Ever wanted to feel stupid? Well here’s your chance!
Pikmin 3 is hard. I’m not just saying that because I’m sometimes terrible at games, I’m saying it from experience. The original Pikmin was an exercise in stress, with a constant timer counting down before you had to complete the entire game or you’d choke to death. It might look like a kid’s game, but that sounds more like the premise for a Saw trap. In the third game you have a similar but slightly more lenient sentence hanging over your head. Each day you consume one lot of fruit juice. Find more fruit juice, you get more time. Of course there is a finite amount of fruit in the game, so right from the very beginning there’s that sense that you might have already messed everything up. I haven’t been this scared in a Nintendo game since being chased by Big Boo in Super Mario World.
The game looks absolutely stunning. Say what you will about the Wii U’s lack of performance in comparison to next gen (something along the lines of, ‘it’s hopelessly underpowered and will struggle to get cross-platform ports’) but Nintendo art department know what they’re doing. There’s a bit of tilt-shift going on and it gives the entire game this wonderfully tactile feel. I was sceptical when I saw the original gameplay trailer for it, but Nintendo have hit their target easily, the game looks fantastic, especially when played on the Gamepad screen. Some basic texture work is disguised by wonderful animation and the effect that surround the Pikmin themselves. Each type looks like it’s made of a different kind of material, and you can have up to 100 onscreen at once with zero slowdown. The graphics are a real accomplishment and it’s almost worth the price of the game just to see what your Wii U is already capable of doing.
The audio too is just as charming as you’d expect, although it’s surprisingly upbeat considering the situation. You’re stranded thousands of miles from home, with Earth on it’s last legs, desperate for food and ravenous monsters come out every night, but the soundtrack is full of little whistles and flutes and bells. Each action and monster has it’s own voice and the sound becomes just as useful in telling what’s going on as the UI is. My only gripe is that the sound for enemies dying is eerily similar to the sound of your Pikmin dying, leading to some unwarranted panics every now and then.
Gameplay wise it’s very similar to previous games in the series. You run around, you throw Pikmin at things, and you round them up. There’s a few new twists such as having a few characters to swap between, but generally this is just used to throw one character up to a ledge so they can control Pikmin from up there. I’m sure better plays than me will be able to use the extra characters to effectively manage their time, multitasking around the level, but I’m not able to do that, it’s far too tense.
The controls are a joy and I’m loving the Gamepad more and more every time I use it. The analog sticks feel precise when aiming pikmin and the touchscreen actually comes in handy from time to time. There’s lots of little annoyances such as Pikmin getting throw slightly past the edge of geometry and getting trapped, or foolishly walking into water thanks to the shape of the crowd they’re in, but it just becomes part of the game rather than completely breaking the immersion. You learn to live with the fact that Pikmin are pretty dumb.
Storywise it’s very typical video-game fare with catastrophe after catastrophe leading to you needing to fix things/save people/ explore a new area. Everything that can go wrong does, and it starts getting comedic the way the same accidents start happening. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not. Some players might be put off by the twee presentation of the game but it fits the world well and this is far from a children’s game. It’s suprisingly serious and there’s a lot at stake every time you start playing so here’s hoping the marketing department actually gets to play it before they start trying to sell it to soon-to-be beyond frustrated children.
The big issue is with the length of the day. You never really get the feeling you can explore to your heart’s content because you’re constantly aware of that timer ticking down. There’s not long for each day (about 15 minutes) and there’s a lot to accomplish with no sign of how long you’re expect to spend there. Was it a good idea to just clear the way to the boss but have to retreat from fighting him to save as many Pikmin as possible? Or was it a completely wasted day that means I now no longer have enough fruit to complete the game? There’s no way to tell and that’s a horrible feeling. Some will relish the challenge I’m sure, but the world is so vibrant and interesting I wish there was a ‘casual’ mode for people who just want to enjoy the story and make sure they collect every single thing.
At the end of each day you’re required to take all your Pikmin back to the onion to keep them safe, and each trip becomes some kind of nightmare, with random Pikmin suddenly appearing lost, a big counter counting down to their doom, and geometry insistent on obstructing you wherever possible. I found myself doing objectives for the first half of each day, then hurrying back to the ship for fear of not getting back on time. It hamstrings the fun somewhat and is a real shame in what is otherwise an awesome game.
Over the course of the game you get a few new Pikmin, such as a rock Pikmin that can be hurled to break things (and look incredibly rock-like, which sounds ridiculous until you see them) and winged Pikmin that take all the effort from having to carry things back to base. There’s so many opportunities to get new Pikmin you never really feel in danger of losing them completely, but you’ll still find yourself looking after each and every one, such is their personality and charm.
One of the best features of theWii U is the ability to just play on the gamepad, and Pikmin doesn’t disappoint. At any point in the game you can simply press the minus key and without any fuss whatsoever, the game switches to being just on the Gamepad. It makes it a little trickier as you have to press a button to get the map up (that’s usually just on the Gamepad by default) but it’s a small price to pay for he ability to play Pikmin 3 away from your TV. The game looks possibly even better on the small screen and I found myself playing on the Gamepad more than on the TV, possibly just for the novelty of it.
There’s plenty to do in Pikmin 3, with a lengthy campaign and challenge modes you’re sure to get your money’s worth. My only reservation is that if you’re the type of person who gets annoyed easily or frustrated with puzzle games, maybe give this one a miss.Pikmin 3 is not an easy game, and it’s not a forgiving game. Work hard for it and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful and unique game, but if you’re after something more relaxing you’ll need to look elsewhere.