October 27th Preview
This demo started much the same as earlier game convention demos by walking through the initial tutorial. Even though this wasn't a final build, it was very obvious that the game is much more polished than previous builds. The pinatas in the game don't speak, but the game does have voice overs from the characters Hudson Horstachio and Langston Lickatoad from the television series.
The basics of the game are covered in detail throughout the rest of this site, so I won't rehash them here. Before long Ryan and Justin loaded a save game from a fully developed garden. It was interesting to note that even though they had loaded the same save many times during various presentations even they weren't sure what would happen each time. This is because the pinatas have complex behaviors that can be unpredictable even for people very familiar with the inner workings of the game.
They went on to explain some gameplay elements such as the petals around the clock in the User Interface fill up as the player earns awards, and eventually the player will reach a new rank or level which may unlock new species, upgrades for their tools, or more space in their garden. There is no artificial level cap limiting how high a player can advance.
Players earn awards for having each species go through each of the four life stages as well as discovering each of its three variants. Every species has three variants which must be discovered through various means. For example if you feed a buttercup to a sparrowmint it becomes a candary.
You can have up to five helpers active in your garden at once. Among the many helpers in the game, we were shown the tinkerer from a shop called Bart's Exchange. The tinkerer can transform one item into another for you. An example given was that he could transform an apple into a toffee apple, or honey into a bottle of medicine.
There is also a hunter helper that can fetch a wild version of any species that you have seen before. So even if you have lost (or traded away) all pinatas of a particular species, you can still get another by paying the hunter to fetch it for you.
There is also a 'romance sweet' which becomes available in the shops after you get a particular species to perform a romance dance. The romance sweet will get your pinatas 'in the mood' without having to meet all of their romance requirements again.
Another gameplay element that we learned more about is the Tower of Sour. As you tame a sour pinata, segments of this totem pole become available for purchase. Once purchased they are added to your Tower of Sour and can be activated or deactivated. When a segment is activated the tower will scare away all sour pinatas of that particular species.
It was interesting to note that any profile on your Xbox 360 can contain as many save games as you want. One nice feature is that your tower and currency are shared amongst all gardens in the same profile. So you don't quite need to start from scratch every time that you start a new garden.
We were also shown some of the special structures that can be purchased and the effects of accessories. There is a shearing shed which will remove wool from goobaas. A goobaa will not regrow its wool until it eats a certain plant. Both of these are a manual process. You must direct the sheep to enter the shed, and to eat the plant. If you place a bonnet accessory on a goobaa it will automatically perform these tasks without your prodding.
Overall the game is looking great, and I am really looking forward to getting my hands on the final version when it is released on November 9th. I want to thank Ryan and Justin from Rare, the guys from OXM, and everyone at Microsoft and their PR firm Edelman that made this day possible for me.
--Jimmcq 27 October 2006