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Cover art for Viva Piñata.
|Release date||November 9, 2006|
|Genre||Poverty simulation game|
|Would Natalie Portman play it?||Do Ruffians lust for candy?|
Viva Piñata is a Poverty Simulation Game (PSG) developed by Rare Ltd. for the Microsoft Xbox 360 video game console. It is the first game for the console to implement the Xbox 360's gyroscopically sensitive stick controller, which conveys the user's swinging motions onto the television screen during gameplay. Due to a general outcry from the public, the game was censored or banned in several countries because of scenes portraying sexual acts involving piñatas as well as piñata-related violence and abuse.
The story begins on a small island just off the coast of Mexico. Here, you meet a young Hispanic child, Leafos, mourning the death of her mother after a long bout with malaria. Their only source of income came from the piñatas that were once drawn to their beautiful garden and consequentially beaten, stuffed, and sold for up to five centavos each. Unfortunately, now that Leafos' sole caretaker is dead, it is up to her to look after the family's garden.
As it turns out, Leafos is an awkward and hapless gardener, more prone to wear the foliage than actually grow it. Since her mother's death, the plants have all but died and the once-fertile patch of land devoted to growing lush fruits and vegetables is now a muddy hole used by the local villagers for dumping old kitchen appliances and boulders.
With some of your help (read: all of your help), she (meaning you) decides to tend the garden back to its former glory. You begin by digging everything up and starting from scratch, because that just seems like the proper thing to do. Once the garbage pit is only a dirt pit, it is time to start planting seeds.
After much seed-planting and water-pouring, the garden is on its way to luring many an unknowing piñata to its doom. As the piñatas begin rushing to inhabit your new little plot of heaven, tragedy strikes. A gang of local clowns known as the Ruffians attack and devour one of your piñatas. This is very unprofitable for you, indeed!
As the game progresses, you struggle to maintain a constant flow of piñatas and income while fighting off the harlequined fiends, whom only desire to see all of your entrepreneurial attempts fail. A cast of whimsical characters ties the story together to bring you one very satisfying game, overall.
Viva Piñata is the first game to have made use of Microsoft's gyroscopic stick controller. Throughout the game, you are given special tasks the require different swinging motions from the controller. Initially, it is used to manipulate a garden shovel in-game. The shovel is useful when digging up the debris you are tasked with removing by Leafos.
Later on, the xStick 360 controller is used to hoe and water the land. Once piñatas start to enter the mix, the stick begins to serve multiple purposes. It can be used as a heavy club for beating the piñatas to death or, alternatively, as an electric cattle prod to motivate/torture the piñatas as you see fit.
With the introduction of the evil Ruffians, the stick begins to serve yet another purpose. Depending on whether you hold down the A or B button, it will act as a different type of weapon for defending your garden. While pressing down and holding the A button, the stick becomes a serrated blade that can be used for hacking away at enemies nearby. Should you need a long-range weapon, the B button is a better choice, as it gives you a pump-action Remington 870 shotgun.
The release of Viva Piñata was greeted with mixed reactions among both the gamer community and the international community. The game was accused by Spaniards and Mexicans alike of being politically incorrect, proponents of these claims saying that most piñatas were treated with much more cruelty than those shown in the game. Opponents of the game argued that it's portrayal of an impoverished life in Mexico, while not entirely accurate, was still accurate enough to be commended, saying that it was both an entertaining and educational experience that the whole family could enjoy.
Some countries, such as Australia, Germany, and Japan, however, banned the game due to content which game-rating organizations claimed to be sexual and violent in nature. Distributors in all three nations have explained that both sexuality and violence have saturated the market so much, that it seemed excessive and unnecessary to add further to their list of gore-filled shooters and rape simulators.
In the gamesphere, critics were more concerned by Viva Piñata's obvious appeal to "hardcore" gamers, while still being a blatantly "casual" game. Several dedicated gamers — avid opponents of the "dilution of quality, 'hardcore' gaming" through the heavy distribution and marketing of "casual" titles — were terrified by the existence of a game that could appeal to both markets. The gaming community saw Viva Piñata as a threat to old school gaming, as well as a sinister method of "misleading" the public into believing that casual games could be legitimate sources of high-caliber entertainment for all.
Because of the general stigma associated with Viva Piñata by the gaming community, it is viewed as a reprehensible act for any gamer to be seen playing the game. Often, those caught playing the game are blacklisted, their Gamertags banned, and their friends lost due to embarrassment. Still, even with the drastic measures taken to prevent gamers from playing the game, there is a large underground following, known for evading persecution by purchasing Viva Piñata on Amazon.com, as opposed to the local GameStop, and creating fake Xbox LIVE accounts, or simple by playing offline altogether.