Amid all the space-based shooters and sword-and-sorcery slash-fests on display at E3, one of the quirkier standout titles was Viva Piñata. Microsoft is planning a major push for this family-friendly Xbox 360 exclusive. Taking notes from sandbox games such as Animal Crossing and The Sims, the whimsical setting of Viva Piñata is a garden where candy-filled piñatas hang out when they're not being beaten senseless by little children at birthday parties.
By landscaping your garden and creating a hospitable environment, gamers try to attract piñatas of all shapes and sizes, from lowly worms to giant bears--all designed to look like they are constructed from colored paper strips. With no set plot to follow, you can choose to build an impressive menagerie of creatures or specialize in one or more types. The actual mechanics of gameplay are hard to explain without a proper tutorial, and despite seeing a detailed presentation at the Microsoft press conference, we didn't really understand what the game was about until we got a behind-closed-doors showing with the developers from Rare (GoldenEye, Perfect Dark: Zero) later in the week.
Xbox Live figures heavily in the Viva Piñata plan, and gamers can trade custom-made objects and animals with other players through the online service. Look for the game to be released sometime in fall 2006.