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Pikmin 4 Review

Once more into the garden

Ah Pikmin. One of Shigeru Miyamoto’s pet projects, a series that has never taken off compared to his other great works yet has managed to stick around through multiple sequels and spin-offs thanks to a loyal fanbase and solid (if never grand) sales figures. Now here we are, a fourth entry of little flower people doing your bidding, released in a year already filled with major success stories and crowd-pleasing favourites. There’s just enough room on the calendar to fit another trip through the garden, and perhaps wisely Nintendo saw fit to release Pikmin 4 when the season is at its quietest, as it now allows more time for those curious about it to finally see how enjoyable it can be.

If you’re coming to this having never encountered the series, let me give you a quick rundown. Pikmin are tiny, ant sized creatures that follow your every command without question. That can be, say, fighting a giant bug that throws spikes your way, or gathering nearby treasures to return to your ship. Why? Perhaps to work alongside an ally against the bug and plant life that sees them as a food source, or maybe they just need a friend. But either way there are a few different types of Pikmin that can be used in various situations, all of which can aid you in discovering new secrets or unlocking previously inaccessible areas.

As for the narrative, the Rescue Corps have received an SOS signal via the planet PNF-404 from fabled hero Captain Olimar, who has once again found himself in a spot of trouble on the Earth-like location. This isn’t Olimar’s first crash though, and this time he’s sent back his voyage logs to the Corps in the hope they can find him quickly. Of course, the rescue attempt doesn’t go according to plan, so it’s up to you as one of the newest recruits to not only discover the whereabouts of Captain Olimar but rescue the rescuers themselves.

Yes my children, follow me into glory!

After creating your own hero through some limited options, you set out on your journey. Regular players of the franchise will immediately feel at home, given the basic premise and gameplay hasn’t changed a whole lot, but there are some distinct updates to the formula to keep things fresh. For one, our little fluffy dog-like companion Oatchi joins in on the expeditions.  He can dig, claw and fetch in a similar vein to Pikmin themselves, though at a much stronger level. Oatchi is a fantastic addition, simplifying the controls for those flying solo and providing some much-needed variety in the process. I always found myself riding Oatchi into battle, my minions climbing onto its back and flinging themselves onto enemy critters with a well-timed dash forward. It’s suitably satisfying, with later upgrades improving Oatchi’s survivability along with finding hidden secrets easier.

As for the Pikmin themselves, there are two new additions to the roster. Ice Pikmin can be strategically used to freeze water or enemies in place, making an otherwise difficult encounter a lot fairer. Glow Pikmin, meanwhile, play a role in one of the most touted additions in this fourth instalment: night expeditions. Though your main quest will be rescuing Olimar and finding the necessary Sparklium (aka an energy source) to refuel your ship, night expeditions will have you working alongside Glow Pikmin to defend their home from more enraged monsters until sunrise. Think a tower defence game Pikmin style, though I admit I was hoping for more from this new setting. The potential was there to craft some devilish nightscapes or more challenging puzzles, but instead the night expeditions feel like a very minor inclusion that’s solely to push the narrative along, and I couldn’t help but be disappointed.

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The rest of the Pikmin cast remains the same, in an ‘if it ain’t broke’ approach. That’s perfectly fine too, as the level design and puzzle solving within the main areas remain as entertaining and creative as they ever have. You’ll spend a good couple of hours across each stage discovering every hidden secret and fighting off various creatures large and small, though the best moments are saved for the underground caverns you’ll come across. There are some diabolical boss battles to face and a few more creative puzzles to unravel. Though you do have the leisure of no time limits while under the surface compared to the restrictive time limits elsewhere, not that I ever felt the pressure to complete any tasks I’d set myself. Every visit I made to a location, I had a general idea of where I wanted to go next, but there was always something else off the beaten track that distracted me or guided me to something even more enticing.

You think?

The locations themselves provide plenty of diversity. Sun-Speckled Terrace feels vast and colourful, water levels change across the day in Serene Shores, and another first for the series is an entirely indoor location called Hero’s Hideaway. Here, you will be exploring across what seems to be an abandoned yet perfectly maintained house, with bugs littering the kitchen and plenty of traps placed around the lounge. It’s a much more open environment than any previous map in the Pikmin series, the kind of creative spark it needed to stand out from the pervious mainline trilogy. Granted, the underrated gem Tinykin arguably did this better, but as Pikmin games go it’s a welcome inclusion.

