The Overlooked & Underplayed column allows us to recommend top notch games that, for one reason or another, failed to capture the public’s imagination. Don’t miss these forgotten gems.
Years before it finally cracked the mainstream with its Kinect peripheral, Microsoft attempted to reach beyond the Halo demographic with Viva Piñata. This Xbox 360 exclusive gardening sim was released to considerable acclaim in 2006 and was widely considered to be a return to form for legendary UK developer Rare.
The game boasted stunning technicolour graphics and a huge cast of living Piñatas, which could only be lured into your garden by planting the correct seeds. Once they arrived, you had to be certain that incompatible Piñatas were kept well apart, lest they fight like cat and dog (or in this case Kittyfloss and Barkbark). The game also featured some wonderfully offbeat characters and truly adorable mating sequences (it isn’t as creepy as it sounds, honest).
At one point, Microsoft clearly had grand ambitions for the Viva Piñata franchise, releasing a party game spin-off, a direct sequel and even a version for the Nintendo DS. Unfortunately, the concept never quite reached the audience that it deserved, with the disparity between its colourful visuals and hardcore gameplay one possible explanation for its relative lack of success.