Viva Piñata Pocket Paradise

Despite the “paradise” tag, this is a handheld port of the original Xbox 360 title rather than a conversion of the newer sequel. So, how much of the 360 game have they managed to squeeze into the tiny Nintendo cartridge?

The answer is… most of it really. Even though it obviously loses out in the graphical department. the tiny piñatas running around on screen retain a lot of their original charm. The game world is pseudo-3D. A slightly angled, skewed perspective view of your piñatas is fused together with a top down view of your garden.

The pacing in the DS version is much better. The start of the game no longer involves being bombarded with cut scene events as you find your feet in your new garden. This time around the cast of the cartoon series take you through your paces and introduce the basics in an easy to follow way. Talking of the TV show, there are plenty of clips from the cartoon included on the cartridge.

Interacting with the world is a breeze on the DS. Everything is accomplished by simply tapping or dragging the stylus. It’s so much easier than using a 360 controller. The menus even come up quicker. There are no long waiting times for loading and saving like in the 360 version.

The two screens of the DS are used well. In general play the top screen shows the garden clock, your progress, recent events and details of the selected piñata’s residence or romance requirements.

A touch of the stylus swaps the main game screen for a really useful zoomed out map of your entire garden. The positions of piñata and important events are clearly indicated and a simple tap takes you there. You can also go outside your garden area and inspect passing wild piñatas to find out what would tempt them in for a visit.

Although this is a great way to experience the world of Viva Piñata I do have a few complaints.

Sometimes I felt that the game has been made too simple. Several species are easier to attract and there are less stringent requirements for residence. The romance sweets are far too powerful. You no longer need to have previously satisfied the breeding conditions before you can use them. I know many 360 players will be pleased that the romancing mini-games have also been removed but surely they would’ve been a much better fit for the DS?

Although, in one way it’s nice not to have the constant interruptions and on-screen message clutter that the 360 version featured, the lack of animated fanfares or popups mean that it’s very easy to miss your achievements and other important events. You don’t get quite the same buzz that you did in the original from discovering new piñata variants, growing plants to the maximum or hatching new creatures.

The lack of a way to trade piñatas online using the Nintendo Wi-Fi system is a disappointment. You can connect with other piñata owners using a local connection, though.

Overall Viva Piñata on the DS will still be a bit too free-form for some people. If the attraction of encouraging every species to come to your garden doesn’t appeal then this game is probable not for you.

It’s definitely worth buying for any fans of titles like Animal Crossing or Nintendogs though. It’s a solid port of the 360 game and allows you to have portable chunks of piñata entertainment on the move.

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