Pikmin 4

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Pikmin 4 – Review

Pikmin 4 has finally landed on Nintendo Switch, bringing with it the beloved creatures of the iconic Nintendo game series. The ever-charming real-time strategy puzzle game takes the classic from way back in 2001 on the ancient relic, the Gamecube, and brings the classic formula into the modern age. Prepare to embark on a wholesome adventure to rescue Captain Olimar and a stranded rescue crew with the aid of the beloved Pikmin and newfound companions.

A rather dramatic opening reintroduces the adorable spaceman, Captain Olimar, the usual hero of the Pikmin series, however, this time, he’s the one needing a hero. In his deeply serious voice, Olimar recaps the events leading up to his current predicament: his research expedition and how he came to crash-land in a strange land in what very much appears to be a living room from our world.

Olimar explains how he enlists the help of small, colourful sprout-like creatures, the Pikmin, and how he first met his trusty dog-like companion, Moss. I was thrown straight into a short basic training exercise – learning to barge through objects, gather Pikmin and fling them at a bulbous spiky creature.

Olimar sends a distress call, and a rescue crew is sent out to retrieve him, but they too end up stranded. Just as well there’s still one rookie that can go out on the field to perform a rescue in a rescue. After swiftly being prompted to make an ID Card in a simple character creator, my cute little pink-haired explorer sets off.

My rookie landed in a familiar site to any homeowner that has the luxury of a backyard; a seemingly huge forest to my rookie. The garden has hyper-realistic lush foliage and crisp, detailed terrains. Everything is bright and lively, and the cute, overly-stylised characters provide a stark contrast in style and stand out for all the right reasons. I quickly met the Oatchi, my very own loyal dog-like companion, and the first missing crew member.

Moments later we encounter Collin, the Communications Officer, and we set off into the wilds to find the rest of the gang. Navigating the wilds acts as a tutorial phase, and unfortunately, it feels like one. My initial excitement upon arrival was short-lived as the lesson dragged on with dialogue and short cutscenes. It took roughly an hour for Pikmin to pick up the pace upon reaching the crash site.

The crew’s ship is outta juice, so we weren’t going to be going anywhere. Luckily, harnessing the power within the planet’s “treasures” will get it up and running. A treasure, in this case, can range from oversized gardening tools to toys, and the almighty Stone of Advancement, or as it’s more commonly known, a Gameboy Advance. If you know, you know. The Pikmin emerge from an Onion, their form of a hive/spaceship hybrid.

They are just as hospitable to me as they were to Olimar, and it’s not long before they’re helping me gather items, fighting enemies, and knocking down barricades. They’re small, but they are mighty, and surprisingly self-sufficient most of the time.

I was addicted the moment I began surveying the area – everything was covered in beautiful detail. It’s also covered by dozens of enemies. While out scavenging, I ran into many bug-esque creatures, each really keen on either eating or bulldozing my Pikmin, but between Oatchi’s rush attack, and pure strength in numbers of Pikmin, the odds weren’t entirely against me.

There’s a huge variety of enemies and they all must be approached in unique ways. My favourite method was to use the blue (ice) Pikmin to freeze them while riding Oatchi into a well-timed bash attack and launching a good 30 or so Pikmin onto them.

With plenty of types of Pikmin, including ice, lighting, and glowing, it becomes important to know when and where to use each type. It’s crucial to choose your Pikmin loadout wisely for a fruitful expedition day, but you’ll also want to use the treasures you collect to level up Oatchi’s powers before setting off or buy other handy gadgets and upgrades that became crucial when in a bind.

I had virtually no performance issues apart from the very rare frame drop. Load times were quick and controls were responsive and intuitive. It ran great in both handheld and docked modes, and there was no graphical quality loss in either form. As far as my journey went, there were no bugs, apart from the actual bugs hanging out in the backyard.
A massive shout-out needs to be given to the audio team – the musical score is upbeat and instrumental but not overpowering. It was surprisingly calming and helped round out an already delightful experience.

All characters speak in the Pikmin-universe language, but each manages to be distinguishable enough to translate into a variety of personalities. The real highlight is the Pikmin – audio cues massively help in micromanaging the 30+ Pikmin on the field. You’ll hear their cute marching noises as they carry items back to the Onion and know what they’re all doing at any given time without needing to keep too close an eye on them.

Long-term fans of Pikmin are finally getting a long-awaited main-line title after a series of remasters of the original games and spin-offs. In pure Nintendo style, it’s relatively family-friendly for younger players, but there’s plenty for us more… mature gamers. Pikmin takes roughly 15-20 hours to finish, based on skill level, but there’s plenty to do between the main storyline, collecting stranded adventurers, and treasure hunting.

There’s also a cooperative mode, but it’s not quite what I anticipated. Player 2 doesn’t get to inhabit an additional space person and control Pikmin, rather, they are merely a floating entity that shoots rocks at enemies, and this felt like a very odd choice and a missed opportunity. Alternatively, you can play a competitive multiplayer mode, Dandori Battles, the Japanese term for “efficient planning.” Essentially, you compete against each other or together against AI to gather the most loot in an arena, using your own dog companion and Pikmin as efficiently as possible.

The game really throws you into a dangerous world and I had many Pikmin casualties during my travels. It’s imperative to learn each type’s strengths and vulnerabilities. Prepare for trial and error. I had plenty of it, but it never feels particularly frustrating. I often mourned the loss of Pikmin inhaled by frogs or who apparently couldn’t swim. With no difficulty settings, it can prove to be a challenge, but thankfully, there’s a rewind system to restart days. I was surprised there was no story mode or hints system, encouraging players to really learn how to be a Pikmin master. This focus on strategy really tests know-how in using the Pikmin to their full potential.

Pikmin 4 is an endearing, feel-good return to a beloved series. It’s a great wind-down title with enough challenge to be engaging as a strategy puzzle game. It’s a great reintroduction to a beloved classic that’s easy to pick up, but equally as hard to put down.

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The Good

  • Endearing gameplay, world and characters
  • Strikes balance between being a chill gaming experience and a challenging puzzle-based strategy game
  • Audio and visuals are charming and easy to take in

The Bad

  • Early progression is slow with an overload of tutorials and dialogue
  • No difficulty or hints system can make it hard to progress

Written by: Yasmin Noble


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