Like many sequels, VP2 isn't much different in its basic mechanics and most of its changes consist of refinements and streamlining that allows for the gameplay to pass much faster and in many new ways. Things like co-op, the camera support, and the UI refinement all make the rest of the game's additions that much easier to use.
Hit the Pinata after the break. Get it? We're a scream.
While the look of the game does belie its depth, Rare is committed to making the game easy to pick up and play for anyone, and VP2 will have a "free play" mode that has no pressures whatsoever and feels a bit like the game's equivalent of Halo 3's Forge. Another way to tackle the game for those who don't want the pressure or depth is to use the new co-op mode.
The co-op is drop-in/drop-out and is only confirmed to be local, but the game is still in development. When we asked about Xbox Live co-op, the Assistant Producer only told us that in the end what they've got planned will make everyone happy. Given that the netcode in Banjo supports four people, we think it's not thinking too far out of the box to imagine that Viva 2 will have online co-op.
The co-op is similar to many games in that both players' icons are on-screen simultaneously, and it ends up working well enough locally, but the online (if it comes) will be where this really shines. With over thirty new piñatas and two new environments to attract pinatas from, having another player to help quickly became invaluable.
The Pinarctic and the Dessert are the two new environments, but you can only visit them to recruit piñatas. Sadly, the garden size is still the same, but more objects are now allowed within and many of the conflicts that necessitated multiple gardens have been fixed. For the most part, the entire game is designed to be much more of a sandbox experience.
While the more objective oriented goals are still there if one wants them, the majority of the focus seems to be on having fun tweaking the world. Nowhere is this more evident than in the new camera features. First of all, there is now an in-game photo mode that is accessible at any time and uploads images to the game's website å la Halo 3. Not only that, but through some sort of programming wizardry the photo will also attach a game code of the item(s) that you photographed.
Whether this takes off in a big way or it remains relatively niche, the idea is a good one, and is similar to Eye of Judgment. Every item and creature (and an intangible force or two) is associated with a sort of bar code that can be read by the Live Vision Cam. This means that any creature of yours that you'd like to share need simply be photographed in the game's photo mode.
While we did see cards that changed the seasons, the time of day, the speed of time and more, it's currently unknown how these other things' bar codes will be found, as photographing time is a little dicey. To share things you do have though, simply point folks to the URL of the picture with the bar code and they can point the Cam right at the screen to get your creation.
With so much added to the formula, it's hard to see downsides to Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise, and that's because they're mostly endemic. The good news is that Rare has given many ways around the more slow and tedious parts to let players play in their garden without holding them back too much. Unless you just can't stand the visuals, give the game a try. While the game is a ways off, we were told that there might be demo on the way.