Indie games have the ability to be a fair bit stranger than the triple-A titles that drain us of our time and money. They offer the chance to explore a single aspect of humanity in its entirety. They also allow the developers to completely follow their own vision. After all, there are no publishers to demand certain things. This basically means that we get some of the most innovative – and some of the strangest – games in the industry in this sphere. It makes them absolutely essential. Pikuniku is very much one of these games.
Pikuniku sees you taking control of a little red jelly bean with two long, slightly uncoordinated legs. Naturally, it isn’t actually a jelly bean, it just looks like one. The beginning of the game has you being woken up by a ghost. They proceed to tell you that you’ve been asleep for ages and should probably get going. You make your way out of the cave in what serves as the tutorial, and you’ll get used to the actions you’ll need to solve the game’s many puzzles.
You can jump, roll and kick. Rolling is essentially how you run, you tuck your legs in and jelly bean around at high speeds. Jumping is pretty self-explanatory, as is kicking. You’ll need to use these in inventive ways to solve most of the head-scratchers the game throws at you, otherwise you’ll be left floundering about lost and confused.
Once you have escaped your sweet cave system you’ll run into some villagers. It turns out that there is a rumour that The Beast lives in the cave you were in, so they run away from you pretty quickly. After a small incident involving a cage, you get the whole thing sorted out and find out that there is a corporation giving the village lots of free money in exchange for their crops. Of course, that’s actually just capitalism.
This isn’t the utopia that it makes itself out to be. Around every corner is a CCTV camera following your every movement. People are taken away by the giant robots to a volcano. The village is slowly running out of food. Nothing good is happening, basically. This is the tale that Pikuniku tells. One of a supposed utopia which is, in fact, a dystopia. It isn’t an unusual story really, but the way it is told is what sets it apart.
The graphics are a cutesy minimalist style. Lots of solid colours litter the screen, and very little detail is on anything because it just isn’t needed. The sound design is good, there are some incredibly satisfying sound effects as well as a good soundtrack. Where the game really shines outside of its gameplay though is the humour that is present throughout it.
Pikuniku almost feels like playing through an episode of Adventure Time. The writing is consistently brilliant, and without fail very entertaining. Off-the-wall humour isn’t always successful but when it’s done well it really does bring a world to life. The highlight for me in Pikuniku involved a toaster, which is all I’ll say on the matter. Honestly, it’s just a really fun game and you should play it. It is only a few hours of your time, and it’s sure to bring a smile to your face.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Devolver Digital