I wanna be the very best, like no-one ever… Oh, wait, you said Pikmin…
Up until the release of this third iteration of Pikmin, I’d barely heard of Miyamoto-san’s favourite super-realistic gardening simulator. I had only the vaguest idea what a Pikmin even was, and no idea at all what kind of games they were. But that certainly didn’t stop me from sinking my teeth into this Wii U exclusive cute-em-up.
For those of you who, like me, haven’t played Pikmin 1 or 2, here’s the basic idea behind the games: You land on an alien planet; you discover it’s home to many tiny, adorable, brightly coloured aliens; you shamelessly use them for your own ends in return for… Well, that’s not entirely clear, although since various Pikmin-eating monsters (generally also cute, if vicious) also live there, and without your instruction Pikmin themselves tend to mill around doing literally nothing, it’s surprising they’ve survived this long at all. The general aim is to reunite as a team, fix your spaceship and get back home with as much fruit as you can steal. Interestingly, despite playing as astronauts, you also turn out to be almost entirely useless on your own, and can’t even pick things up or climb onto small ledges. Honestly, what you did without the Pikmin is as much of a mystery as what they did without you.
Pikmin a la mode
There are three modes to explore: story mode, mission mode, which you can do co-op or single player, and the cheerily named “Bingo Battle”, which is a two-player-only mode with tenuous links to bingo and battling.
Story mode is broken up into “days”, each of which lasts about ten minutes. At the start of the day, you will summon the numbers and types of Pikmin you want from the onion (which is where they live, obviously) and set to work, which mainly involves throwing them at things you want to interact with because, as already discussed, you are incapable of doing it for yourself. I would recommend using the Gamepad, although using the Wiimotes is fine too, just because it offers a little extra alien-throwing accuracy. At the end of each day, any Pikmin you aren’t directly controlling will be eaten up by adorable but merciless predators in a heart-breaking cut scene while you speed off to the safety of space and leave them to their fate. You will then get a comment on the amount of fruit you’ve managed to scavenge that day, and a handy graph of your Pikmin numbers so you can really visualise the deaths you will inevitably have allowed/directly caused. Honestly, while the idea of dividing it up into limited time periods is a good one, it can be a bit annoying. Just as you’re really getting into it, or have just solved a puzzle or worked out to get to a certain enticing bit of juicy fruit, you realise that you’re going to have to give up anyway and come back tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow is approximately one minute away, but nonetheless it’s a bit jarring, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up going “come on, come on” and ineffectually pressing A throughout that minute. On the plus side, you do have the option to end the “day” early at a point that’s convenient to you or start again from the beginning of any day at any time.
Sacrifices to be made
For me, by far the least enjoyable parts of the story mode are the boss battles. This is partly because the game is so not the type of game that boss battles feel like a natural part of, and if, like me, you’re enjoying the gentle pace and mild satisfaction of small, ongoing achievements, coming across a massive monster that you have to fight is a not a particularly welcome change of pace (that’s not to say they’re not fun, though). The other reason I was never excited to get to a boss battle is that it always involves the sacrifice of Pikmin – so many, many Pikmin. I defy you not to feel even a little bit bad as you send legions of tiny plant servants to their doom…
Then there’s mission mode, where you get a level and an aim, and a certain time limit to complete that aim (or if you pick the boss missions, attempt to kill each boss from the game as quickly as possible). In an extremely harsh move at odds with the adorable nature of the game, you only ever get “Mission Completed!” if you 100% a level – it might not seem possible at first, but believe me, if I can do it, you can! I highly recommend this part of the game for the sheer satisfaction and feeling of achievement each successively better attempt offers, and also for its therapeutic, mind-calming properties! It’s also worth playing co-op, though then it is less mindful and strategic and more…chaotic.
The final mode is Bingo Battle. I enlisted my other half to play it with me, as you can’t play against the computer and I was deeply sad that there was a whole mode of Pikmin I was missing out on. As it turned out, however, it’s less like bingo, and more like battling, by which I mean that if you want to successfully play the bingo part of it and collect the stuff you need, you really have to slaughter your enemy’s Pikmin first. I didn’t really clock on to this at first; in such a sweet and non-confrontational game (where you’ve only enslaved an entire race) I was shocked and distressed to find him efficiently and mercilessly killing my Pikmin – you know, actually trying to win. I won’t go into detail, but it was the biggest test our relationship has had to this day. Needless to say, not recommended (quite as highly as other aspects of this game).
It’s clear that I have a lot of love for this adorable game. If you like quirky and colourful games enough to have the hardware to play it on in the first place, I am confident you will love it – or at least like it – too. And if you do, rejoice, because at some point, hopefully soon, Pikmin 4 and Pikmin for 3DS are also going to emerge from under the leaves (see what I did there? Like Pikmin… Get it? Never mind).
8/10 – If you own a Wii U, you owe it to yourself to enslave your coins and command them to bring you a copy. It’s a delight for all ages, serving up a juicy main solo mode, plus fun alternative game modes and welcome extra DLC. Only the nagging day timer and the boss “battles” let it down slightly.
Reviewed on: Wii U
Released: July 2013
Available on: Wii U
Try it if you like: Little Kings Story, Elebits, Swarm
Official site: http://pikmin3.nintendo.com/
Available from: http://www.shopto.net/search/?platform=&newsearch=pikmin+3