As much as we were hugely looking forward to Rare's Viva Piñata follow-up, Trouble in Paradise, there was always the feeling that the dev team would struggle to make a true sequel. Although the original game had a few problems, the core idea and gameplay was near-perfect, making for one of the Xbox 360's best games. Being a sim, Rare couldn't simply build some new levels and a few new enemies and have a sequel. The whole premise of Viva Piñata is the garden, which is where piñatas live, where you plant seeds, grow plants and decorate. This was never going to be Viva Piñata: Piñatas invade New York City, and as such is going to feel extremely familiar to anyone who sunk considerable time into the original. That's not to say that Rare hasn't managed to make this another must-own title.
The sense of deja vu is impossible to shake. Once again you start with a simple spade, a watering can and some grass seed. These are your primary tools for landscaping your garden into a piñata paradise - a garden that starts off looking just a small step above what you might expect to find should you return home after a trip around the world. It's not pretty and isn't attracting many visitors. Your goal, as in the original, is to spruce up the garden and attract as many different piñata species as possible. This all starts with the humble worm, or in piñata land, the whirlm.
All piñatas in Trouble in Paradise have certain garden requirements before they'll appear, visit and become residents. Whirlms are the most basic example, but the same principles apply across the board, albeit at a much more complicated level. Whirlms need dirt, so as long as you've got 10 square pinometers of soil or grass in your garden they'll turn up. Luckily the requirement for a visit and residency is exactly the same, so it won't take long for a whole load of whirlms to turn up. The final requirements are for romancing. These need to be met before your piñatas do a little dance and start breeding. All piñatas need a house to romance in, but usually also a bunch of other requirements, from the type of objects in the garden to the food they've eaten. Whirlms of course are simple creatures, so just need a house and dirt. If only everyone was so easy to please.
A whirlm population will bring in new visitors, and from here you start the whole pleasing-process again, shaping your garden to their needs while also trying not to upset your existing residents. Depending on what you're trying to attract you'll need to dig ponds, lay new surfaces (grass, long grass, sand and snow are all options eventually), grow certain plants or plant bushes and trees for fruit. Once you start you're in a state of constant upkeep and renovation, digging, planting and watering non-stop.
'You can even buy accessories and toys for your loveable piñata friends - who doesn't want to see a Lickatoad in a bowler hat?'
You're not entirely alone in your quest to become the ultimate gardener, with a whole host of helpers (many familiar faces from the original game) cropping up as you progress. Achieving new things in the game awards you with petals, with a certain amount of petals earning you a level upgrade. Level upgrades earn you new items available to buy from the store, new helpers to hire, new seeds to plant, new equipment to buy and loads of other stuff . You can even buy accessories and toys for your loveable piñata friends - who doesn't want to see a Lickatoad in a bowler hat?
By the time you've been awarded a larger garden size (a second increase comes later in the game) you'll need all the help you can get. Eventually you can hire help for just about all the tasks you need to do in order to keep your garden in good working order, from a woman who collects fruit and sells it on, to garden guardians who are meant to prevent nasties from causing trouble while you're not looking. As you'll come to learn, these helpers have a mixed rate of success.
The nasties come in the shape of red enemies known as sours and ruffians. Sours are evil piñatas full of bad candy - candy which is harmful to other piñatas if eaten. You'll have to batter them with your spade and break up all dropped candy as quickly as possible in order to prevent a visit from the doctor. With money earned through selling unwanted piñatas and garden produce you can block various sours from entering, which makes your life a lot easier. Ruffians, and bigger baddies Dastardos and Professor Pester are another matter entirely. These guys are immune to your shovel attacks and cause far more trouble. If you get to them in time they can be bribed at a high cost or you can buy a fairly costly decoy piñata, but usually once they appear it's best to expect the worst.
Professor Pester will be familiar to fans of the original game and here he seems to appear more regularly, taking out your most valuable piñata in one wickedly cruel blow. Until later on in the game you don't have much in the way of defence, making for a rather annoying period of play where your most cherished piñatas (we swore we wouldn't become attached and name them all, but it's hard not to when the game rewards such actions) are repeatedly taken from you - we'll never forget you Lickyman, with your bright orange afro shining bright in our memories forever.