So after pretty much a decade Pikmin has finally returned for its 3rd installment on the Wii U. The critically acclaimed franchise is perhaps the hardest game ever to ‘sell’ to a person. On the outside it looks strange, simplistic and hardly made for ‘gamers.’ Strange it might be, but Pikmin is probably the best game you haven’t played.
Basically Pikmin is about breeding and ordering up to 100 ant-like creatures to fight bug-like enemies and carry things back to your base. You play as 3 miniature aliens who work together or can split up sharing the Pikmin between them to go off and do different tasks in life-size garden-style levels.
Your characters are space explorers looking for new food supplies, fruit, and you must collect 66 pieces across 4 levels filled with puzzle-based obsticles, small to very large boss battles and a variety of specific objectives to complete. Along the way your crew also lose their means to get home and must find their “cosmic drive key” which also leads to rescuing Olimar and Louie, the characters from the previous games.
You have 5 different Pikmin to help you through the game, Red, Yellow, Blue, Rock & flying. Each has unique and important skills that are required to progress in many areas or are the most effective/safe way to kill something. On the other hand each Pikmin has specific weaknesses and it’s wise to learn and remember them too. Use the wrong colour Pikmin “and you’re gonna have a bad time!”
Pikmin 3, like the first 2, breaks the gameplay down into days, which last something like 15-20 minutes, with the freedom of direction you have in this game, it’s up to you to plan wisely to make the best use of your time. You have to leave the surface of the planet at night, so when dusk arrives you’ll have about 3 minutes to collect your Pikmin up because if the timer runs out and they aren’t with you, or at your base, they are left behind and the nocturnal predators eat them! You often have a frantic last-minute dash, because it’s so easy to end up with them scattered all over the place! That’s just one aspect to the importance of time management in Pikmin.
Pikmin is ultimately a strategy game merged with a 3D collection-platformer.
OTHER GAME CONTENT
To play at your leisure are 3 types of mission modes: Treasure collection, enemy killing, and big boss fights. They prove a considerable challenge for anyone going for gold and they are optionally 2 player too. In all of them, time is once again a factor. With these missions it’s 100% a mad dash!
This 2 player versus mode gives each player a 4×4 card with fruit for numbers and you must be the first to collect a horizontal or vertical line. But you can by all means steal what the other player needs or disrupt any of their Pikmin they might have taken their eyes off, or fight each other. The depth in possible strategies, is huge, it can become very intense for experienced gamers, but for younger gamers or noobs, it’s still a fun multiplayer rivalry.
There’s pretty much nothing else like Pikmin and it is a whole lot of fun to play. It’s ‘day’ system which breaks the experience down is perhaps the crucial feature in the game. The demand to manage your time correctly makes good strategizing very rewarding and provides a fun sense of urgency, while punctuating the experience so it’s not one long overly easy game. And while the need for good planning screams at you, there’s no major big need to rush, you can enjoy Pikmin pretty much at your own pace.
One of the irksome things about Pikmin 3 is that it’s hardly a leap forward for the franchise. However it is the most refined of the games when it comes to direction, purpose and structure. It improves on what the first game tried to do with it’s sense of urgency while refining what the 2nd try to do with its 2 (now 3) character management. It’s a great experience, while it lasts.
One of the best things I can say about Pikmin 3, is that it has the most replay value in a game I’ve experienced perhaps since the 16 bit era. There’s a real desire to go back to improve your performance and that’s helped by the very open way you can play this game. On first play I took 59 days, 3rd time around 30, I can trim at least 10 days of that still, and it will take some thinking! And I will, I’m certainly not bored, even if admitted I’m a little surprised the game didn’t feature more levels. 4/5 levels is a bit of a let down.
Pikmin is one of those games everyone should play and Pikmin 3 may not have met the high expectations of fans built up over the last 10 years, but it’s still a remarkable game that’s like a Island of originality in a sea of generic slop. It’s something every Wii U owner should buy, and for many many people reason to buy a Wii U.
