Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise,” sequel to the 2006 hit “Viva Piñata” for Xbox 360, has changed little of the basic game’s concept, but the successful formula makes it hard to resist. You tend a green garden and must lure piñatas to your garden. By planting trees and flowers, building homes and gradually drawing rare critters to your garden, your patch of bare grass will flourish. There’s a story that mostly stays in the background, giving you a reason to actually tend a garden but letting you focus on gameplay.
“Trouble in Paradise” introduces more than 32 new piñatas to the game, all of which are intricately designed. Each time a piñata appears near your garden for the first time a super cute animation plays, but only once per species so it never becomes tiresome. Piñatas all have different requirements to be attracted to your garden, and further requirements if you want them to mate.
Veterans of the first game will immediately notice new game modes. “Standard Mode” is the most straightforward, giving you a near-empty garden and requiring you to unlock content as you progress. In “Just for Fun” mode, you have unlimited currency to purchase items for your garden and there are no enemies. You won’t be able to capture rarer piñatas or undertake the game’s challenges, but it’s a fun way to get acquainted with the game or, as the title suggests, play just for fun.
Challenges are also introduced in “Standard Mode,” and the simple concept greatly increases the game’s replay value. Parties are going on all over the world and you can take on the challenge to provide a particular party with the piñata it needs.
The game is deceptively simple. Some of the rarer piñatas require a lot of work to coax into your garden. When do you manage to gain a new resident, it’s a very rewarding feeling, since different piñatas are very unique and have personalities ranging from docile to bullying. Some bad piñatas will deliberately try to vandalize your garden, which gives players a reason to watch their creations carefully. You can visit satellite arctic and desert regions to trap animals and have them shipped to your main garden. Even if the process of laying traps is just another step to acquiring piñatas, the new areas add a lot of depth to the gameplay.
The interface for “Trouble in Paradise” is much more user-friendly. You can now cycle through all of your animals and plants and access items more easily. However, certain technological issues from the first game still persist. The game can get choppy sometimes, and bringing up an in-game information screen can take several seconds. Load screens are painfully slow, but there are very few of them.
Graphically, the game runs well and the visuals are bright and vibrant. The environments are well detailed and each individual piñata looks crisp. There is very little slowdown even with dozens of animals running around your garden and online play is fluid as well.
Multiplayer is also put to fairly good use. Local cooperative play is a great way to introduce a new player to the game, even if it’s harder to multitask because of limited movement. Online multiplayer is superior, allowing up to four players to work at the same time. As far as multiplayer game for the younger generation goes, it works well, and it’s a significant improvement over the first game’s lackluster multiplayer.
“Trouble in Paradise” is a delightful experience, much like the first game. New gameplay elements and animals augment an already great game. In a nutshell, if you enjoyed the first “Viva Piñata” game, this is definitely for you.