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Pikmin 4 Preview – Barking Up A New Tree

Picking your way across the planet

It’s great to have Pikmin back. While not one of Nintendo’s biggest IPs, the series has carried itself well across three mainline titles and managed to create some solid mobile and 3DS spinoffs in the process. But is there enough magic left in the franchise for a fourth instalment to find an audience? If my early impressions are anything to go by, the answer is yes.

Pikmin 4 begins much like the previous entries do, arriving on a mysterious planet to uncover strange treasures and the even stranger Pikmin that call it home. But across the first few hours, it becomes apparent that Nintendo has put some thought into making this the most accessible entry in the series to date. Much like Pikmin 2, the emphasis is less on completing objectives within a strict time limit and more on exploring your own way.

And I will build a vast empire

It didn’t take me long to get into the swing of things, throwing my little Pikmin around at various plant life, creatures, and obstacles with ease. The camera has also been tightened up into a 3rd-person adventure perspective compared to the top-down view of previous titles. It’s not the only minor change, but it’s significant in terms of evolving the concept and game feel beyond simply adding more characters or Pikmin to spice things up.

Speaking of which, you’ll be spending plenty of time with your new best bud, Oatchi, in Pikmin 4. Think an alien space dog crossed with a plush toy and you’re just about there. Oatchi can aid your Pikmin in both fighting critters and digging up obstacles, along with a very cute ability to ride it around, making traversal a faster affair. Having spent plenty of hours playing across the past three games, Oatchi feels like the kind of addition needed to add some depth to proceedings and variety to movement.

So far I’ve managed to discover plenty of familiar moments within Pikmin 4, from underground caverns to traditional foes, and it’s a fun cycle of exploring as much as you can across the given time. You take a moment to upgrade and check stats once the day ends, training your space pup or unlocking new items that can aid your journey, then returning once a new day begins to explore even further. Though early on, it’s clear each area you uncover has plenty of secrets and points of interest that can only be reached once the right item or Pikmin type is discovered, and you’ll be returning to them multiple times to find everything on offer.

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Orange is the new black

It’s also an incredibly beautiful world to explore so far. The details in the environments are wonderful, definitely a major step up in terms of visual fidelity, and the UI has evolved into a cleaner, leaner aesthetic. Both changes serve to bring the Pikmin franchise into the modern era in a colourful way, and hopefully that remains so across the full game.

I was keen for Pikmin 4 before, but now I’m very excited about the prospect of what lies ahead. You don’t have to wait too long to give it a run yourself, with Nintendo dropping a playable demo on the eShop today. Plus, if you’re so inclined, the original Pikmin 1 and 2 both received a HD re-release earlier this month.

Pikmin 4 arrives on Nintendo Switch July 21.

Previewed on Switch // Preview code supplied by publisher

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Written By Mark Isaacson

Known on the internet as Kartanym, Mark has been in and out of the gaming scene since what feels like forever, growing up on Nintendo and evolving through the advent of PC first person shooters, PlayStation and virtual reality. He'll try anything at least once and considers himself the one true king of Tetris by politely ignoring the world records.

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