It was a good feeling playing a brand new Pikmin game. It is a series I’ve loved since it launched all the way back on the GameCube and Pikmin 3 is my favourite game on the Wii U. However, when Hey! Pikmin first got announced, I sincerely hoped that it was not the Pikmin game that Shigeru Miyamoto referred to when saying Pikmin 4 was in the works. I’m not saying that I was immediately put off by Hey! Pikmin (terrible name by the way), it was just purely that I didn’t want the Pikmin series to go off in a completely different route than what came before. Thankfully, we of course now know that this game is only a spin-off game and there will be more Pikmin games coming down the line.
Hey! Pikmin is developed by Arzest, who most notably developed y on the 3DS, which was a decent game and nothing much more than that. That statement in itself may be enough alone to tell you of the quality of this game because I would say that they are about level with all things considered. But that’s all matter of opinion.
The game’s story is all pretty much standard affair. Captain Olimar shipwrecks on a seemingly unknown planet, although yet again he just so happens to land on a planet that Pikmin live on. The main objective, yet again, is to repair his trusty ship and leave the planet, but in order to do so, he needs to collect 30,000 Sparklium Seeds which are basically golden acorn looking things. I’m still not exactly sure how they help to fix his ship, but I digress. So again, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before but it’s the kind of game whereby it would be odd if they went completely crazy and made Pikmin into a novel. It’s a simple story and that’s all it needs to be.
Once you start your adventure you will come across the Pikmin, which if you didn’t know by now, are a bit of a combination between tiny creatures and a plant. Pikmin come in five different types, Red, Yellow, Blue, Rock and Pink. Red Pikmin are immune to fire and are stronger. Yellow Pikmin are immune to electricity and can be thrown higher up than any other type of Pikmin. Blue Pikmin can survive in water and swim. Rock Pikmin can crush and shatter certain objects, including some enemy exteriors and lastly, Pink Pikmin are able to fly and therefore can cross certain gaps that other Pikmin cannot cross.
Hey! Pikmin makes use of each Pikmin’s unique abilities just like they did in the main series and it’s all about using the right Pikmin in any given circumstance. However, unlike the main series games, you do not draw Pikmin from the Onion and choose which ones you would like to use, you just start the level and you just come across whichever type of Pikmin that has been designed for that particular level. That by itself takes away some of the strategy that the Pikmin series has been known for, but then again I’m not entirely sure how they would have implemented something like this properly in a 2D side-scroller.
The control method for the game utilises the Circle Pad and touch screen in conjunction with one another. The Circle Pad moves Olimar around and the touch screen does everything else. Tapping on the screen throws your Pikmin and this is what you will be using it for, mostly. So you will tap to throw Pikmin at enemies, towards treasures and so on. There are also icons on the touch screen that when pressed can do a few different things such as the whistle, which veterans will know is an essential part of any Pikmin game and you can use a jet pack to hang in the air for a short while too, which is used to cross small gaps.
You are also able to switch between which Pikmin to throw, for example, if you have an enemy that is on fire, but you have both Red and Yellow Pikmin at hand, you, of course, have to choose the Red Pikmin to throw as these are invulnerable to fire. It should be noted that if you are left handed and therefore want to use the touchscreen with your left hand (because why wouldn’t you if you’re a lefty?), you are only able to control Olimar using the A, B, X and Y buttons. You cannot use the C-Stick which is a complete oversight in my opinion. With me being right handed it, of course, had no bearing on my enjoyment of the game but I can see it being a big problem for those it does affect.
Hey! Pikmin is structured a lot differently than other Pikmin games, as you would expect. No longer are there large areas to explore. Instead, there are smaller levels like you would find in most 2D platform games. You will come across traditional grassy areas, caves, underwater levels and so on. The level select screen actually reminded me of the Donkey Kong Country games, namely the more recent ones. You move from stage to stage with a boss battle at the end of each world and secret exits lurking in certain levels that then unlock secret levels. There are mini game levels in which you are able to acquire more Sparklium Seeds, these are fun for a while but I found myself skipping over them eventually as they do get a bit repetitive and monotonous after a while.
At the end of each world, you have boss battles. The boss battles are pretty unique but I found them to be ridiculously easy at times. The boss battles reminded me somewhat of Yoshi’s Woolly World in that the bosses utilise the background a lot. The first boss, for example, the Bulborb, hides in tall grass in the background before jumping out at you in the foreground. After you defeat a boss they drop treasure that again adds to your Sparklium count and then you’re off to the next world.
