Friday, November 17, 2006

Viva Pinata: Let's Get It On

Don't you know how sweet and wonderful, life can be
I'm askin you baby, to get it on with me
I aint gonna worry, I aint gonna push
So come on, come on, come on, come on baby
Stop beatin round the bush..

They're mating.

I really don't want to consider the minutia of pinata genitalia and copulation, but they're mating. I guess it could be worse. Pinatas could be self-pleasuring themselves and ejecting streams of candy. My eyes! My eyes!

In Viva Pinata, you function as a pinata pimp, directing two members of a species to well, bang the gong and all that.

I don't know if pinatas mate for life. It doesn't seem that way--as far as I can tell, it's free love on the free love freeway.

All I know is that if I see a money shot, I'll lose the will to live.

I've been playing Viva Pinata in rotation with Gears of War, and it's been a strange and disorienting experience. You'd expect Gears of War to have complex controls and Viva Pinata to have simple ones, but it's actually reversed. GOW maps about a hundred functions to the "A" button, it seems, dumbing down the controls as much as humanly possible. Viva Pinata, on the other hand, has actions and functions and directions and options and shagging.

For a game with a cartoon tie-in, it's pretty damn complicated, actually.

It has a magnificent sense of style, though--wonderfully bright, vaguely psychedelic, and totally whimsical. Even the loading screens are trippy and colorful and fun.

But it's clunky, too. The graphics are so inspired that you expect the game itself to be that way, but at least at first, it's just not. The first thing you do is get a shovel and dig up your entire garden. You don't have to dig it all up right away, technically, but you have to eventually, anyway. It's a bland introduction.

The basic premise seems to be this: you have a garden, and you plant grass and flowers in the garden to attract pinatas. All of these pinatas have likes and dislikes, and you have to tailor your garden accordingly. Pinatas live in your garden, they mate, they fight off an invasion from an alien race known as the Skurg...

Okay, I just added that last part.

There are evil pinatas as well, although I haven't seen any yet. So it's a little pinata biosphere. And even if it's a little clunky at times, it is pleasant to play. But every time I start to settle in, something drags me out, and here's another example. There's an alert system that takes the focus away from you to a "breaking event," and sometimes these events are stacked in multiples, and it's quite annoying. Sometimes the break-ins are explaining events to help you become familiar with the game, but there are so many of them that the game just doesn't have any sense of flow.

What's most disappointing about the first few hours of the game, though, is that there are all kinds of things to discover, but you're not really allowed to discover them. Instead, they're sort of rolled out to you in relatively linear order. Maybe it's necessary because of the complexity of the game, but it winds up feeling far more structured and controlled than I expected.

I'm about three hours in at this point, and I've gotten more interested each hour, so that's a good sign. I'm not desperate to play in free moments, but I do find it somewhat interesting. So my first impressions are not exceptional, but they are improving.

I just hope nobody finds a Hot Toffee mod.

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