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Viva Piñata finished, dated

Rare's latest off to the shops.

Viva Piñata is finished and off to be manufactured, Microsoft announced last night, meaning that those of you in America will be able to buy it on or around 9th November.

"But when is it coming out here?" you ask. Well, Microsoft's press materials still list the game as "Christmas 2006", but we have it on questionable authority (in other words, we asked lots of retailers) that you'll be able to buy it on 1st December.

Which is my birthday, by the way. All presents gratefully received.

As you'll know if you have a quietly maintained but potentially questionable soft spot for the mighty Rare, as I do, then you'll be aware that Viva Piñata will come in two flavours: the normy edition, with its regular box and no doubt quite acceptable presentation, and the limited edition.

That handsome-looking alternative will cost a few quid more, but includes playable demos of Lego Star Wars II, Frogger, Time Pilot and Marble Blast, along with a sneak peek at 4Kids' accompanying Viva Piñata TV show, currently showing in America and potentially on its way to our screens early next year.

And if none of that excites you, then know also that it has a weird rounded box.

Viva Piñata sees players bringing together piñata animals in a blooming garden. The idea is to make your garden attractive so that it will attract piñata, and then make them attractive so they'll get it on with others and squeeze out a few mini-piñata. Then it's all about being cute and frolicking, by the looks of it, which is pretty much what we'd be doing if we weren't playing it so why not.

In other words, think of something somewhere between Animal Crossing, Pokémon, The Sims and Ground Force - because that's what we reckon they were thinking, and it might end up being no bad thing.