Of course, your main objective during your adventure is picking up Sparklium Seeds and during each level, there are plentiful of these strewn around. Many are concealed in secret spots and many require you to throw Pikmin at. Treasures also return as mentioned above and will bag you a hefty amount of Sparklium Seeds, typically there are three per stage. Just like other Pikmin games, you will find everyday objects with trivial names, such as a calculator, which is aptly named ‘Numerical Monument’. There are some really cool treasures to find too, such as an NES Mario Bros. cartridge. I will only name this one because I wouldn’t want to spoil too much because they are genuinely cool when you come across them. They’re just really neat Easter eggs, nothing more.
For the most part, the game is enjoyable and its core gameplay is manageable for anybody to pick up and play. Therefore it isn’t the most problematic game in the world but it never sets out to be. There are certain enemies that I had the most trouble with and they seemed to be the minutest and puniest enemies, ironically enough, such as the Crumbug. This is because if you miss the enemy with your Pikmin throw, your Pikmin is then vulnerable and it takes just one hit off of an enemy and your Pikmin will give up the ghost.
I never once ran out of Pikmin however, you’re always given enough Pikmin in any given stage that if you lose a few, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. I also never really felt the burden of a Pikmin death like I did in the previous three games. In those games, losing a Pikmin was like losing a family member and I’m not entirely sure what it is but it’s just not the same here. This game doesn’t tell you how many Pikmin you have let die, so maybe that has something to do with it as, again, there isn’t really any significance when it happens. Olimar can also take a bit of a walloping too. He starts off with three hearts but I never once died because there is an abundance of hearts scattered around each level so it’s virtually impossible to croak by losing all of your health. There really isn’t any need for that many hearts in every level, but alas.
Pikmin Park is a little mini game that you can go to between levels. This is basically where all the Pikmin you have acquired over the course of your adventure go to. You send your different coloured Pikmin into the different areas in Pikmin Park and they can start looking for Sparklium. There may be a patch of water or crystals so in that area you would send in the Blue and Rock Pikmin respectively. Once you have completed an area within the park, rather than giving you more Sparklium, your Pikmin will uncover treasure instead. I tried to go into this mini game after each level but I was increasingly becoming more tiresome after each time. It is only a mini game after all and it’s hard to be too critical of it, but I think the developers could have made this mode into something superior to what they ended up with.
Hey! Pikmin isn’t a perfect game but I don’t think anybody was expecting it to be and there are certainly things that could be improved on in any future games of this ilk. I found the overall game to be a touch too slow, it was as if the speed needed to be increased by about 20 percent to make it just about right. The in-game map is quite possibly one of the worst maps I’ve ever seen in any game too, it seemed like they spent all of about 10 minutes designing that thing, it’s just plain ugly but it is something which you do not require on screen. An issue that I thought wouldn’t be present in this Pikmin game is that Pikmin still sometimes get stuck. It’s undeniably nowhere near as frequent as previous games but it still happens. Luckily the game does still tell you and you can always use the (ugly) map to locate them, so it’s never too big of a problem but it is still a bit of a pain nonetheless.
You can certainly tell that this game was made by the developers of Yoshi’s New Island as it looks very comparable in terms of graphical style and that isn’t a bad thing. The 3DS isn’t a super powerful console but the visuals on offer here are pleasing on the eye. It should be noted that this game, despite obviously being for the Nintendo 3DS, does not feature 3D visuals in any capacity. For those, like myself that actually enjoy the 3D aspect of the 3DS, it is a little disappointing as you can imagine certain parts of the game looking really good with a little bit of depth. The music is what you would expect from a Pikmin game, very relaxing and very ambient. Certainly a plus point.
I was not able to test out any amiibo functionality, so therefore I am unable to fully go into excessive detail about them. However, using the Pikmin or Olimar amiibo will summon extra Pikmin to help you during a level, which is useful if you are running low on the little critters or you just need a couple more Pikmin to pick up a certain treasure. You are also able to level up a Pikmin amiibo figure by gathering Pikmin in Pikmin Park, which then allows you to call upon more Pikmin during expeditions. There are also special courses that require amiibo to unlock. Again, as I was unable to test these out, I’m not sure whether these are full levels or just little mini games.
In the end though, Hey! Pikmin is a solid game and a decent first attempt at bridging out the franchise to multiple genres. The Pikmin seem to have a lot more personality in this game than previous entries and you get to see a more playful side to them. It isn’t the longest game out there but there are plenty of things to do that will elongate the experience such as beating each level without losing any Pikmin, as that grants you a gold trophy and of course you can challenge yourself to find every single piece of treasure in the game. Again though, the challenge isn’t the greatest here but if this is a way of getting more people into a relatively hardcore series then that is perfectly fine with me. Now we just need to wait for Pikmin 4.