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Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise is one of those sequels that, at first, seems to blur the line between follow-up and reworking. Those of us who played Rare's original will be delighted to find the familiar style and gameplay basically untampered with, but you still can't help thinking that, back in the good old days of PC gaming, this would have been an expansion pack. This impression diminishes the more you play and get to grips with the new features, but this isn't some bold, bottom-up redevelopment; more an effort to squeeze the potential out of Viva Pinata and transform it from a much-loved niche title into a must-have 360 classic.
After all, the biggest problem with Viva Pinata was that not enough of us played it in the first place, and that those who did didn't always get the point. Microsoft tried to position it as a game that could lure the more casual, family gaming audience over to a console best known for hardcore shooters, but this undersold the game to one audience while overselling it to another. Beneath its cutesy looks, Viva Pinata was actually a fairly complex game of garden building and creature management. Families expected a sort of cross between Pokemon and Harvest Moon then found themselves playing something a lot more challenging. The trick Trouble in Paradise is going for, then, is to make a more accessible Viva Pinata while adding content for the folks who enjoyed the mind-boggling, multi-tasking play of the original. It just about pulls this off.
For a start, it's structured much better this time around. In Viva Pinata you were shown the basics then just expected to get on with it, leaving a lot of players feeling mildly patronised then completely abandoned. Trouble in Paradise does things differently, throwing in a new set of tutorial missions introduced by a new face, Langston (apparently a Lickatoad well known to fans of the Viva Pinata cartoon) which then lead onto a series of worldwide challenge missions. The idea is that the tutorials take you through the basic tools and concepts of the game, then the challenge missions gently get you into the business of attracting, keeping and breeding pinata in a vaguely sensible order. Langston's missions aren't imposed on you, and if you're perfectly happy with the more freeform structure of the original, you're welcome to ignore them. If, however, you'd rather work with targets and objectives then helping Langston out will keep your garden moving in the right direction.
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