Hey! Pikmin Review A Proper Spin Off
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Release Date: July 28th
A Review Copy Was Provided by Nintendo of America
The Pikmin franchise is probably one of my favorite video game series ever, I remember buying a Wii U specifically to play Pikmin 3, and the thing that pushed me over with the Switch was the promise of a Pikmin 4, so when Nintendo announced a new spin off game in the Pikmin series I was extremely skeptical about this offering. After all, we are coming right off the heels of Metroid Prime Federation Force, so my expectations for this game were rather low. That being said, after playing Hey! Pikmin I can say that this game managed to surprise me in many ways.
Hey! Pikmin’s story is almost that of a retelling of the original Pikmin. While Captain Olimar is returning home from a mission, he ends up in an asteroid belt and makes a crash landing on a mysterious planet. From here Olimar discovers that this planet is also inhabited by Pikmin, he must then use the Pikmin here to locate fuel, referred to as Sparklium, to return to the S.S. Dolphin II to full power again in order to escape the planet.
The gameplay of Hey! Pikmin is pretty straight forward. When exploring each area in a sector your goal is to find the treasure scattered through it, and collect as many Sparklium seeds as needed on your way to the goal of 30,000. To meet this end you will be enlisting the help of the local Pikmin in each level. Instead of withdrawing Pikmin from an onion whenever you chose to do so, you will instead have to rely on finding the Pikmin hiding throughout the levels. So you have to use each Pikmin sparingly, while there is always a way to get more, you may not always get the same amount you lost.
When it comes to commanding your Pikmin army, you rely heavily on the touch controls. Olimar is moved with the circle pad, d pad or face buttons, while you must tap the screen to throw your Pikmin. Where you tap the screen will determine the general area in which your Pikmin will go. That said, the longer your flicks are the further a Pikmin will travel, well at least in theory. While the touch controls are pretty spot on most of the time, it’s when they aren’t it becomes a problem. There would be many times I would clearly flick the Pikmin in the right way for it to go further, only for it to hardly get off the ground. That being said, when the touch controls are responsive, it is very much on point, where you tap the screen with your flick, the Pikmin will go to it. It’s due to this that you get very precise aiming for when trying to throw your Pikmin. This comes in handy with all of the different puzzles that revolve around throwing your Pikmin and fighting enemies.
The puzzles don’t really stop here though. While you will be relying on your Pikmin for a majority of them, there will be a few puzzles that rely on Olimar by his lonesome. While Olimar does have limited mobility, he has the use of a jetpack that allows him to fly over certain obstacles, and will sometimes have to venture into caves by himself to get treasures that his Pikmin are unable to get into. It’s this mix up of gameplay that adds a bit of variety to the levels. That said, I am so use to not having to rely on Olimar, I would be stuck on a puzzle and not realize “Oh! I have to use Olimar solo here!”
Now that we have the general idea of the gameplay down, let’s talk about the game’s structure. You will be exploring this new Pikmin planet in order to locate Sparklium, and the planet is divided into several sectors, with each one having many different areas, with the last area of each sector ending in a boss fight. Each of these regions are very unique from each other and the levels feel very well realized. Each area is also quite open ended, meaning that while yes if you go in just a straight line you’ll more than likely find your way to the goal, but not exploring around each level will cause you to miss out on precious treasures, and even secret exits to different levels to explore. Each area has several different side paths and at least one hidden level in each sector, so try keep a look out for secrets hidden tucked away.
Visually, Hey! Pikmin is a very simple looking game, that said, it does have a nice ascetic unique to the Pikmin franchise. Each level is very colorful and screams out to you that yes, this is the Pikmin universe. The only downside about this game on a technical level is that the game may have a hard time keeping up as to what is happening on screen, and you may experience several frame rate dips. But there is one more thing about this game that makes it stand out, and it’s the development of the Pikmin. In the first three Pikmin games, the Pikmin didn’t have much personality, well they did to an extent, but Hey! Pikmin takes the Pikmin’s personality and ramps it up to an eleven. There will be many scenes during levels where you will encounter the Pikmin doing things in their natural habitat, and you will see their playful, albeit, timid side. Sometimes you will encounter a nest of Pikmin waking up from a nap, or a group of Pikmin playing Monkey in the middle, the amount of personality the Pikmin have is just incredibly charming and I enjoy seeing every scene that they have.
Before I end this review off, there are quite a few things that I should note about this game that I feel like should have been included from the previous main Pikmin entries. An issue that I kept coming across is that you cannot let your Pikmin go idle. If they go idle for too long they will die, which is a bit of a headache when doing a solo part of a level with Olimar for your Pikmin to become endangered and just randomly all die. Sure I can always find 4 more, but when an entire squad of 20 dies it just becomes a headache. Another thing that this game could have benefited from is the ability for the Pikmin to swarm enemies, your only means of killing enemies in this game is throwing the Pikmin, if a Pikmin so much as touches an enemy when walking, it will die. This becomes a headache at times because the game will sometimes decide to not register your throw as an attack, causing several Pikmin to meet their untimely demise, and the final thing is, the Pikmin just really aren’t that smart. Sure they are adorable and have a ton of personality, but their AI leaves a lot to be desired of.
All in all, Hey! Pikmin feels more like a side entry to the main Pikmin series than some simple spin off. I really enjoyed everything this game tried to do, and I honestly feel like with a bit of reworking Hey! Pikmin could have been a game to be held up there with the original trilogy. That said, Hey! Pikmin is still a really good game that I believe Pikmin fans and newcomers will enjoy. The game manages to keep almost all of the integrity that makes a Pikmin game Pikmin and rework it into a new way.