Pikmin has come a long way since its Gamecube grass roots. First arriving on the scene in 2001, gamers were instantly taken by Captain Olimar, but even more so by the adorable and oh-so-lovable plant hybrid creatures known as Pikmin who aided the hapless Captain. It’s definitely one of Nintendo’s more unique IPs and one that has stood the test of time as well.
Pikmin is back yet again for its 4th installment to the series with Hey! Pikmin, out now for Nintendo 3DS and 2DS. If you’ve ever played any of the previous Pikmin adventures, then this step into 2D from 3D might initially seem a tad weird. Whilst there’s no denying that the game does lose some of its atmospheric charm in the transition, Hey! Pikmin looks gorgeous in spite of its visual shortcomings. Personally I felt that it’s been carried off in a way which adds to the games mechanics and actually made more sense when it came to the control of your Pikmin.
In Hey! Pikmin we find Captain Olimar in a similar predicament to previous games of having to utilise Pikmin to help repair and refuel his ship, which is clearly now held together by duct tape. With all the adventures our illustrious Captain has taken, those hoping for something new from the series might be a bit worried. If you are one of those worried individuals, take a sigh of relief, because this somewhat repetitive storyline isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Okay, yes you’re on another alien world inhabited by Pikmin which Captain Olimar must escape, and yes you’re still helpless if it wasn’t for all the Pikmin. But the inclusion of a new jetpack and some more goals with interesting twists all aid in making this game exciting and well worth playing.
“Professional Pikmin tosser and pilot extraordinaire, Captain Olimar, is on the last leg of another interplanetary shipping run…”
As always, everything kicks off with a bang! Professional Pikmin tosser and pilot extraordinaire, Captain Olimar, is on the last leg of another interplanetary shipping run. Trying to get home to his family on Hocotate his ship, the S.S. Dolphin 2, predictably crash-lands on an alien planet. As a result of the crash the S.S. Dolphin 2 now has a hole in its fuel tank and is in need of fuel, a resource known as Sparklium.
Sparklium is found in seeds in small amounts throughout the world or in treasures which are hilariously worded objects of human life that are sometimes slightly more well-hidden, and in most cases more challenging to obtain.
As luck would have it this whole alien planet is rich with vital Sparklium, but the target of 30,000 Sparklium needed to get back into space seems lightyears out of reach. Thankfully Captain Olimar isn’t alone in his quest to refuel the S.S. Dolphin 2’s depleted Sparklium, not only did he land smack bang on a natural source of Sparklium but the planet happens to be home to numerous Pikmin.
As always, Pikmin are called with the aid of Captain Olimars trusty whistle; just blow and any Pikmin in the area or stray Pikmin will coming running to you. Speaking of Pikmin, you meet your first Pikmin pal, the ever popular red Pikmin, upon entering the first level. Red Pikmin are considered to be the primary or main species of Pikmin in the game and are resistant to fire. If thrown onto a pit of fire they stomp out the flames which becomes exceptionally handy as the game progresses. As you move through the levels of the game you meet more coloured Pikmin to help you on your journey. Each of these coloured Pikmin have an ability unique to their colour that will aid the helpless Captain Olimar on his quest.
Back for more fun after their adventures in Pikmin 3 are the Winged Pikmin, they can fly over hazards like water and can even be used to help Olimar fly around. When thrown, they are shot in a straight line, and then return, like blue Pikmin underwater. Winged Pikmin can also lift some obstacles that stand in Olimars way. Unlike previous games where you would check your Pikmin herd out at the beginning, in Hey! Pikmin every Pikmin you collect stays in your Pikmin Park, a location on the map where Pikmin can explore various areas for treasure and Sparklium, forging ahead through elemental barriers based on their colour and abilities. Of course this also means that you now start every level completely alone; so you must collect Pikmin as you go and do your best to preserve as many as possible as you make it towards the end.
Really stepping into the game it’s instantly obvious that unlike other Pikmin games, Hey! Pikmin does not have the same accustomed urgency and time constraints the series has been previously known for. There’s no urgent timetable or dwindling food supplies to worry about here and I was able to enjoy taking my time exploring the game’s side-scrolling 2D levels at my own leisurely pace.
This is great because Olimar isn’t exactly the most speedy or mobile of heroes; he can’t even jump! He can now hover for a short time thanks to the addition of a snazzy new jetpack, however he still needs to arm himself with Pikmin for defensive purposes or those out of reach areas.
When using your Pikmin in battle or even as you move around the levels, always chant to yourself “safety first”. I’m not going to lie, whilst the game isn’t particularly difficult I did lose far to many Pikmin due to my own poor mismanagement. Too often my numbers dwindled due to poisonous swamps, poor observation or enemies who simply gobbled up my Pikmin like Skittles being tossed at a hungry child.
The controls for Pikmin are simple enough; you move Captain Olimar with the analogue stick and utilise the touch screen for control of your Pikmin and essentially everything else. This being said I did constantly find myself attempting to use the face buttons on my DS to move dialogue along or shift to the next screen. Sadly I never quite managed to shake this habit and it made for some annoying moments on my part. I also found that due to having to rely solely on stylus play with my right hand, that holding my DS became a new issue to tackle as well. This however was quickly overcome with some ingenious finger placements.
One of the things I liked most about Hey! Pikmin is the variation it has to offer the player. On one hand it’s this crazy exploration based game, having you use your Pikmin to seek out new locations and treasure, to your every advantage. On the other hand it’s a combat based game full of strategic moves and battles. Using your different types of Pikmin to bring down particular enemies, this is especially true when it comes to the giant boss fights. Another particularly impressive feature about Hey! Pikmin is the screen usage, as both screens of your 3DS or 2DS are utilised, offering the perfect viewing platform into this beautifully illustrated microscopic world. Whether it’s the brilliant plant life or the awe-inspiring creatures, nothing has been sacrificed here. And whilst the game primarily focuses on new beasts, thanks to this feature and level of detail you’ll be able to spot at least several familiar foes.
For those who like a little extra with their gaming, Hey! Pikmin also has Amiibo support. It’s not necessary to play the game but I’m a sucker for a cute Amiibo and personally I enjoyed the extra layer this feature offers to the game itself.
I'm giving 'er all I've got Captain!
Hey! Pikmin isn’t just a spin-off game. Whilst it might not be the Pikmin 4 a lot of fans have been waiting for, particularly with the launch of the Nintendo Switch earlier this year and its subsequent announcement at E3, it’s most definitely a worthy addition to the Pikmin series. The game still holds onto the spirit of the console Pikmin games and manages to combine a lot of elements into something brilliant and new. I got exactly what I wanted from this game; it’s the perfect combination of lovable characters and clever puzzles. I definitely intend on continuing to play it long after this review is over with. You could say it’s grown on me.
I’ve been completely won over by these adorable little humanoid plants.