REVIEW – It’s been a decade since the release of Pikmin 3, and three years since the Switch Deluxe version. This means that the arrival of Pikmin 4 has been a long time coming, but it feels like it’s only been a short time since the Switch version was released. Now, however, the latest Pikmin game is here. Will it live up to the hype?
Olimar, the Pikmin’s luckiest and worst explorer, once again finds himself on a mysterious yet familiar planet full of Pikmin. A rescue team comes to his aid, but unfortunately they too crash. It’s up to you, the young member of the rescue team, to save not only Olimar, but also the rest of the rescue team. If you have any chance of escaping the planet, you must find them all. Collecting treasures will provide your ship with Sparkium, the energy source needed to explore new areas.
Oatchi the rescue dog reports for duty!
You don’t have to do this difficult task alone, Pikmin 4 introduces Oatchi the Rescue Dog. If you’ve seen anything of Pikmin 4, there’s a good chance you’ve met Oatchi, and if you pick up this game, you’ll see a lot more of him. This amazing space dog will quickly become an indispensable part of your team, and when he’s not around, you’ll miss him. “Where’s Oatchi?” you’ll ask, because it’s not as much fun without him.
It may seem like an exaggeration, but Oatchi works wonders in Pikmin 4. This special space dog quickly becomes an integral part of the rescue team. Considering how big the areas can get, being able to ride Oatchi gives you more time to get more done each day. Even better, any Pikmin travelling with you can jump on board, keeping the party close together and ready to pounce. You can also use an attack that slams into the target, possibly paralysing the creature before it can fight back, as well as bringing all the Pikmin with you into a concentrated attack.
As you rescue other crew members and other castaways who have inadvertently become involved in Olimar’s rescue operation, they will also be challenged. Not only will this encourage you to keep exploring, but the rewards you earn will allow you to purchase useful upgrades and items to aid your quest. These upgrades will become available as you progress, and can provide you and Oatchi with additional protection from the elements, health boosts or life energy boosts as needed. As the raw materials in various areas can be used to make clay to complete bridge structures and climbing walls, serious consideration needs to be given. Will you spend your money on the upgrades on offer, or will you concentrate on collecting the clay needed to build bridges and other structures to unlock the secrets of the areas?
The night is young
For the first time in the Pikmin series, we see the beginning of nighttime adventures. Previously, the night held such dangers that we rarely dared to leave the safe haven of our spaceship. This exciting opportunity presents itself if you manage to rescue a certain crew member. Whether or not you choose to accept the challenges of the night is entirely up to you.
But night missions are very different from daytime adventures. As well as battling local creatures and the natural environment, you’ll also have to protect a special glowing hill called the Lumiknoll. Protect the Lumiknoll until the timer runs out, or you’ll defeat all the enemies that try to get in your way. Only the new glowing Pikmins can help you in this game mode. You can get more of them by collecting star-shaped crystals, and the more you have, the better. The best time to do this is during quiet moments when nearby creatures are gathering to attack the Lumiknoll. Even Oatchi is ready to defend the Lumiknoll, fending off attackers while you turn your attention to another target.
Night missions are essentially a tower defence mini-game where you have to stop the creatures from destroying the Lumiknoll. I was hoping the game would allow you to stay out longer at night and take more risks against the deadlier creatures, but in the end I don’t regret the decision. Bear in mind that you’ll have to do these missions if you want to complete the story in full, but you should be able to handle the lighter nighttime expeditions. Those who want to complete the story will have a harder time, as the expeditions become increasingly difficult, and the more nighttime adventures you complete, the more Glow Pikmin seeds you can collect to use in the daytime cave stages. I was glad to have the Glow Pikmin on my team, as they will reappear on your team after you deliver Star Crystals to Lumiknoll. They are very useful, and it never hurts to have more flying/floating Pikmin.
Dandori: the art of harmony and maximisation
Pikmin 4 often mentions the term “Dandori”, which is the art of harmony and maximisation. The idea is that you learn to manage your team as economically as possible, which is especially important in Dandori Battles or Challenges.
Dandori Battles can be found in any field where your Cadet is pitted against a mysterious “Letter Writer”. You start with a few Pikmin and your task is to collect as many items as possible in the time available. You should be able to keep several collection tools in motion at the same time and steal some items from your opponent. The situation is further complicated when new items are introduced into the game, including a bomb, which starts a competition with the number of Pikmin and resources to see who can carry the bomb to the opponent’s base. If you’re successful, you’ll reduce your opponent’s score, giving you the chance to capture them. The items you collect on the battlefield can give your team extra Pikmin or hinder your opponent. Items can meteor shower your opponent, give you a shock effect, or give you a boost with some bonus Pikmin.