Between expeditions, you will have plenty of opportunities to upgrade or purchase items that can aid you at any time, whether that’s improving your defence against fire or a general health boost. There are a few items that can make finding lost Pikmin easier or, as I found myself using a few times, the ability to call Pikmin from afar back to you quickly. It saved a lot of time running back to base between collecting items just to call my troop home. Some of your fellow survivors will also have some extra tasks for you to complete, though these are hardly taxing and largely revolve around continuing your quest and checking in with them every so often to get a closer look at the treasures you’ve uncovered.

Which leads me to the last big addition, a versus mode (of sorts) called Dandori Battles. Here, you and a select group of Pikmin will be challenged to bring home as many treasures as possible within a time limit against an opponent, using unique abilities to hinder the other side or help your own. A small number of these battles will play out during the campaign itself, but you can compete with or against a friend across a handful of levels in a neat, but otherwise small, distraction. I do wonder whether there’s future DLC planned to expand Danadori Battles, the concept is sound and enjoyable, and the unique special attacks add some spice to proceedings. But there isn’t quite enough here to throw a few hours into it outside of the story.

He’s stealing my duck!

The early campaign defines itself on accessibility for newcomers more than treading old ground or throwing an abundance of mechanics at you, it feels more like a leisurely adventure than a deadly quest (unless you go seeking for them). Along with Oatchi, a rewind feature is always at hand, allowing you to go back prior to a sudden lapse of concentration or bad luck. I made use of it a few times, largely thanks to my more bullish technique of throwing my chosen warriors out at abandon. It’s little additions like that, coupled with an improved user interface, which make all the difference to a younger audience who may otherwise be overawed by the experience, but those returning players will still find much to enjoy here. Once the credits roll, there’s plenty of welcome surprises for both lovers of the franchise and those hoping for even more to uncover. The late game will please all, though I’ll refrain from explaining as it’s a surprise worth waiting for.

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Final Thoughts

It’s hard not to like the Pikmin brand, with its layers of cuteness that hide creative, puzzle-solving flair underneath. For its fourth attempt, Nintendo has put in the hard work and polished the experience across the board. It’s arguably the best the franchise has ever looked, vibrant colours and rich textures are everywhere, and the new additions are enough to add variety even without pushing the boundaries as far as they could have. But there was a clear goal in the design document here – to make this the most accessible Pikmin title for anyone who has never given the series a run, and on that front Pikmin 4 succeeds aplenty, making this yet another must-play experience on the Switch that you shouldn’t miss.

Reviewed on Switch // Review code supplied by publisher

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Pikmin 4 Review
Another grand adventure
Just when you think Nintendo has drained the well of creativity, it once more releases a sequel that refines an already quality experience to another level. Pikmin remains one of its best franchises that deserves more time in the spotlight, and Pikmin 4 is no exception.
The Good
As vibrant and entertaining as ever
The most welcoming entry in the series for newcomers
Puzzles remain clever and enjoyable to solve
It’s great to have Oatchi along for the ride
Plenty to discover for new and returning players
The Bad
Night Expeditions aren’t as creative as they could have been
Dandori Battles are a minor distraction
9
Bloody Ripper
  • Nintendo EPD
  • Nintendo
  • Switch
  • July 21, 2023

Pikmin 4 Review
Another grand adventure
Just when you think Nintendo has drained the well of creativity, it once more releases a sequel that refines an already quality experience to another level. Pikmin remains one of its best franchises that deserves more time in the spotlight, and Pikmin 4 is no exception.
The Good
As vibrant and entertaining as ever
The most welcoming entry in the series for newcomers
Puzzles remain clever and enjoyable to solve
It’s great to have Oatchi along for the ride
Plenty to discover for new and returning players
The Bad
Night Expeditions aren’t as creative as they could have been
Dandori Battles are a minor distraction
9
Bloody Ripper
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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