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Viva Pinata XBOX 360 REVIEW

Do not be turned off by Viva Pinata's colorful and kidlike presentation. Though Kids will probably adore all the colorful critters and simple controls, adults will love the depth, challenge, and overall uniqueness of the game. Is this game a "must-buy" like Gears of War? Not quite, but if you are a gamer open-minded to non-shooters and are looking for something that plays different...this game is for you. Yes this is the beginning of the review, but this game is one of the best "family" games I have ever played. There is obvious kid appeal, but nothing is overly cutesy or annoying. Adults will of course not really care to watch the "romancing danced" of the pinatas, but the game is smart enough to know that and will only show you a new movie if you breed a new species. You can skip this if you wish and watch two worm pinatas dance over and over again if you choose. The beginning of the game is very well paced and you're constantly trying to absorb everything that is thrown at you. RARE is back after a mediocre Perfect Dark Zero! OK, I'm rambling and this review is quickly deteriorating in quality so I will impose some structure:

Gameplay: 8/10
Pros: There is a lot to do! and if you don't like the meaningless tasks of gardening, you can hire helpers to do it for you. The controls work well (thank god for the shortcut d-pad). It's not the most frantic gameplay, but this is a simulation game. The way you can do anything to your garden or quickly undo it and dynamically change it is just really satisfying and liberating. There are sooo many different pinatas with deep preferences and requirements.
Cons: There are times when there is too much going on or you get interupted from sodding the grass or cleaning up your lot. Then there are other times when you are waiting for something to do. Overall, it's a good pace, but you feel some of the busy times could be spread over the hectic times better. I found myself lacking direction after the initial tutorials dropped off. I kept working and eventually I got it, but a little more direction or objective list would help. There is no excuse for pinata, seed, etc information to have to be loaded. When I highlight an object and click info, a menu should pop up giving me basic stats. Some species are just too picky!

Graphics: 10/10
Pros: Gorgeous and vibrant garden and interesting creatures. There always so much going on...seeing a bustling garden is really a testament to the Xbox 360. The pinatas are animated really well and exude personality. The zany "human" characters all fall into the visual presentation well. The menu system and loading screens also stand out and embody the visual style of the game.
Cons: Yes the game is not as stunning or jaw-dropping as "Gears" but I can't think of anything to complain about or nitpick...maybe you can.

Sound/Music: 9/10
Pros: "human" characters voices are full of favorite is the sarcastic pet shop owner who is so un-thrilled with her job. The voiceovers are excellent. The pinata sounds are also tremendous and help clue you into the personality of the species. I love the pretztails and badgers (forget their pinata name).
Cons: There is some text to muddle through and I know that if Knights of the Old Republic can voice all that text, that Viva Pinata shouldn't have to resort to text when the voiceovers are so good. Also, I can't really remember what the music sounded like without rebooting up the that can't be's not bad...just doesn't stand out.

Lasting Appeal: 8/10
Pros: If you like it, you could conceivably play for a long forever. It's not one of those games where you kill the evil overlord and the game is over. The objective and gameplay is all open-ended. Be the best gardener you can be!
Cons: As you start accumulating all of the upgrades and your gardent may see everything you want to see (it will take you a big junk of time though). I think the online component could've been better. Some sort of competitive gardening would have been cool, though the post office (send and trade things) is a cool Xbox Live feature.

Average: 87.50%
Tilt: +0.50%

This game is unlike anything you've played for the Xbox 360. It has similarities to other Sim games, but really just stands out as a result of its gameplay, graphics, and distinctive presentation. RARE is really showing that they may be able to reclaim their crown as a preminent developer. I mean remember when they dominated with games like Banjo Kazooie, GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, Killer Instinct? Rare made how many games for the original xbox? 1....Conkers...a remake at that? I'm glad that Microsoft is finally getting their money's worth (Microsoft paid a total of $377 million for the company) out of them with titles like Viva Pinata, a truly distinctive and rare game that adds a whole new genre to a console that is littered with First Person Shooters. It is very Refreshing to see not only a family oriented almost "Nintendo" game on Xbox, but an exceptional one at that.

Verdict: 88%

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