Pinatas: everybody loves them. Open the slot, fill with goodies, tie to a pole, beat with large stick, and eat said goodies. You can't go wrong! Pinatas have been a party favorite since I was a youngling and they still frequent parties today. So why does this have anything to do with video games you may ask? Give it time, you'll soon understand.

Some of you may remember the release of the original Viva Pinata game back in 2006. You build a garden, pinatas live there, fun and hilarity ensue, gotcha. Well in the two years since its original release, they've reworked the game and have released Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise. In this sequel, the developer Rare has taken the worldwide phenomena of the original Viva Pinata and made it even better.

Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise: Xbox360 www.vivapinata.com.


Welcome back to the gardens of perpetual pinata bliss, where the Horstachios roam and the Flutterscotches fly. In VP:TIP you take control of a gardener whose purpose in life is to attract pinatas to your garden. But look out, a group of evil pinatas are trying to stop your journey of becoming a master gardener and will try to sabotage you at every turn.

Here's how the craziness works. You start with your little garden. By adding flowers or trees to your landscape, it will get certain types of pinatas interested in your garden. After a pinata decides to make your little garden its home, you then make it happy by feeding it certain seeds until it's ready to breed with a pinata of the same type. You then take your resident pinata and send them out upon request to parties to well, you know what happens then.

The main objective of the game is to accept and complete missions from pinata central. In these missions, it is your job to get the pinata that is asked for by HQ, make it happy and send it off to a party. I know all of this sounds pretty ridiculous, but the game is insanely addicting in a Pokemon "gotta catch 'em all" kinda way, and the controls and game mechanics are pretty amazing.

So, what's new for the second installment of Viva Pinata? The story line is all new with dozens of hours of addicting gameplay. You can now control three gardens at the same time because they've added a desert garden and an artic garden to your homestead. VP:TIP also has dozens of new pinatas, houses and accessories. Another new touch is the ability to play with two controllers. You can sit next to your child and help them out with their gardens, or they can team up with a friend. In this installment the Xbox Live capability has been grossly expanded. Players can trade pinatas over Live, post screenshots of their gardens and also be a part of the leaderboards. The last cool new addition is the introduction of Pinata vision cards. These cards can be scanned in front of an Xbox 360 camera and poof the pinata on the card is now a pinata in your game!

So hopefully you get the concept and it sounds intriguing. For more of a taste of the pinata world be sure to check out the Viva Pinata television show. For mobile pinata goodness, check out Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise for the Nintendo DS, and for some awesome minigame pinata fun check out Viva Pinata: Party Animals for the Xbox 360.

Hopefully after all that you'll be sick of seeing pinatas and opt for a clown for little Jimmy's birthday next year. And remember, if an evil pinata comes into your garden, smack it with a stick.