Well Pikmin fans, you’ve been waiting a long time for this. Yes, Pikmin 4 has finally arrived, and it’s only been ten years since Pikmin 3 was released on the Wii U. Not too long a wait, right?
I haven’t been waiting for nearly as long. Having never played a Pikmin game myself, I’m not exactly a fan of the series. I’d always stayed away due to the titles being real-time strategy games — not a genre that I’m fond of at all. Yet, something about the charmingly detailed world Nintendo kept showing off in advertising footage for Pikmin 4 got me intrigued. Now, having given the game a go, I can gladly say that it’s one of my favorite titles in the entire Nintendo Switch catalog.
The adorable idea that the Rescue Corps needs rescuing sets the tone for the game’s story which is constantly lighthearted and fun.
Set on a distant and hostile world, recurring series character (and regular Super Smash Bros. participant) Captain Olimar has crash landed and is in dire need of rescue. Naturally, the Rescue Corps is on their way. Until they also crash land and become marooned on the planet. Nice flying, folks. Finally, you are sent to rescue the Rescue Corps and, eventually, Captain Olimar.
The adorable idea that the Rescue Corps needs rescuing sets the tone for the game’s overall story which is constantly lighthearted and fun. Each character has clearly defined personalities, and hearing them exchange jokes, banter, and ideas at the base camp is always enjoyable.
It might feel too long to some, but the game’s tutorial does a nice job of explaining a load of ideas all at once. How to start expeditions, exploring caves, gathering and using resources, and, of course, bossing around the titular Pikmin.
Controlling your little plant-like buddies couldn’t be any simpler. Throw them out one by one with the A button, send them en masse with the X button, and call them back to you by moving them within range of your whistle with the B button. It’s that easy. I’m sure what makes it really easy is just how well-programmed the Pikmin are as they never once got lost or did anything that I didn’t want them to do. In fact, I was constantly surprised by how efficiently their AI would find something to do if they were close enough to it.
When I started the game, I was mindlessly hurling all of my Pikmin at any problem I faced, but it’s when I embraced the game’s teachings of Dandori that it became tremendously fun. As Pikmin 4 says, “Dandori is the art of organizing your tasks strategically and working efficiently to execute your plans.” Organizing may not be your idea of fun, but you need to try it with Pikmin.
Everything you do in Pikmin 4 feeds into its immaculately designed core gameplay loop, and it’s absolutely shining when you’ve got loads of things going.
My absolute favorite moments in Pikmin 4 were when I’d successfully divided my Pikmin pals to do a handful of things at once. That squad of red Pikmin are using their fire resistance to destroy a little flame geyser, those blue Pikmin are carrying a pile of raw materials back to the base, and those yellow Pikmin are leveraging their electrical immunity to kill a Bearded Amprat before bringing its corpse back to the base for even more materials. Everything you do in Pikmin 4 feeds into its immaculately designed core gameplay loop, and it’s absolutely shining when you’ve got loads of things going.
Now, perhaps you’re thinking, “What was that I just read about a ‘corpse’ in this cute Nintendo game with adorable, little Pikmin?” Yes, that’s one of the game’s most charming qualities. There’s a slightly grim undertone to the battles you and your Pikmin get into. The vast majority of the creatures you encounter would love nothing more than to gobble up as many Pikmin as possible. So, you’ve got to get them first. Nature’s beautiful, isn’t it?
This isn’t news to veteran players, but you will lose Pikmin. They get squished, munched, and, if you’re not quick enough to rescue them, drowned, electrocuted, or set ablaze. There’s plenty of the fellers to grow, however, so no matter how badly your heart is wrenched by their tiny cries of anguish or their little spirits that you see floating heavenward, you must press forward.
There’s oodles of treasures to discover and collect, Dandori Time Trials and Battles, tower defense missions that are carried out at night, a Piklopedia of endlessly imaginative creatures to fill, and plenty of other stranded explorers to save.
With your surviving Pikmin, you’ll find loads and loads to do. There’s oodles of treasures to discover and collect, Dandori Time Trials and Battles, tower defense missions that are carried out at night, a Piklopedia of endlessly imaginative creatures to fill, and plenty of other stranded explorers to save. Yes, more than just the Rescue Corps!
It seems that this desolate planet is a hot spot for crash landings, and saving as many castaways as you can will reward you with plenty of side quests, materials, and upgrades for your doggie companion Oatchi.
Yes, I’ve saved one of the best parts for last. Along the entire journey, the oddly cute rescue pup Oatchi will provide you with loads of assistance. He can transport things, fight enemies, gather your Pikmin, sniff out objectives, and give you and all your Pikmin a ride. You can even switch between controlling your character and Oatchi to get even more done. Oatchi is, indeed, a very good boy.
What isn’t good, is the game’s co-op mode. Player two controls nothing more than a reticle that shoots tiny pebbles, and it doesn’t really add much beyond a way for you to entertain anyone that needs babysitting. However, the game does allow you and a second player to go head-to-head in fun little Dandori battles which are as delightful as they are crazy.
Even after the credits roll in Pikmin 4, there’s a bit more to the story and brand new areas to explore. From the delightfully textured world that’s brimming with secrets to the tiniest details, like how your Pikmin will occasionally sing classic Pikmin songs when riding Oatchi, Nintendo has packed the game with enough personality and whimsy that it could easily keep fans happy for another ten years. Of course, we certainly hope Pikmin 5 will come a lot sooner.
● Fantastic core gameplay loop
● Loads to collect and discover
● Controlling Oatchi and Pikmin is easy and endlessly enjoyable
● An impressively large number of wonderfully designed foes
● A charming story with fun characters
● Hyper-detailed and beautiful worlds to explore
● The co-op mode is tacked-on and shallow
Reviewer played on Nintendo Switch
Pikmin 4 is available now on Nintendo Switch