As most of you know, when I am not obsessing over Data Protection or Windows Storage concepts, I can often be found playing Xbox360 with my family. So, outside of my weekly backup/storage posts, I am intending to routinely offer my "reviews" (opinions) of games that I play.
Hey, maybe if Xbox Dad (the real Xbox.com gamer dad reviewer) ever goes on holiday, they'll let me write his column for a month. (hint, hint)
My sons are 9 & 7, and my daughter is 3. And between the five of us (including my wife), we have 2 Xbox360's, an Xbox, a Wii, a GameCube, 3 Nintendo DS's, and 2 Gameboy's - basically everything except Sony. And we play together -- a lot.
The original Viva Piñata (VP) is a great game -- with one exception and on observation. My main beef with VP is that you cannot move your saved games. I get that it was an early title and not all of that functionality was available then, but my kids and I have each lost multiple hours of work when we had to swap a failing harddrive - and again, when we wanted to start using 512 memory sticks. We can move everything else around (over 20 different games) -- except VP. Come on Rare - please do an update !
Other than that, which obviously still irks me - VP is a great game ... for one person. In fact, for the record, VP is the only game that I have ever owned two of at the same time. In a family with two Xbox360's, we often had both spinning at the same time.
We technically have owned two Cars and two Star Wars Lego II games, but those were on different platforms, and I re-purchased them for Xbox360 and traded away the other one -- for the Achievement Points (see blog post here).
When I first heard that another Viva Piñata based game was coming, and that it was multi-player, I was very excited. Click here for my earlier blog post on the announcement. And it has lived up to my expectations.
Instead of being a third-person keeper of gardens (original VP) tending to your favorite piñata's, in Viva Piñata : Party Animals (PA), you get to be your favorite piñata and compete against up to 3 other players, online or offline, in races and other party games.
Here is the recipe for Viva Piñata : Party Animals
Start with Crash Bandicoot / Rayman style foot-races -- where players race on foot through fun tracks with accelerator pads, non-violent weapons (e.g. spill honey to slow down players behind you), and some short-cuts that I still can't find, but my 7 year old can.
Add Fuzion Frenzy / Mario Party / Disney Party style mini-games - with a variety of mini-games in-between each race. At least a few of which, each member of your family will be good at. This keeps the game fresh - and somewhat balanced.
Mix these two ingredients together in different ratios for various game lengths.
- A short game has 1 race, followed by 3 mini-games
- A medium game has 2 races, with 5 mini-games after each
- a long game has 3 races, with 7 mini-games after each ... and it is a long game.
- Custom games are also configurable
Place in container around an overall contest at the end - based on points.
- For each mini-game, your standing earns you overall points
- For each race, you get bonus points which are added to the score for each mini-game in the set. This is a little non-intuitive for about two complete games, and then you'll understand and the races become even more exciting.
- Many of these are easily achievable in normal game play
- Some come with perfect play in a mini-game
- don't get hit once by the rolling snow ball, or hit the small target even once.
- Some are free small achievements if you do the right series of things
- A few are rewards for just playing a lot, with all the characters in different matchups.
- And a few are a little hoakie, but whatever
We recently printed a checklist of all the achievements from Xbox360achievements.org and refer to it periodically on ways to mix things up within the game.
Admittedly, there are no radically new ingredients in this recipe. And for a family game, that is totally okay. We eat ground beef and chicken in umpteen different ways at our dinner table, and the common ingredients often get my kids to try things in different ways that they might have fussed over otherwise.
Krome did a really good job at adding this installment to the Viva Piñata family, which includes the addictive original game and the TV series that my kids watch. Having the same theme across multiple media is very cool for them. The show is a little more fun because of the game, and vice versa. I'm not recommending action figures or anything, just liking the multi-media.
Is it perfect? No. I would have liked to have seen more race courses added (even as a Marketplace download). Also, the race bonus points can skew the game; so as a parent, I have to be careful not to win the races too often because it can almost guarantee a win overall with the accelerator points. The mini-games I can go all out on - and still be balanced.
In Viva Piñata : Party Animals, folks who have never played Viva Piñata will think the theme is cute and unique - while VP-devotees will get jazzed over it. The races and mini-games are equally accessible by young-gamers and adults, and by casual gamers as well as hard-core.
Its great for birthday parties and for family game nights - and lazy afternoons in between. We have yet to play through the game just once - it always ends with lots of hoots and hollers, and begging to play it one more time.