The Great Transition. 2D to 3D. Many a game has attempted this grand leap from one dimension to another, but few have succeeded proper. Super Mario 64 was a cornerstone in game design and a triumph of the Great Transition and Prince of Persia was just plain good, but series like Sonic have just as easily been burned by the allure of having length, breadth and height. However, what if the opposite were to be attempted? What if a 3D game entered the 2D space? What if you squashed it back down? The Crash Bandicoot Game Boy Advance games were great examples of decent 2D design from 3D sensibilities, but how much better can a Great Transition get?
Hey! Pikmin is a great answer.
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Pikmin is a series about raising an army of plant men and using them as slave labour to rebuild something. A spaceship, another spaceship, a gulag…you get the idea. You play as a small chap named Olimar, whose goal it is to get back home. And there’s not a single moral peep out of him. Each plant man (called Pikmin) has a different flavour depending on what colour they are. Red are resistant to fire, blue can travel through water, the list goes on. That’s where the similarities between Hey! Pikmin and its older siblings end. Pikmin are in much fewer supply this time, forcing you to be more picky about which colours you take and how many of them you take.
Controlling your Pikmin army has been made much easier as well in accordance with the 3D to 2D transition. You can still call them back with a whistle, but you can’t control batches individually. The level design doesn’t make this feel like a hindrance however. Speaking of, the level design in Hey! Pikmin is something to behold, with each area feeling organic to navigate, never making you feel frustrated.
A crowning achievement.
If it has ‘lagoon’ in the name, you know you shouldn’t go there
As is the norm with the 3DS, there’s a touch gimmick. Pikmin are controlled with the stylus this time around, but Olimar is still relegated to the good ol’ circle pad. I’m gonna miss that lil’ fella. The UI for the touch screen isn’t awful, but it could absolutely have used more tweaking in terms of button placement.
Once again, the Pikmin are hard at (unpaid) work fixing your stuff. The process has been tweaked though, with the introduction of the Pikmin Park. You can assign Pikmin to this area to uncover resources to aid the reconstruction effort. While it may be a mechanic ripped straight from mobile games, it manages to feel right at home. Coincidentally, if you’re a fan of the Pikmin aesthetic you’ll also feel right at home. Hey! Pikmin has the same loveable charm and fairytale-esque look that made the series so loveable in the first place. The colours are as soft as soft can be, the music is characteristically chirpy, and the game is never particularly difficult. However, it’s these comfortable returns to what we know that end up making the overall experience feel a little on the tame side.
My mixtape: Secured.
Play the game, boy.
Hey! Pikmin is by no means a bad game, but there was a niggling notion kicking around my skull throughout my entire playthrough: I’ve seen all this before. Pikmin, as a series, was built upon very strict mechanics, but it’s been 16 years since the release of the original Gamecube classic. If Hey! Pikmin had taken more liberties with gameplay, I would have enjoyed the game that much more. Others may not mind keeping to tradition, but I expected more from such a drastic change in perspective.
Hey! PIkmin does what it says on the tin. It’s Pikmin in 2D, and that’s fine. It plays fine and looks fine, but that’s it. It’s…fine. Not a bad time by any stretch of the imagination, but a bit more risk taking with the tried-and-true formula definitely wouldn’t have gone astray.