Fantastic start, but magic wears off

An otherwise perfectly lovely day exploring an alien planet can very quickly turn to custard in...
An otherwise perfectly lovely day exploring an alien planet can very quickly turn to custard in Pikmin 4. Image: supplied

For: Switch

From: Nintendo


Pikmin 4 sometimes feels like the perfect game.

Half management simulator, half alien planet exploration game, Pikmin 4 finds a really interesting and satisfying niche.

You play as a little tiny dude, collecting littler, tinier alien dudes called Pikmin. Each colour of Pikmin has different abilities, and it is your job to utilise those powers to solve puzzles, rescue stranded astronauts and collect treasure.

You will do this by running around the land issuing commands and trying to keep it all under control. There is rarely a dull moment.

Along the way you will fight all manner of creatures. Funky looking aliens who are out to eat, burn, crush and generally destroy you and your Pikmin.

All of this is done with the help of Oatchi, your faithful hound. If you need to reach a high ledge or cross a body of water, you’ll need to ride him. You can also upgrade his abilities, to make him an excellent creature-chomper or treasure-hunter.

The sound design is immaculate, the visuals are stunning and the gameplay is really tight.

There is a great humour to the game, with each piece of treasure really being some misunderstood and mundane item from Earth.

It’s a lot of fun to dig out a Orbital Communication Sphere (golf ball), a Face Wrinkler (lemon) or a Stone of Advancement (Gameboy Advance).

All of it comes together to make this goofy, fun alien planet adventure.

It will make you smile, but there's also another feeling there as well: a strange contrast between the bright colours and cute aesthetic, and the hundreds of Pikmin you will see go to their deaths.

Accidentally brought the wrong Pikmin into the water? They’ll all drown if you can’t quickly rustle them up. Went up against a big hungry creature? Your Pikmin will be mercilessly eaten alive.

It sounds a little distressing, because it is. It adds a little bit of genuine panic to the game and it is really, really fun.

The controls are tight and the mechanics are well designed. It is a great game. Fantastic even.

But as you play on, the magic wears off a little.

One of the biggest draws early on is discovering new species of Pikmin, but towards the end game their novelty value fades a bit.

Most Pikmin feel like a key to fit in a puzzle-shaped lock. You’ll come across a new form of destructible barrier and the solution is simply find a new pikmin to knock it down. Frozen wall? Frozen Pikmin. Electric wall? Electric Pikmin.

They have other uses and introduce a strategical element to combat, but a lot of it feels a bit cookie-cutter.

There’s also the issue with the pacing. You start the game with one main mission: save Captain Olimar. The game wants you to do this as soon as possible, but leaves you with so many areas to explore. If you do take your time then all of your squadmates will constantly talk about saving Olimar.

If you do rush towards saving him, then you’ll be rewarded with a pathetic plot twist, a credits sequence and then ... go and explore the rest of the world!

The plot keeps moving, but it feels like the major issue has been solved.

It feels pretty unrewarding and killed my motivation to keep playing at times.

Despite that, Pikmin 4 is definitely one to try if anything you have heard about it appeals to you. It is hard to think of any other game which scratches this itch that feels so tightly crafted.

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