My choice for the letter V took a while to make itself known in my brain. In fact, I had to trawl through my own game collections to find a game or two to write about. When the two options did show themselves, I was surprised at how obvious they both were to me.
The two games I’ll be looking at today are almost binary opposites, but have one thing in common – their ability to zone me out and put my anxieties and low mood to one side for a while. One is creative, one is arguably destructive, but both are equally valuable resources when I am struggling.
Today Completionists, we’re going to look at Viva Pinata and Viscera: Cleanup Detail. Let’s start with the brighter of the two, Rare’s Viva Pinata.
Long time readers may remember me mentioning this technicolour wonder in a post examining small joys in gaming. My focus then was on the beautifully animated “fur” of the Pinatas in your garden. To be fair, most of the game is a joy to play and makes for a good wind down, calm down session.
You are tasked with maintaining a garden, full of bright green grass, massive and fruitful trees and bushes, and ultimately full of majestic and neon coloured Pinatas, all of which have names based around food. Playing around with your garden, its contents and layout and even what goodies are grown all influence which types of Pinata come to stay. Clean your garden of trash and lay down some grass and you’ll get some worms (Whirlim) and maybe some Sparrowmints arrive. Late in the game, perhaps you are enticing deer (Doenut), horses (Horsetachio) or hippos (Chippopotamus) into a garden, tailoring each plot of land to aim for specific creatures.
What brings me joy with Viva Pinata is how simple or complex you can make your own garden. Do you just want to grow plants, breed some birds and relax? Go for it. Want to try to entice that shy looking Bunnycomb? Sure. Want to wage war against the “Sour” Pinatas (the sort of bad guys of the series). Feel free. I can play whichever way I want to on a given day. With multiple gardens available across a profile, I can have a land based garden, a watery wetland, a flower forest and even a simple mud and soil based plot, all for various different aims and outcomes. I don’t feel pushed into a given direction, and I can try to fill my encyclopedia in whichever way I choose.
I have very few issues with Viva Pinata, which is always a good thing. I don’t always enjoy the threat of the “Sours”, and turning them into productive members of your Pinata society takes time and energy that I don’t always have. I find the limits on garden contents too restrictive, particularly when you are trying to entice Pinatas into the garden, and the pace can be a little too slow.
For a game I picked up cheap on a whim, I can’t really complain. Since buying the original Viva Pinata on Xbox 360, I’ve also picked up Trouble in Paradise (Xbox 360) and Pocket Paradise (DS), so something clearly works for me. It would be great to have a digital copy available for PC, if only to get some lovely screenshots for this post, but I think Viva Pinata has become one of those Marmite games and suffers for looking a little too childish for most.
If you’d like to keep the colourful happy images in your head, then please finish reading here. The next short post/Honorable Mention isn’t so colourful and certainly isn’t so pleasant.
I warned you.
Viscera Cleanup Detail
Despite the context of the game, Viscera Cleanup Detail has become another chillout game for me. Instead of creating a glorious garden, you are employed as janitor cleaning up after all those battles you normally partake in in other video games. You have a mop/broom/tool and a few machines to create buckets and hazardous waste crates in which to dump body bits, carcasses, shell casings and miscellaneous battle detritus (coming soon to a cinema near you).
Cleaning up the scenes is a zen experience, as cleaning in real life can be. The PDA given to you can help track how much of the area is cleaned, but should you walk in blood puddles or knock over your dirty water bucket and you can make the area messier than before. It can be a frustrating experience, but if you can get into a cleaning groove, it can be quite soothing, especially since there’s no real time constraints. The only “failure” state is if, on leaving the level, you have not cleaned to an acceptable level, you are promptly fired from the clearing company. Of course, you just then inhabit the skin suit of another hapless janitor and continue in your quest to complete clean up after anther alien invasion.
Whilst not a joyful or pleasant as Viva Pinata, Viscera Cleanup still provides a safe space to decompress, wind down and do something a bit different than my normal gaming choices.
Next time, as we come to the closing few letters, I look at a game from my childhood that caused plenty of sibling fights.