Viva Piñata: Party Animals Xbox 360

Viva Piñata: Party Animals Xbox 360
The crazy, colourful, candy filled creatures of Viva Piñata have returned in an all-new party game. This multi-player, mini-game-oriented button tapper is designed with a younger audience in mind, opting for simple, repetitive game play that can easily be mastered by less co-ordinated little fingers. The lack of difficulty settings, limited mini-game types and distinctly irritating audio will prevent this game from crossing over to an adult, casual gaming audience however.

You take on the role of a brightly coloured Piñata animal that’s in competition with his (or her) fellow candy boxes. Each "level” begins with a simplified "cart-style” race through a magical land, where you can pick up bonus "weapons” to waylay the competition on the way to the finish line. You then move on to the mini-game portion of the competition, which includes events that have you tapping controller buttons in rhythm, competitive target practice, running around collecting candy and stomping ants. None of the mini-games require any particular skill and can be mastered within seconds of picking up the controller.

Graphically, Viva Piñata: Party Animals is filled with eye candy. The bright, vibrant colours and cute, frilly animals are a treat on hi or regular definition televisions. The audio can be grating, with repetitive, high-energy voiceovers and mind-numbingly upbeat music that will quickly have you searching the Options for volume control.

Microsoft is touting Viva Piñata as one of their new "family friendly” titles, though there is not a lot here to captivate older members of a gaming household. With no "handicap” option, parents or older siblings will have no trouble outplaying younger gamers without making it very obvious that they aren’t trying. The only appeal this game might hold for older gamers is the easy to get Xbox Gamer Points, including a ten-point achievement for entering the classic Konami code at the start screen (though the code has no effect on game play).

Viva Piñata: Party Animals has a very limited appeal to a very narrow age range. It’s great that developers are trying to create "family fun” titles but they may have missed the boat on this one. The simple inclusion of player-by-player difficulty levels would have allowed parents to competitively play with their children without having to resort to losing on purpose, as well as broadened this game’s appeal to an older market. (Microsoft Game Studios)