A less immediately important new feature is the trick stick. The basic idea is that you entice pinatas through various means to perform tricks. Then, by tapping them with the trick stick, you can get them to do the same trick at your command. Again this might not seem all that useful, but it is possible (though awkward) to use the trick stick to chain together fairly complex performances involving several different pinata. You can capture the results as a photo, but it’s the sort of thing that screams out for a Halo 3 style video capture system.
Otherwise, this is very much the experience it was before. Visual enhancements are slight, though it’s worth bearing in mind that – in its own way – Viva Pinata was already one of the most gorgeous games on the 360, representing the logical next step in the evolution of Rare’s distinctive cartoon style from the N64 and the work it did with Kameo at the 360’s launch. The unique paper-rendered style of the pinata is carried across beautifully to the new critters, and the overall look approaches CGI movie quality a lot of the time. Sure, there are occasions when the frame rate stutters or a reflection pops in, but not to the extent that anyone has a real right to complain.
What seasoned Pinata players will notice more is that Rare has made several small changes to the interface that make it faster to shift between pinata or find the right tools, and generally worked in a smoother difficulty curve. Just like Pokemon, there’s something horribly addictive about finding out what each new pinata needs, first to settle, then to breed, and the appearance of a new pinata on the garden’s periphery is always cause for excitement. As soon as you see the cut scene, you just know you’ve got to have it. There will come a time when you’ll need to hire assistants to take some of the menial work off your shoulders – Arfur’s Inn again provides the perfect recruiting spot – and there will be times when the bickering and infighting between pinata gets you down. You can do so much with garden scenery of fencing, but in the end some pinata just don’t get on.