Viva Piñata — A Celebration of Mexico… without Mexico

This game is not for me

A friend once told me, and I’m paraphrasing: “I’d rather play Viva Piñata than get recommendations from you on anything”. In retrospect, I don’t even remember what conversation we had that led him to that conclusion. Also, he wasn’t much of a friend, just a guy in high school I used to talk to whose class just happened to be in the same building as my class, and neither of us… actually, that’s irrelevant. The point is that I decided to check out Viva Piñata thirteen years later, and for once, I don’t think I can recommend this game.

The thing is, Viva piñata is a game for first graders. At least that’s the impression it left me because the character that’s supposed to guide you through the tutorial treats you like you have a developmental disorder because she repeated the same instructions over and over. And the game is also slow-paced as I couldn’t tell if I was already allowed to do what I wanted or if I was still in the tutorial. There isn’t much for the story either, aside from the premise that it’s a zoo simulator where all the animals are living piñatas. I had no idea what I had to do with it, and eventually, I realised: “hey… maybe this game isn’t for me.”

So I dropped it almost immediately, and I still wonder if the game didn’t seem to me because it’s actually mediocre or because I just got older… or both. Regardless, I didn’t see any sign of Mexico.

So… where was Mexico?

Piñatas are often associated with Mexico, whether they originate from there or not. A game that sells itself as a Zoo Tycoon clone with piñatas instead of real animals should have some degree of a Mexican theme. I mean, that’s the impression I had before playing the game because it’s called “Viva Piñata”. If only I knew that it was a game for young children, maybe I would’ve considered it better.

But the deed was already done. I played the game, and I’m surprised it isn’t rated EC for “Early Childhood” (I don’t know if it still exists, but there’s an ESRB rating for games whose target audience are six-year-old, called EC for early childhood). Of course, it’s possible that I just perceive games differently as I age and become more cynical. Still, there was a fastidiously childish theme to the game that spelt “if you’re above the age of seven, you’ll be bored with this game”… at least that’s how I interpreted it.

But there was no Mexico anywhere! I expected some Spanish at least, but even that I couldn’t find. In retrospect, it seems baffling that I would expect anything from this game. I would go on to brainstorm on how I would make a game where I was tasked with making a piñata-breeding game… but for once, I can say that this game is not for me. Spoilers: I’m not going to recommend it in the last section.

Solution? For what?

Usually, this is the part where I say what I think could be a plausible solution. However, I failed to find a problem in whatever I was talking about, that game with piñatas or something. I didn’t like it, and it’s not for me. Although I probably shouldn’t have expected there to be any Spanish, let alone have any Mexican elements to it. Other than that, there isn’t a lot more to say.

What did you think… or not?

I suppose I could ask you, the reader, what you thought of Viva Piñata, assuming you played the game, of course. I don’t know any people who played the game who could give me an opinion about it. I only know this game because someone in high school told me a joke, and I now realise that the joke had merit. If you liked the game, tell me what you liked because I would like to know. I might be a bit too cynical these days to give something like this a real chance. If nothing else, the character design was cute… but that’s it.

In Conclusion…

For once, I don’t think I can recommend this game. It didn’t leave a lasting impression on me, but I guess this is how it is when you play random games without even researching about them prior. You can still play the game if you want to, but don’t say that I told you to play it… because I didn’t.

I would talk about incorporating more Mexican themes into this game, but that wouldn’t be practical considering that Mexico isn’t part of this game, especially not as a theme. It’s just about piñatas having fun in some haven for living, breathing animals made from Papier-mâché. You can’t even beat them, and there’s no candy!

Now that I think about it is beating a piñata in the world of Viva Piñata an act of animal cruelty? And if a piñata there eats candy, is it considered cannibalism? These are just a few questions that an overimaginative child would ask about them. I can answer none of these questions, as I could care less about the game.

And with that, I call it another day…

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Jeffrey McGee

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