Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-09-19 Nintendo DS Strategy E (Everyone) Rare / THQ

Viva Pinata was one of those games I didn't expect to enjoy as much as I did. When you get past the colorful and childish presentation, you find a very in-depth strategy game. Seeing it come out for the DS had me apprehensive. I thought there was no way the grandness of the 360 version would fit into the handheld. But I was wrong.

Viva Pi??ata: Pocket Paradise is basically what you know of the original Viva Pinata. You are the Gardener, and your job is to develop it and improve it in order to attract more and more species of pinatas. If you never played the original Viva Pi??ata, don't fret. The initial stages of Pocket Paradise will teach you the basics step by step, with some wacky mini-cartoon episodes in between.

The dual screens of the DS make checking stats extremely easy and accessible. On the bottom screen, you have a view of your garden and interact with it via the stylus, using the D-Pad to move the camera around. On the top screen, you have statistics: your gardner level, time of day, recent events (new visitor, resident, fight, etc.) and percentage of terrains. When you click on a pi??ata, you can see their requirements to become a visitor, a resident, and to romance. Without having to go through the encyclopedia! It's a great and very welcome addition. Of course, the encyclopedia will still be useful to search for more specific information, such as pi??ata variations.

The tools and shops are represented by icons on the top right corner of touch screen. You will be able to buy seeds, produce, decorations, fences and tool upgrades, build pi??ata houses, create a lake, plant grass, use fertilizer or hire the hunter by simply tapping the right icons in the appropriate menus.

The only major difference in gameplay is the romance. Well, not exactly different, since it's the same process: fulfill the pi??atas' desires to romance, drag them one to the other and watch the silly dancing cutscene. But this time you don't have the mini-games where you could earn extra coins. It may seem silly, but I actually I miss that feature.

The rest is pretty much the same. Tap pinatas who start fights to get them to stop. Call the doctor if a pi??ata gets sick. Pi??ata Central will call you to arrange for pick-up of a particular type of pinata now and again. Everything you do and everything you have in your garden add up to your Gardener level. Unfortunately, leveling up seems to happen a lot slower than it did on the Xbox 360 version.

Making use of the wireless capabilities of the DS, at some point during the game you will unlock the Post Office, which you can use to exchange items and pinatas with your friends.

Aside from the Garden, you have also a Playground. This is much like a garden, but everything is free, so you can use it to check out how that new pi??ata house or have the hunter bring some curious species in just for your amusement. The third option in the menu is Episodes, where all the teaching cutscenes will be listed.

Graphically, I am very pleased with Pocket Paradise. Everything looks colorful and sharp, though the garden and pi??atas seem to lose definition when you zoom in. The cutscenes are especially well done, and they are accompanied with voice acting to boot.

I would have liked a fast forward button, for those times when you are just waiting for baby pi??atas to grow, flowers to bloom, house to be built or fruits to grow while preparing to meet the right conditions to attract the next wave of pinatas. It would have been a welcome addition. A way to rotate the camera would have been great too, since sometimes it was hard to see who was hiding behind what. Other than that, I have no complaints. I like being able to take my garden anywhere and play for a bit no matter where, and still have pretty much the same experience I did on the Xbox 360.

It may be exaggerating to call it a paradise - it is a lot of work after all - but the complexity of Pi??ata Island is just big enough to fit comfortable in your pocket.

Special thanks to Kristina Kirk and THQ for providing a copy of this game.