Note: I played this on my 360 when it originally came out. I booted it up to remind myself of some things. As the sequel is also on Rare Replay, I have opted to focus on that one instead, as I have not played it.
Viva Pinata is a garden “tycoon simulator” type game (although your goal isn’t to amass money, you need lots to buy things). Your goal is to attract lots of pinata critters, which are based on real animals but with a pinata design and punny names, trying to create a happy environment for them so they are happy to perform a “romance dance” to make babies.
Each pinata has various stages of interactivity in your garden, each with its own requirements. You can’t see the requirements up front for sighting a Pinata, but once you do you’ll spot them roaming the outskirts of your garden. You can check their requirements for visiting (where they’ll wander into your garden) or the main thing you want: the requirements for the pinata becoming a resident in your garden.
Once a Pinata is a resident, they will gain their true colors and you’ll be able to rename them. The next step is romancing, you’ll need two requirements, usually eating something and having a house in your garden (each species has a unique house). You’ll either have to buy produce, grow the right time of flower or have your pinata eat another (of a certain species) to get them in the mood – these pinatas will be your other residents, so don’t grow too attached to some of the initial ones. When a pinata dies – though being attacked by another, or you savagely smashing them open with your shovel – they’ll leave behind some tasty candy, which other pinata can eat or you can sell for money.
Once you’ve done a successful romance with a species, you can buy a romance candy which lets you skip having to do these steps again (although you still need a house). So you won’t have to constantly sacrifice the same pinatas, just different ones as you attract more species.
Viva Pinata is incredibly charming, with lovely graphics and incredibly cute pinata designs. It can be a savage game and there can be some moments when all sorts of things can be going wrong at the same time, so while mostly relaxing, it does have moments of stress.