The Dandori Challenges send you into a cave with few Pikmin; it’s up to you to quickly increase their numbers while collecting valuable treasures. You’ll be rewarded with medals based on your score, but a bronze medal is enough to progress. These timed stages encourage you to act quickly and develop your multitasking skills in a way that the main areas don’t require.”
It will be a divisive one!
Pikmin 4 is likely to be a divisive game. Even before its release, there were complaints about the difficulty of the game and the lack of a timeline to complete it. I would say that Pikmin 4 is the most accessible of the main series, while still remaining challenging. Personally, I found the removal of the countdown days liberating, knowing that I wouldn’t be hurting myself by trying to fully explore each area. Just because there wasn’t a 30-day limit didn’t mean I wasn’t trying to make the most of every day, whether that meant collecting as much treasure as I could or leaving myself enough time to explore the underworld levels. With the looming deadline, I think it would have been harder to coordinate the treasures with the other extra challenges.
The new rewind feature also helps to reduce the stress of playing Pikmin games. You can rewind to the beginning of the day or a few minutes earlier. A more dangerous enemy may still be able to launch an attack that wipes out most of your team. Even more useful, you can check how many Pikmin you had before going back to an earlier time.
Although there’s no time limit, the game doesn’t prevent you from giving yourself 30 days to complete each area, and you can easily ignore the rewind option. While I can’t say much about it, there is a mode for hardcore fans who really miss the countdown hanging over their heads and need to test all their Pikmin skills to make the most of each day. Dandori battles and nighttime expeditions can also really add to the difficulty of the game.
With Pikmin 3 Deluxe still technically a Wii U game, Pikmin 4 shows what the series can look like on Switch. Like the other games in the series, Pikmin is based around large natural environments where explorers, Pikmin and creatures exist on a smaller scale. There’s no shortage of fun and highly detailed ‘treasures’ to look at in Pikmin 4, whether you’re carrying a group of Pikmin or taking a closer look at the treasure trove. It feels as if the camera is much closer to the ground, so you can see all the detail that can be found in these varied areas.
Even better, Pikmin 4 runs well; if there were any performance issues, I never noticed them. Whether it was multiple groups of Pikmin scattered around areas doing their thing, or chaotic split-screen Dandori battles, the game ran smoothly.
There is also a unique co-op mode
For those who want to share the Pikmin adventure with someone else, there is also a co-op mode in the game. Note that this is not two players controlling their own little explorers, but both controlling groups of Pikmin on the map. The co-op mode here is more like Mario Galaxy/Odyssey, where the second player shoots pebbles to help take out the creatures. There’s a bit more to it, but not much more. However, players can face off in Dandori battles. Here you can both control a character and compete for the most points.
I’ve always been a fan of the Pikmin series, although I didn’t always like the time limits of the first and third games. In Pikmin 4, I feel like there’s more to do overall, whether it’s daytime expeditions, cave exploration, nighttime expeditions or Dandori battles/challenges. And that’s not all! There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a long-time Pikmin fan, someone new to the game or a hardcore fan. Pikmin manages to strike a balance between musical exploration and treasure hunting, as well as thrilling races and chaotic battles against the many creatures of the world.
I feel that Pikmin 4 reinvigorates the Pikmin series. Bringing Oatchi along on this new adventure will help him navigate this vast world and its many dangers. Nintendo has managed to make the series more accessible than ever before, while not holding back on the ability to quickly wipe out your entire party if you come under an unexpected attack. Not only is there plenty to do, but it’s all so enjoyable that you’ll want to play each area 100% of the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Pikmin game is a long way off, but Pikmin 4 will be hard to beat.
+ Pikmin 4 is a fun and creative strategy game that offers a variety of challenges and discoveries
+ The graphics of the game are beautiful and detailed, the environments are diverse and true to life
+ The story of the game is humorous and exciting, the characters are lovable and unique
– The difficulty of the game is sometimes too high or too low, which can be frustrating or boring
– Game controls are sometimes imprecise or complicated, making it difficult to control Pikmin
– The multiplayer mode of the game is limited and less enjoyable than the single player mode
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 4
Release: July 21, 2023.