 360 titles.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise (US, 09/08/08)
Got Your Own Opinion?
Submit a review and let your voice be heard.