Video Game Cat Review
Date of Review: November 6, 2012
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360
Language / Country of Origin: English / USA
Online Capability: Players can access leaderboards in the game and send their friends presents via Xbox Live.
Sequels: Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise, Viva Pinata: Party Animals
Maintenance Required: None required.
Appropriate Libraries: Public Libraries, Academic Libraries
Appropriate collections: Life Simulation collections, Award Winners collections, Xbox 360 collections
Viva Piñata is a simulation game that has players building a garden to attract colorful, animal-like, living piñatas to take up residency. There is no ending to the game nor a linear plot. Players cannot “win” anything but can continue to play as long as their hearts desire – trying to entice new piñata residents to their garden plot. Piñatas are tempted to take up residency if certain requirements are met, including if the correct food source is present (e.g. fruit or other piñata species), if other required species are already living at the garden, or if the correct item (such as a house) has been purchased from the in-game store.
Once a piñata takes up residency, players can name and accessorize them. They can also decide if they want them to breed and produce more piñatas (although, among other things, two of the same species are required to do this). Further, some piñatas can eat certain items to either change color or evolve into brand-new species.
Keeping a peaceful and thriving garden is not as easy as it may seem. Players have to watch out for dreaded ruffians and sour piñatas who exist solely to cause problems within the garden – attacking other piñatas, eating seeds or other food, and wrecking houses and other items. They also drop sour candy onto the ground that make resident piñatas sick if they eat it. Sick piñatas can eventually die (or break apart), so players have to watch their piñatas carefully if they don’t want to lose them. Players can purchase particular items to deter these characters from making an appearance.
Cultural / Historical Value:
Viva Piñata was well received by critics and regular gamers alike. It was praised for its appealing, colorful, and fun graphics and open-ended gameplay. The game was developed by the same people who made Banjo-Kazooie, lending some credibility – and a cult following – to the title. The game was marketed to a wide audience and appealed to both children and adults. It also attracted the attention of both casual and hardcore gamers. The game has spawned several sequels and even a television show.
Teaching / Learning Characteristics:
Unlike many other simulation games, Viva Piñata is not teaching its players about any particular industry, unless there are people raising live piñatas that I don’t know about. Despite this, players can learn a lot about resource management by having to deal with ensuring each piñata has the correct care (e.g. food and environment) to help it survive, thrive and breed, competing piñatas who will attack each other, and so on. Viva Piñata, despite being fictional, does have a detailed food chain, full of predator-prey relationships that illustrate how various species live together or off one another. Of course, there are also monetary issues that need to be dealt with in the game – such as needing to purchase seeds or building new breeding structures. Players will learn how to manage a whole host of issues, just by building a simple piñata farm. Viva Piñata can also help players explore ethical issues, such as breeding animals for profit and figuring out how to deal with conflicts between species (should we allow one species to eat another?).
Similar to most other simulation games, Viva Piñata has high replay value. Due to all of the factors and random events that influence how a player’s garden turns out, it is virtually impossible to create the same garden twice. Fulfilling certain requirements, like having a piñata eat a particular flower, can change piñatas’ appearances. Players can also name and accessorize all of their piñatas – giving the game even more customability. This, in turn, keeps players returning to the game. Players also receive experience points and achievements based on attaining certain goals. Further, the farther players progress in the game means that new characters and items are unlocked. There seems to be a never-ending stream of new piñatas and items for your garden. The game also progresses in difficulty the longer it is played.
Those who enjoy simulation games like The Sims or Animal Crossing will probably enjoy Viva Piñata. Despite the cutesy content, it is not a simple game. It requires a lot of management to make a happy piñata farm. With the cartoonish, cheery coloring and silly names for all the animals, the game will appeal to children. However, it should be pointed out that some of the content may be a little disturbing – such as how some piñatas die and have other piñatas eat their innards.
About the Author:
Shannon L. Farrell, MLIS, MS is an Assistant Professor and Liaison Librarian at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins. Having been an avid gamer for the last 25 years, she has a great interest in incorporating videogames into library and educational environments. She has conducted research on the topic, examining current use of videogames in libraries and the resources available for collection development purposes. Shannon is a member of the ALA Games and Gaming Round Table. Since she plays videogames on a daily basis, Shannon is a regular contributor and editor of reviews for VideoGameCat. She also maintains the VideoGameCat Twitter (@thevideogamecat) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/thevideogamecat) accounts.
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