Detective Pikachu Returns

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Detective Pikachu Returns (Nintendo Switch) – Review

Detective Pikachu is back with another mystery to solve in Detective Pikachu Returns, a follow-on from the Nintendo 3DS classic released to Western Audiences in 2018. The spin-off of the beloved series by Nintendo and The Pokemon Company continues thanks to the devs at Creatures. While there are no Pokemon battles or gyms to dominate, we’re in for a completely different type of challenge; solving crimes in the Pokemon world.

Detective Pikachu Returns takes place two years after the original game. After solving the previous case involving the “R” substance, the dynamic detective duo, teen prodigy Tim Goodman, and the aforementioned Pikachu wind up being renowned in the public eye of Ryme City. During an award ceremony celebrating their efforts, they find themselves interrupted by a malicious Pokemon and are soon to be facing another series of mysterious happenings befalling Ryme City.

Those who have seen the Detective Pikachu (2019) movie may be familiar with the “R” Incident and the even bigger mystery, what happened to Tim’s father, Detective Harry Goodman, Pikachu’s previous partner. The characters in the game even acknowledge the movie and that the “movies tend to do their own thing.” While there are some differences, it is a good way to catch up on the general plot of the first game, but otherwise, there’s a nice little recap during the opening cutscene of Detective Pikachu Returns.

To solve cases, Pikachu and Tim must question witnesses, investigate crime scenes, put all the evidence together into a trusty notebook, and in line with the classic detective role, figure out whodunnit. The main story cases are seemingly interconnected, all stemming from the theft of the mystical Aurora Gem.

Between Tim interacting with human witnesses, and Pikachu talking to Pokemon, testimonies can be gathered, and with their combined powers of deduction, the crimes can be solved.

Cases span across various regions, including Ryme City proper, parks, ruins, and forests, and each of these areas is populated by various Pokemon from different generations. As a member of the original Pokemon generation, I can safely say I have no idea what a lot of the newer ones are, but despite my lack of experience with the younger gens, it doesn’t take much to become attached to all their unique quirks.

Pokemon are a viable asset for your work, and involving them by incorporating their skills will help to solve cases. For instance, Growlithe can be used to follow scent trails, but Pokemon can both help and hinder during investigations.

The gameplay is relatively simplistic and a great fit for younger players looking to be introduced to the wonderful world of Pokemon. For more experienced Pokemon masters, it may not be as thrilling as being out in the wilderness catching ‘em all, but hey, you gotta catch all the culprits instead. There isn’t much challenge and the solutions are often predictable, which made a lot of the gameplay feel like going through the motions.

With limited freedom in approach to cases, mostly fetch-quest based side-activities and long-winded dialogue, Detective Pikachu Returns can feel incredibly slow-paced. While it does a decent attempt at playing into the detective genre, knowing the answers too soon took a lot of the thrill out of it.

Detective Pikachu Returns can be incredibly endearing, especially when it comes to Pokemon. Pikachu’s personality is completely at odds with his cute exterior in all the right ways; having a gruff voice, a blunt sense of humour, and a fondness for coffee. Likewise, the lighthearted aspects of the story are balanced out with some heavier subject material including separation and loss.  The art style is bizarre – 3D and with a side-scrolling camera.

It looks and feels more like a Nintendo 3DS game rather than a recent current-gen Switch title. Human characters somehow manage to fall flat, looking incredibly devoid behind the eyes and with very limited facial expressions, so much so that they are disturbing.  Pokemon, however, are faithful to their original designs and movements, especially Pikachu’s exaggerated reactions and fans will surely get a kick out of seeing their favourite Pokemon doing what they do. Audio is a standout, with jazzy upbeat music perfectly fitting in with the detective theme. Tim, Pikachu, and most NPCs have some voice lines, and Pokemon make their iconic sounds.

I had very few performance issues on both handheld and docked. Everything looked mostly clean, save for the occasional blurry texture. A playthrough takes roughly 10 hours for the main campaign, and perhaps a few hours longer for completionists. There is a Jump Mode in the main menu to replay cases, but unfortunately, this isn’t available until completing a full run of the story. Progression was very linear and I would have liked some more freedom in exploring the regions, but for an easy-going journey for chill nights, commutes, or kid-friendly entertainment, this may not be an issue.

Detective Pikachu Returns is an intriguing spin-off from the usual Pokemon format. For loyal Pokemon fans, this may be a welcome change from the usual fare and a family-friendly addition to the Pokemon World, but whether it will catch on with ‘em all, I have yet to crack that case.

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The Good

  • Different approach to overdone Pokemon gameplay format
  • Variety of areas, characters and Pokemon
  • Cute, simplistic Pokemon game for younger audiences

The Bad

  • Slow-paced gameplay
  • Overreliance on dialogue
  • Doesn’t capture the heart and charm of Pokemon

Written by: Yasmin Noble


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