But then I was looking through a book my husband has, called, “1001 Games You Must Play Before You Die” and I saw it. “Viva Pinata”.
On “K” day I spoke about how fresh and weird and addictive “Katamari Damacy” was when we first discovered it. It was so strange and oddly fun that it soon became an obsession, even though at first glance it seemed stupid and pointless. “Viva Pinata” is another of those kinds of games. When you first look at it, it seems like the dumbest idea in video game history, but that’s just because you haven’t actually tried it yet.
Developed by Rare for the XBox 360, “Viva Pinata” is a simulation-type game that takes you into a very bright, colorful, and strange world, where a variety of animals – who are actually pinatas – roam the landscape. The point of the game is to take a dilapidated plot of land and turn it into a beautiful garden by attracting lots of little pinata animals to come live there. Basically, there is a set of requirements that must be completed in order to attract any one kind of pinata. When you’ve completed some of the requirements (say, purchasing a special home for them), a black-and-white pinata will wander into your garden and start snooping around. If you complete the rest of the requirements while the pinata is hanging about it will make itself a permanent resident and bloom into full color. If you successfully attract two of the same pinata, you will be presented with a further set of requirements in order to convince the two to mate. Mating initiates a maze mini-game which, if successful, results in a baby pinata egg.
Does it sound easy? Well it shouldn’t. For one thing, while you’re trying to attract new pinatas and make little baby pinatas, there are ‘enemies’ that you have to worry about. ‘Ruffians’ and ‘sour pinatas’ can wander into your garden and wreak all kinds of havoc, destroying homes, eating your pinatas food (candy, of course), and dropping sour candy that can make your pinatas sick. In addition to dealing with those issues, you have to realize that the pinata world actually has its own intricate food chain. In other words, some pinatas eat other pinatas. So you’ve got to protect your little pinatas if a “pinatavore” wanders into their midst, and alternatively if you want to attract those particular pinatas to your garden you have to be willing to let them devour some of the pinatas that you’ve already raised. In order to do everything that it’s possible to do and collect each and every available pinata in the game, you have to start from the bottom and make lots of sacrifices on the way to the top.
And, to be honest, that was part of the game’s charm. It seems like this super-simple sim game aimed at young children, but there’s actually a fair bit of thought and effort required if you want to collect everything and grab yourself every achievement. That system made it addictive, and the playfulness of the whole concept made it super-fun. When my husband and I first picked it up we were sure it was going to be dumb as hell, but once we got to playing it we both ended up engrossed. It’s a fun little escape, not difficult but not super-easy either, and definitely a huge change-up from the over-saturated world of first-person-shooters and follow-the-path-RPGs.
Have you ever played Viva Pinata or any of its sequels? What did you think of it? What was your favorite pinata? Any that you had a hard time attracting to your garden? Please share!
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