May 13, 2010

That Old Time Charm

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , — Jamie Love @ 5:33 pm

Viva Pinata
As exciting as the new release cycle can be, there are plenty of days where I really want to take my SNES, a copy of Yoshi’s Island and a few other choice carts, and seal myself away in a cave for a few years. I’m not necessarily antisocial mind you, there are just periods where I’m incredibly tired of getting excited for titles on the horizon, only to have the final release dash my hopes that there can still be games that make my fingers tingle with excitement the way I remember.

It always seems like an easier option to crawl back into my childhood memories, which probably skews the truth plenty to make the games of yesterday seem so much better than what we have now.

Over the last week I’ve been watching my girl play a game I missed the first time around though, Rare’s 2006 release of Viva Piñata. The result so far is that I’m absolutely stunned at how refreshed I feel, even from passively experiencing the game, which also comes from a company I’d almost entirely written off.

Viva Pinata
It didn’t all start off on a perfect footing – Viva Pinata has a habit of talking to you as if you’re a five-year old, but I got over that quickly enough given the magical bit of charm the game manages to present so many of its elements with. Starting off with that ruined garden space and a shovel, and beginning the cleanup job to quickly find a Whirlm pinata appear, and then turn bright orange as it decides to stay, I’m simply surprised at how that quick sequence of events drew me in.

The introduction of every new pinata has become a treat I’m having trouble finding words for – certainly an emphasis to continue playing, but also stirring that old charm that makes me legitimately smile at the play of it all.

The game is also a meticulous bit of checks and balances, with such fine but straightforward details about what pinatas need to be drawn to your garden, and what it will take to make them stay and ultimately produce offspring – complete with a mating dance I wasn’t prepared for. It’s so ordered but also chaotic, watching as she tries to plan out her community only to have fights randomly occur and stray pinatas wander in long enough to eat ones she had big plans for.

Viva Pinata
The experience is a joyous string of small narratives taking place across the garden, from the snake she named Trouble – who started several fights and brought the vet to her door – to the Bunnycombs she was saving to build a home for until a Pretztail ate one – he was then fenced off to keep him from causing any more damage. I’m trying to figure out if one could ever hope to manage this space, or if surrendering to a bit of chaos is the only way to progress with some sanity.

The real joy is that we haven’t even cracked the bulk of the game.

I don’t really have an overarching argument I’m building toward here, and I’m sure there’s some point at which it would all get a bit repetitive, but for now I don’t think I’ve ever been so entertained. You know a game is good when you start using its lingo to tell people about it, as if I’m ten again and trying to explain Metroid to my parents.


  1. I’ll be sure to eventually try Viva Piñata, but since I don’t own a 360 that will be hard to do at the moment.

    Comment by EdEN — May 13, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

  2. see I told you it’s a sweet game….something I figured I’d never even want to try.

    Comment by Matt — May 14, 2010 @ 3:57 am

  3. alright, you were right, geez ;)

    Comment by Jamie Love — May 14, 2010 @ 8:42 am

  4. Is this the original, or the sequel? Just curious. I picked up the sequel a few years ago, but it’s still fresh in the shrink wrap.

    Comment by Hootiehoohah_Bananaramadingdong — May 14, 2010 @ 8:50 am

  5. Original, I’ve only read up on Trouble in Paradise, which sounds sorta the same but with more specific mission requirement kinda tasks. You should totally open that puppy, pop it in the 360, and let me know if I need to play it!

    Comment by Jamie Love — May 14, 2010 @ 8:57 am

  6. I want to play this endlessly.

    Comment by Christina — May 26, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

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