PLATFORM: Xbox 360
PUBLISHER: Microsoft Game Studios and Rare
ESRB RATING: E, for Everyone
GRADE: **** out of ****
At first, Viva Piata looks like a kids' game. It has all the markings: big, colorful characters; cartoonish music; easy controls.
A closer look shows that there's more to it. In fact, my wife and I refer to it as "the crack game" because of its addictive nature.
There's no linear story and no real end. It's all about customizing a little piece of land to attract piatas - yes, the candy-filled papier-mch party toys.
The piatas are animals with different requirements to become residents of your garden. One wants a certain amount of water; another wants to eat blackberries or daisies; another wants to eat your other piatas.
The point of the game is to plant flowers and bushes, dig ponds and do whatever else is necessary to attract new piatas.
They come in many forms, from bees (Buzzlegums) to frogs (Lickatoads) to snakes (Syrupents) to deer (Doenuts). If you meet the requirements for a Doenut, for example, it will come visit. If it likes what you have, it will become a resident. Build it a house, attract another one, get them to do the "romance dance" and they will reproduce. A Storkos brings an egg, of course.
As you get more piatas to become residents, you increase your skill, leading to more land, more valuable piatas and new skills.
Viva Piata is a puzzle game disguised in a bright, colorful package. There's a lot of strategy involved that will keep people of all ages playing for a long time.