Viva Pinata - Xbox 360

Viva Pinata is indeed based on a kiddies TV show. Not seen it? Well, picture a brightly coloured world filled up with Pinatas – cutesy and slightly demented looking squirrels, donkeys, hedgehogs and more.

They actually do very little, but when did that stop the ankle biters wanting crates of them for Christmas? Hence a game of the same name and Microsoft’s big push for the Xmas number one. The developer pedigree is pretty good too. It’s a Rare title – remember the ye olde Ultimate games on your Spectrum?

You play the newest gardener in Pinata world and the name of the game is to create a paradise that hoards of these weird and wonderful creatures will flock to. It neatly skips over the dung problem that this would create in the real world. Anyway, we digress…

Though the current media hype is all about the Nintendo Wii and its control system’s ability to encourage non-gamers to swing a remote around their head, Viva Pinata could finally be the game to get the entire family crowding around the living room TV.

Starting out with a fairly desolate landscape, it’s up to you to sculpt the land as you see fit to encourage the 70 different breeds on Pinata to settle down.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. You see, each Pinata has their own needs and wants. Some may be encouraged to snuggle up to you because of your record beetroot harvest. Others may make their merry way over to your bit of land in order to gaze at a particularly gorgeous flower.

As time progresses and your garden starts to become, well, a thing of dazzling beauty, persuading the rarer Pinatas to come along to the party can take some major work. Some require incredibly convoluted needs and even might want to munch on some of your smaller Pinata in order to stick around. Poor little mites.

Everything’s not so rosey in this magical Pinata filled world either. After a brief period of time, you’ll spy red and black coloured beasts causing merry hell in your cabbage patch and you’ll need to discover the correct way to either tame or get rid of the buggers full stop before they rewind all the hard work you’ve put in.

Creating this glorious world is simple. In fact, there are two separate control methods available. One utilises almost all of the buttons on the Xbox 360’s pad (advanced) and the other uses the bare minimum. It’s simple to flick between the two, so handing over to wee Jimmie while you slip out for a crafty cig really makes the family gaming idea work.

Thankfully the learning curve has been tweaked to absolute perfection. The game consistently allows you learn exactly what the skills you need and understand the power you have over your domain. Orrrrfff my laaaaand! Plus you often don’t get essential abilities until they’re absolutely required so there’s no fretting over what tactics to try.

Verdict

Pinata looks stunning. In fact it’s on a par with Gears of War, although the latter is obviously far more butch. While we’re never going to see Pinata blasting away for the hell of it, the Xbox 360 would be able to handle it no problem. Whether on a HD screen or not, Viva Pinata looks absolutely incredible.

It’s not for everyone obviously. If your favourite games are the aforementioned Gears of War or FEAR or Call of Duty 3, then the cutesy looks of Viva Pinata will be a turn off.

For those wanting to get the rest of the family round the TV, you can’t get much better than this.