Detective Pikachu Review Some Interesting Ideas
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Release Date: March 23, 2018
The Pokemon series has had many different spin offs in the past, but honestly none of them have intrigued me as much as Detective Pikachu did. Detective Pikachu is Game Freak’s attempt of a much more narrative and puzzle focused game that can be best compared to Professor Layton or Ace Attorney. So the question that needs to be asked is this a good fit, or is this a mystery that is best left unsolved.
The narrative of Detective Pikachu is something interesting. You take the role of Tim Goodman as he looks for his missing father in Ryme City. On his search, he discovers his father’s Pikachu. Tim has the ability to fully talk to his father’s PIkachu and he is the only person who can understand what he is saying. From here, the game is broken up into nine chapters. Each chapter has its own individual case that is part of an overarching plot. Honestly the game’s overall writing is pretty engaging and fun to go through. I love having the ability to be able to talk to Pokemon to get their perspective on their trainer and to look at cases from another perspective.
While the writing is charming and honestly really fun at times, the cases themselves leave a lot to be desired. You are more than likely going to figure out the culprit near the start of each case. It was so bad, that I actually figured out who the main villain was well before the game really tells you or provides you any hints on who could it be. It can be very obvious at times. While I did enjoy the writing and enjoy the conversations with the Pokemon and the main cast, a lot of the supporting characters all fell flat and and their development seemed inconsequential.
The gameplay of Detective Pikachu isn’t really much to talk about in this regard. You and Pikachu will go around the different environments gathering testimony to use in your case notes to solve puzzles. All you need to do is to match up testimony that fits with the current question of the case and Pikachu does the rest from there. To make it a bit more challenging, you can find a lot of “bad testimony” when investigating. These are just lines of reasoning that really have no correlation with the question at hand, but sometimes it may make you think they do. The problem is, there is no penalty for getting anything wrong, if you do mess up Pikachu just tells you to try again. You’re never really in any urgency to not mess up, you could literally cycle through everything until you figure out what happened. When it comes to the puzzle and investigation mechanics of this game, it really is just bare bones.
Outside of Investigations, you will sometimes enter a scripted scene in which you will have to successfully perform quick time events to progress. Examples of this would be dodging an enemy Pokemon’s attacks or performing some death defying stunts. I will admit some of these quicktime events caught me off guard, which led to some pretty hilarious fail states. While they are nothing special, they are a nice change of pace.
Finally on the presentation standpoint, Detective Pikachu is a solid looking game. All of the scenes you explore are pretty cool and sometimes they can just suck you right in. Pikachu also keeps things lively as at any time you can consult him for tips. Honestly he is just there acting goofy and serves more as comedic relief when you’re not doing anything else. The English voice acting in this game is also a bit hit and miss at times. Overall the voice acting was pretty solid, but the game does give you the option for Japanese audio.
Detective Pikachu is an interesting spin off to say the least, while it doesn’t really add anything to the puzzle or visual novel genre, it is still a charming adventure. Sadly it is easy to see the target demographic for this game are young children. This game can easily be a good entry point for kids into this genre if say Professor Layton or Ace Attorney is too much for them. I honestly wish there was more to do in this game such as the writing had more to offer and mysteries weren’t so obvious. If Game Freak does make a sequel, (which they probably will) I hope they can add more in terms of challenge and character development.