Viva PiÃ±ata, a set of two DVD-ROMs by Rare Ltd. for Microsoft Game Studios, distributed with a 34-page English-language user's guide by Microsoft-Israel, requires Windows XP and above and a 1.8 Ghz PC, for ages three through adult, NIS 199 Rating: **** A piÃ±ata is a container made of brightly colored paper and filled with candies, fruits or toys, usually hung from a ceiling or tree branch. It apparently originated in the form of clay pots for Aztec rituals and was adopted by Christians, especially in South America, to arouse interest among children in special occasions and religious celebrations. Blindfolded youngsters are given sticks to try to rip open the piÃ±ata and get the prizes inside. The piÃ±ata is a key element adopted by the developers of this simulation game, based on colorful, childlike animations but also meant to attract adults hooked on Sims. To learn the ropes, a masked piÃ±ata named Leafos presents a tutorial. Your task is to turn a weed-filled piece of land into a garden and plant trees and flowers that will attract piÃ±ata creatures. Of some 60 or 70 "species," many represent animals, others are creatures of fantasy, while a minority, called ruffians or sour piÃ±atas, are troublemakers. PiÃ±ata couples have "romances," get "married," lay eggs when you successfully complete a minigame and produce offspring. Some can change color, evolve into other species or produce wool, honey or milk. They also die when they break, are gobbled up by another piÃ±ata or your shovel is broken. As in Sims games, this is open-ended, allowing players to go where and do what they like as long as they meet the final goal. Leafos presents you with a journal to monitor your successes without your having to make manual entries. The menus are also very user friendly, even for children. The game is very original and enjoyable, and the graphics are excellent. But I was distressed by the game's frequent crashing of my computer. I thought it was only my problem, but when I checked game forums, I found numerous others were complaining about it. Some may have an incompatibility problem with Games for Windows Live or the huge amount of space (8 gigabytes) the game occupies on your hard disk; even lowering resolution levels didn't help. Nevertheless, the game seems stable on most computers, and if yours is one, you are likely to enjoy it.