REVIEW

REVIEW

Pikmin 4

July 30, 2023

GOOD

  • Super accessible & more intuitive
  • New additions all enhance experience
  • Bright and beautiful
  • Oatchi!

BAD

  • Maybe a little too easy for returning players/lack of stakes

GOOD

GOOD

Pikmin 4 is like a remastered greatest hits album from that talented indie rock band that everyone forgot about. It brings together everything that thevserieas has done well in the past and packages it up in a way that will appeal to a whole new audience while also introducing a number of QOL improvements and enough original bits to keep even long-time fans (mostly) happy and chanting “Olimar” until the ship flies home. 

I have played a lot of Pikmin recently. Having never experienced the original GameCube games when they launched, I was excited to try out the recently released Pikmin 1+2 HD ports for the Switch. And thankfully, I quite enjoyed diving into the series’ roots (you can check my full thoughts here). However, I was a little concerned that playing the entries back-to-back…to-back was going to sour the experience due to repetition. Interestingly though, as I rolled credits on Pikmin 4 over the weekend, the only reason I didn’t immediately jump back in to tackle the post-game stuff, is I have another review on the horizon. And that should tell you just how good Pikmin 4 is!

Familiar remix

You’ll probably never play a Pikmin game for the story and the previous sequels have been slight remixes of the original narrative idea i.e. a Tiny alien being crashes on a planet much like Earth and meets a bunch of mysterious and rather helpful Lemming-like plant creatures which he partners up with the collect a bunch of items to help him (and/or his friends) get back home. Pikmin 4 is much the same, but this time you take on the role of a lone rescue team rookie (which you can customise yourself), and not only are you tasked with finding captain Olimar himself and the original team sent to rescue him, but there’s a whole plethora of explorers, science students, horticultural enthusiasts, documentary film crews and even a rather entrepreneurial hairstylist that clearly all have the same faulty space ship designers and all need your assistance too.

Pikmin 4 feels like it has that addictive gameplay loop down to a science… a masterful blend of repetition and addition, of accomplishment and new task creation, all in perfect balance… and I enjoyed every moment of it.

It’s all wonderfully goofy and while it all seems very familiar, the areas, characters and visuals in general have all had a new coat of paint. It all looks fantastic and that Pikmin-style (a fun mix of realistic backgrounds and cartoony characters) really pops on the Switch despite its age. More interactions with the various quirky personalities and their accompanying side-quests all within a new sort of hub-world before travelling to regular collecting locations adds a level of depth that perhaps wasn’t quite there before. Thankfully, the gameplay loop of ‘building your Pikmin squad, exploring the giant world from so close to the ground, planning your tasks, collecting all you can and returning before the sun goes down’ is back. It’s hard to make a real-time strategy game appealing to me at the best of times, but there’s just something so comforting about completing the repetitive tasks you have in Pikmin every day, then watching those colourful stats roll across the screen and doing it all again. Pikmin 4 feels like it has learned from all the frustrations many had with the original games and now has the loop down to a science, a perfect blend of repetition and addition, of accomplishment and new task creation and I enjoyed every moment of it and kept jumping back in.

Night Music

While there’s a lot that feels familiar, there’s a lot that feels fresh too. Chief among these is the introduction of the dog – Oachi. Oachi functions as a companion, but also a mode of transport, a powerful means to attack opponents and tackle environmental challenges and even a much more powerful Pikmin – able to transport heavy items when your Pikmin numbers are growing a little thin. I loved the cute pooch and can’t imagine any future Pikmin game without them because of all the puzzles and even some lite platforming variations it introduced (plus who doesn’t want a cute, cuddly companion when embarking on any adventure!?). Along with this very obvious addition, Pikmin 4 also introduces Night Expeditions and the Dandori challenges and modes.

I loved the cute pooch and can’t imagine any future Pikmin game without them!

