Later on, continual assaults from sour pinatas and the murderous characters known as pesters will also cause you headaches, and – for all the improvements – there are still moments where you simply won’t be able to work out what you need to do to solve a certain problem. Generally speaking, however, this is a slightly kinder, gentler, Viva Pinata and all the better for that. And with more toys, more accessories and more garden items than ever before – many themed – it will take you a long, long time before you’ve exhausted it.
Finally, Live integration is much better this time around. Up to four of you can contribute to a garden at once, with the host controlling which players are allowed to modify the garden and which are only allowed a ‘hands off’ visit. This can turn online gardening into a bit of a show-and-share experience, as many gardeners are understandably too precious about their efforts to let anyone else have a go, but I could imagine that – were you to find three like-minded, Pinata-loving souls – the collaboration could be quite entertaining. For more competitive types, there are also options to race pinata or put them in beauty contests – and you can do this offline as well if you want a break from the gardening norm. Rare even has one more neat trick up its sleeve. The game comes with a card that, when you put it up to the Xbox Live Vision camera, releases a special bonus item or pinata into the game. You can even use this facility to create and trade custom pinatas with friends (though finding one with a Live Vision camera may be difficult).
All in all, there’s still a feeling that the odd control issue and the overall level of complexity in the main game mode has left Rare a hair’s breadth from having a classic on its hands, but Trouble in Paradise has certainly got both a broader and a deeper appeal than the original. That it’s managed this without spoiling what is still one of the most original and distinctive premises on any modern console format is something to celebrate. Trouble in Paradise might still not convert those allergic to bright colours and cutesy critters, but anyone with more sense will know that this rivals Spore as the great alternative strategy game of the year so far. Frankly, you really don’t want to miss out.
Viva Pinata was always a complex strategy game in cutesy guise. Now Trouble in Paradise has softened its edges and made it a more enjoyable game for anyone and everyone to play.