October 6, 2023
Nintendo, The Pokémon Company
Detective Pikachu Returns is a detective game developed by Creatures Inc and published by Nintendo and the Pokémon Company. The game is a sequel to the 2016 3DS game, Detective Pikachu. The game comes with two modes: a regular mode and a story jump mode. It once again follows the young Tim Goodman and his trusty sidekick, Pikachu.
To the uninitiated, Tim Goodman is a teenager who works closely with his partner Pokémon, Pikachu. However, what sets his partner Pokémon apart from others is that Tim is able to understand Pikachu and converse with him directly. And that’s not all that sets Tim’s Pikachu apart: he drinks coffee, cracks jokes, and wears a little detective hat reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes’ famous deerstalker. Originally, Pikachu was the partner of Tim Goodman’s father, Harry, but when Harry vanished after a car accident years ago, Pikachu teamed up with Tim to look for Harry and to keep solving mysteries along the way.
Just like the original game, Detective Pikachu Returns comes with both big and small mysteries to solve. Not long after you first boot up the game, Tim and Pikachu discover that a famous jewel known as The Aurora has been stolen. Now living in Ryme City as a university student, Tim rushes over to help the police solve the case and interview different witnesses. As you explore the city in your quest to uncover more about the missing jewel, you’ll also have the opportunity to help other citizens with their (admittedly smaller) problems. One woman may ask you to locate her missing Pokémon, for example, or a Pokémon may ask Pikachu for help locating its friends.
While the main mystery of the missing jewel is entertaining, solving people’s smaller problems is remarkably satisfying too. One of the most interesting things about Pokémon is the rich story world that the Pokémon company has built up over the years through games, TV shows, and movies. Even though the visuals could be more detailed, Detective Pikachu Returns offers an engaging way to learn more about the lives both humans and Pokémon lead in a big city through these smaller mysteries, Whether it’s having a coffee at the Hi-Hat Café or learning more about the city’s mayor, seeing people go about their day with their Pokémon makes the game world feel all the more realistic and charming. There are moments where the game is comically self-aware too; early on in the game, Pikachu and Tim have a conversation about the ‘movie’ they made about their former case, which is a gentle poke through the fourth wall.
Practically, you’ll be collecting a lot of details that, much like other detective games, are compiled in your case logbook. At any point, you can revisit different testimonials and details about cases. For fans of the original 3DS game, there will be plenty about the sleuthing in Detective Pikachu that will feel familiar. Much like in the original Detective Pikachu, players will interview both humans and Pokémon, collect clues and testimonials and, in the process, solve mysteries. While Tim can interview humans, Pikachu can speak directly to Pokémon and enlist their help to solve a case.
“…There are moments where the game is comically self-aware.”
Once you’ve collected enough details by speaking to different people and Pokémon, you can open your case logbook to start ‘deducting’. This will take you to a dedicated menu screen where you can talk to Pikachu and recap everything that’s happened so far. Depending on who you spoke to and what knowledge you’ve built up, you’ll have different options available as possible theories whenever Pikachu asks you a question. If one option isn’t correct, Pikachu will motivate you to try a different option, or, if there are no more options available, keep exploring your environment.
While Pikachu’s dialogue in the deducting phase is entertaining, solving the mystery itself doesn’t feel all that rewarding. Most of the conclusions Tim and Pikachu come to are delivered automatically through dialogue, and as a player, you have very little input in actually putting the facts together yourself. On top of this, dialogue cutscenes – both in the game and in deducting sequences – can come with a lot of repetition, and thus go on for rather a long time, dragging the overall momentum of the game down. While you have a story jump mode available – a mode where you can jump ahead to later story chapters – you will only unlock this after your first full playthrough.
All of that said, though, the slower pace and light ‘deduction’ detective work is well suited for younger players, and parents who would like to share a gaming experience with their kids might find that Detective Pikachu Returns is a good fit. All in all, Detective Pikachu Returns is an endearing sojourn into the world of Pokémon. You’ll undoubtedly enjoy the sequel if you’re a fan of the original 3DS game. If, however, you’re looking for a layered detective story with complex problem-solving, it’s best to look elsewhere.
- Entertaining way to explore the world of Pokémon more deeply
- Great game to play with younger players
- Some cute and funny dialogue
- Mystery solving is shallow
- Dialogue scenes can drag on
Detective Pikachu Returns offers an interesting look into the world of Pokémon. While the actual crime-solving lacks depth, and dialogue cutscenes feature a bit of repetition, fans of the original 3DS game will surely find something to love in Detective Pikachu Returns. There are some witty scenes, and at times the game isn’t afraid to poke fun at real-world aspects, like the Detective Pikachu movie. In addition to this, the simple deducting feature makes the game a good fit for younger players, or for parents wanting to play together with their kids.