The Dandori-flavoured modes are similar to the two-player modes in the Pikmin 2 and 3 Deluxe and basically consist of time battles where you compete against an opponent (either within the story as it progresses or outside in once-off battles) in a collect-a-thon. While these were a fun-enough distraction, for those of you that have played any of the games before, the Night Expedition are likely a little more interesting. Not only are a new type of Pikmin provided, but these night sessions are also a little tower-defence in structure. It’s not very in-depth and there’s a lot of button-mashing to get the job done, but it was a nice way to occasionally break up the regular gameplay loop. My only real complaints with this new mode are that 1, it’s only available after several days into the expedition (I would’ve loved it a little earlier) and 2, that a Night Expedition takes up a Day’s Expedition on your Adventure Calendar. It may be a little picky, but I found myself wishing I could jump from a Day Adventure directly into the Night Adventure without all the loading and chats which take place in the hub world before and after each new day.

New dog’s tricks

Along with these major changes, the new game is clearly aiming at making it as accessible for new players as possible. As far as I could tell there is no day-limit for how long the rescue can take. Also, accompanying a very slow, quite hand-holdy opening to the game, there’s a new rewind feature which allows you (at any time) to rewind to an earlier part of your own playthrough (a few options from a few seconds to several minutes before). Finally, it felt like the commands to recall Pikmin, select the right amount of Pikmin for a job etc all became a little more intuitive. For example, when throwing Pikmin at an item, as soon as you’ve hit the number needed to move it, throwing will automatically stop and you’ll need a second or third press to prompt the thing to continue again. This allows you to manage your team more efficiently. I found it to be great. But suspect some will see it as a bit of a double-edged sword…

The changes mean it’s probably the first game in the series (and probably in the strategy genre) that I think my wife, who only occasionally plays video games, will not only manage but actually enjoy.

On one hand, The Switch has a giant install base and outside of Japan, Pikmin really hasn’t reached the audience it probably deserves. So, you really want to make it as easy as possible for new players to jump in – and excessive time pressure (in a chilled game like this), losing hordes of Pikmin and accidentally pressing the wrong button were definitely reasons you may be put off. Personally, these changes mean I’m now comfortable suggesting this game to my wife – who only occasionally plays video games, And considering this is a strategy game (even if a lite version of the genre) I think that says a lot. However, on the flip side – it does remove a lot of the stakes. And barring a few optional cave sections in the latter half of the game Pikmin 4, I suspect most returning players will find it quite easy. So, if you were hoping for a tougher, high-stakes challenge you won’t find that here. That being said, the combination of this being a bigger game (in terms of characters, story and general scope), the addition of new modes, and the fact that all the QOL (quality of life) improvements that make the game easier are optional (so just don’t use them if you don’t want to). Plus, all the nods to the previous games (it is clear that Miyamoto and the other members of the original team were involved) make it very obvious to me that this game was not made to alienate current fans of the series and so, even for returning players like me, there’s a lot to love.

Swan Song?

The truth is… I don’t know if we will get another Pikmin game. Sadly, outside of Japan this game just isn’t played by large amounts of people and considering how long Pikmin 4 took to become a real thing after it was announced – there’s a very real possibility that the series stops here. However, Nintendo and the team behind Pikmin 4‘s development clearly don’t want that to be the case. It is a greatest hits album with all the classics getting a fresh new studio recording. Plus, there are some new tunes too. Yes, this is a real-time strategy game, and yes it does have a bit of bright, colourful and wonderfully weird aesthetic which may not immediately attract everyone but it’s also a heck of a lot of fun! Pikmin 4 does a great job of introducing new players to the series and making it enjoyable and manageable to try for the first time… and for those of us that have played the earlier games – and were already convinced about the awesomely addictive and comforting gameplay loop – you’ll be happy to know that its back and better than ever. Pikmin 4 was a long-time coming but gratefully worth the wait!

REVIEW CODE PROVIDED BY: NINTENDO


For more Nintendo Reviews click here.

July 30, 2023

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