WII U FACTOR
The Wii U’s second screen proves to be very handy. While off TV play proves a second screen isn’t essential, and by the way has proved very handy, the map feature introduced in this 3rd installment is very useful and add’s some great gameplay touches to improve your strategizing. The map allows you to send you squads off to do task without your direct control, and it shows you where everything important is. And these features, if you remember to use them prove invaluable.
But it’s not all good. I strongly suggest playing with the classic Wii controller and nunchuck because the Wii U’s analogues are diabolical! Their lack of sensitivity is a detriment to a game like Pikmin and they are only worth tolerating for off-TV play. The saving grace is that the Wii’s controller is spot on so the problem is easily avoided and you can still make use of the second screen on the gamepad too. The good thing is with a game like Pikmin, it’s no hassle at all to swap between controllers. I play with the Wii-mote, but have the gamepad to hand when I want to use the map. With a tap of the screen you pause the game, and it feels more involved and engaging to play with both.
It might look like a kids game, but Pikmin 3 is made with gamers in mind. It’s no simplistic button bashing 99p piece of smartphone shit trying to be cute. Pikmin is PROPER game, with a challenging but flexible learning curve. It is a game for gamers, but it’s also a game that anyone can enjoy given some time to try it out. A veteran gamer can either take it easy as well, or step up to the many optional challenges you can set yourself. What on one hand is a casual experience can just easily be one hell of a mad, and very tactical, dash. The level of thought required along side precision gameplay is a massive challenge, if you take it up. The online scoreboards highlight to anyone who said it was too easy how poorly they performed!
Pikmin 3 visuals are deceptive too because they aren’t exactly state of the art, and look quite basic on pictures, but after playing it you are left charmed and rather impressed. Its mix of surreal animation and realism work great together, you’re not left wanting at all, everything fits nicely and is animated delightfully. It’s only when you’ve played it for a while you realise how much is going off in these large and busy open world environments, while running at a silky 60fps. Your team and Pikmin can be all over the place doing things, it’s surprising with everything going off the visuals and animations are as good as they are. Nintendo once again strike a great balance, and pull off a game that will age pretty well.
The one grey cloud in the Sky….
Well maybe 2. The biggest shame about Pikmin 3 is how short the main game is. Maybe your having too much fun, but it all feels over way too soon. Sorry Nintendo but just 4 levels in the main game is a let down. There is 5th level, but it’s very brief. The games size is on par with its predecessors so it’s not like the franchise has shrunk, but the long wait meant we expected more and Nintendo should bloody well feel obliged to make an expansion for it. It wasn’t insultingly short, it’s a fair size, but the game feels like it only goes so far and there so much more it could have done.
Slightly annoying is that sometimes the Pikmin don’t behave right and the ability to direct you squad around your character no longer being a part of the controls was a let down. Overall the controls on Pikmin 1 and 2 are better.
So despite 2 pretty notable complaints, Pikmin 3 is a delightful game. While a bit brief this is a high quality experience that feels lovingly made and has lots of replay value. PIkmin is still a refreshing experience unlike any other game. If a game was judged on ending before you got bored then Pikmin 3 gets top marks. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing either, because it’s much better to end on high note and before the gamer gets bored.
I feel the need to say at this point, no other company would dare do a game like Pikmin. Pikmin is why the gaming world needs Nintendo, they are just about the only people who keep the traditions of gaming alive. Everything about Pikmin is everything you just don’t see that often anymore. Games don’t dare to be different and quirky anymore. Pikmin is like a rainbow over a grey landscape of Sports games shooting games and the bland bandwagon of ultra realism and over the top violence. Pikmin is what gaming is really about, and Pikmin by my estimations remains the last truly original thoughts anyone ever had in the gaming industry.
Considering how long we waited, how long we were led to assume it was in development I’m going to punish it for its brevity and easiness. I really expected a bigger game and I think 4 levels is an insultingly low amount. But make no mistake this is a quality game worth playing, it’s a top reason to own a Wii U, granted there aren’t many, but Pikmin is one of them!