2006 was a good year to be an Xbox gamer. The Xbox 360 had been released the previous year to wild acclaim – if you ignore the RROD saga – and the console was just beginning to hit its stride in the games department. Gears of War, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter had all seen release to terrific reviews. So when Rare’s Viva Pinata came along, it snuck under the radar somewhat.
Even in the bonkers world of modern gaming the set-up was an odd one. The idea was to cultivate a beautifully rendered garden in such a way that it attracted the local fauna. But, in this case, said wildlife were Pinata. Yes, those things that people in Spain/ Mexico/ USA hit as children to make sweets fall out. Viva Pinata was the complete antithesis to the serious fantasy or dude-bro type games the 360 would become known for. In typical Rare style it used every colour in the paint box and the paper mache Pinata were expertly drawn to the extent they were believably as real animals!
The game started slow. Build a fence here. Construct a bird table there. Easy. But before you knew there were 17 different types of paper creatures, all within 30 feet of each other shagging like the proverbial bunnies, completely out of control. Every “interaction” between creatures that birthed offspring even had it’s own cut scene! Strange game, but there was a sedate sense of achievement to be had by getting your paper creations to live harmoniously. Particularly as many of your creatures had to be segregated from one another as they wouldn’t get on. Often fights would break out if they did cross each other’s paths and the losing critter would explode in a shower of candy.
Pokemon-like, there were dozens of Pinata to attract with the rarer ones needing coaxing out from the ether in weird and wonderful ways. The pace was wonderfully serene: you could (read: I did) sit there for hours tinkering bits in your garden, waiting for the next organism to mosey your way. A sequel was spawned two years later but it never quite matched the original in my eyes; perhaps the element of surprise had been lost?
That said, surely the Xbox One X is the perfect place for a ridiculously rendered 4K threequel?