Easter is coming up and whilst Animal crossing now has its event running, it got me thinking about the holiday in relation to gaming. For many, myself included, Easter has become a time where sweets and chocolate thrive! It led me to think about the games that I would personally link to the holiday and what I tend to play around this time; or play with a mouthful of chocolate. Only one game came to mind, Viva Pinata and oh boy was I excited to replay this Rare classic.

For those that do not know me Viva Pinata has a complicated history, well not so much complicated as it was self-induced. I love Viva Pinata, however I never owned a Xbox 360 when it released. Fast forward a year or so later to a wide-eyed younger me receiving his first Xbox 360; which came with the pinata filled game. Now at that time my friends were interested in Halo or Call of Duty and not a game about papery palls and garden building. So, what did I do? Appear offline and pretend I was not playing the game. After all, I was too old to be playing Viva Pinata right? (I’m rolling my eyes thinking about it).

Fast forward to the year 2020. Admittedly, things are a little worse for wear at the moment, with a pandemic causing panic and danger to people. Shopping and visits outside are only for essentials and I have been abiding by that as much as possible. What I keep forgetting is that I have a massive sweet tooth and love to snack whilst I game. This, as you can imagine, has become quite the issue. So I have had to resort to unusual methods to cure my sweet tooth, enter Viva Pinata. It is, as I would tell myself, unwise to add yet another game to my extensive backlog. Specifically, a game that I have had multiple play throughs of. But I will ignore my advice, yet again.

What struck me first was that the visuals have stood the test of time. Okay, the version I am playing is the updated Rare Replay version, but usually, with remasters, you can tell they were just that. Viva Pinata would be, visually, a game I’d be happy with if released today. It is charming and colourful in all the right ways; which in today’s climate, is much needed. This is a problem that I have with returning to retro or older games, the graphics. I would love it not to be a problem, but when you’ve been spoilt by realistic or 4k resolutions, returning to the older days is hard to do. Unless the graphics/ascetics of the game is characterised and unique, that is my acceptation.

The game is so colourful and full of life!

The game is aimed towards kids: with the childish and colourful visuals, to the fun and wacky sounds and the reward system. The game rewards you in many different ways that for a child and an adult is pleasing. Firstly, since it is an Xbox game there are achievements. Many games have them, but Viva Pinata rewards you at different achievement numbers with fun little cut scenes stating things like ’23 Achievements unlocked’! A congratulation from a game that’s already full of happy and fun things emphasises what I loved about it from the beginning. It is also a pretty simple game, unlock a new pinata, meet its requirements and it will join your garden. Normally unlocking a new Pinata will allow another one to become interested in your garden. For example, if you place a Ponocky (A Pony) in your garden, then a Horstachio (a horse) will be interested in your garden. It’s a game that rewards you for experimenting and playing how you want. Do you want to full your garden with a specific animal? Then do it! More than likely something bigger will eat that animal or by doing so you will raise your levels and unlock more things.

There are plenty of secrets within the game too. If, like me, you love trying to get as much variety in your games or collect rare things you are in luck. Viva Pinata has a subtle way of hitting that niche for players. Each Pinata has up to three different variants, which to unlock you have to feed them different foods. Different seeds or berries will change their colour and appearance. You can even evolve some of your Pinatas into other species. The Horstachio (The Horse) will transform into a Zumbug (A Zebra?) if fed a specific food. You can also unlock a Dragonache (I’ll leave you to guess what that is), which doesn’t do much but is rather cool to have in your garden.

Zumbugs – Or if your not from the realms of Viva Pinata Zebras

This constant unlocking and trying new things is what I love about the game so much. Being able to play around with how your garden looks, grow vegetables, trees and plants. Whilst almost running collection on all these interesting looking Pinata Species is something that I have fond memories of. Back when I first played the game online guides were around, but they were not a resource that I used often. We had printed guides, but for Viva Pinata because of my hidden love, I found the majority of my knowledge out for myself and that was truly a wonderful experience. Also at a time where anxiety is through the roof during the current crisis, having a game that rewards you and has no urgent/dangerous things to do is a nice change of pace. Sure there are Sour Pinatas that attack your friends, but you can pay to stop them coming. If you do not want to deal with them, then you do not have too.

But when playing a game from over 14 years ago, you come to expect some difficulties. Quality of life things always come to mind here, simple things that could be fixed now but maybe was not an option back then. Specifically for me, it is the shopping system. Different shops sell different good, that’s not unusual within games. But to go to one shop you have to pass through a loading screen, to exit you have to pass through a loading screen, to buy anything you have to pass through a loading screen to place it in your garden, if you click into the wrong shop, you have to go through plenty of loading screens; see the problem here? Loading screens, unfortunately, drag the game down and I found myself more and more staring at my phone waiting for the game to load. This would not have been an issue back then, loading screens were everywhere in our games so we were used to them! But just as we’ve been spoilt with better graphics, we’ve also been spoilt with faster games. I say spoilt as if it is a bad thing, but it is not… faster and prettier games everywhere, please!

“Viva Pinata would be, visually, a game I’d be happy with if released today

One thing that I see now that I didn’t then, was how, if you look into thing, violent the game is! I know this is a bit of a contradictory statement, as I just stated it was a calming game. But, think about it this way. Your goal in the game is to create a garden that attracts Pinatas, simple. Your goal then is to send them off to parties where they are, wait for it, smashed open and they enjoy this? Of course, you profit from this… with happiness sweets. There is even a way that your Pinatas can ‘die’ if they are sick for too long a character comes and smashes them. They then get reconstructed outside your garden and leave. There is a question about death and reincarnation, or maybe that Pinatas enjoy being smashed in their own free will? I’m not sure when I’m going with this, but there is an interesting thing to consider when looking at the more ‘peaceful’ games and analysing the way that there is in fact violence.

Viva Pinata has turned from an embarrassing love to something that I could scream and shout about! So my question from this rambling is are there any games that you were, I hesitate to say embarrassed, but not so open about playing? Or a game you love in a genre you hate? its interesting, games come in many shapes and sizes.

Secondly, if you have played the game, what is your favourite Pinata? And if anyone from Rare miraculously reads this, can we have a third game, please? Please?… for me, please?

Anyways that’s my little ramble out Viva Pinata, Hope you enjoyed!

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