The loveable little sprouts are back in their first original release in 10 years! Despite being announced as “near completion” years ago by Nintendo, it’s been a long time coming for the Switch to get its own original Pikmin title. Closely following the re-releases of Pikmin 1+2 we now have the latest entry to the series, Pikmin 4.
Your Olimar Is In Another Castle
Pikmin 4 sees series hero Captain Olimar getting stranded on the planet inhabited by Pikmin and strangely human treasures once again in a sequence similar to that of Pikmin 1. This ends with Olimar bonding with a dog-like creature and sending out an SOS signal to be saved.
The Rescue Team assembles including the player, who for the first time in the series history is a custom-made character. While not the most in-depth of character creation systems it still allows you to personally take part in the action. Of course, it wouldn’t be Pikmin if this went off without a hitch and your ship crashes; while not breaking into pieces it does lose some of its usefulness and spreads the members of the rescue team far and wide across the planet. Good thing you’re good with Pikmin!
Along the way to save the Rescue Team, you’ll find that not only are there other people to save on the planet but also a mysterious human/planet creature that is blocking your rescue attempt. Fortunately, you are more than capable of fighting back with your dog-like alien Oatchi who you bond with quite early on.
Pikmin 4 is certainly more narrative-heavy than Pikmin 1+2, though I haven’t played 3 to compare. The story takes a good few twists and turns to keep you engaged and also makes a point of telling you there isn’t going to be a time limit. This means that you can plod on at your own pace and soak it all in rather than having the looming dread that was present in Pikmin 1 with its 30-day timer.
Pile That Pikmin Plate
So Pikmin 4, much like the recently covered Pikmin 1+2, is an RTS/Puzzle adventure where the bulk of your actions are performed by your Pikmin, of which there are now 9 varieties. This is triple the amount found in the original game. You also have your dog companion who can be commanded like a Pikmin but can also be ridden to give you jump and dashing abilities, furthering traversal options.
Pikmin 4 offers you several huge areas to explore that slowly open up. You’ll find the different Pikmin types amongst survivors who can offer you side quests or items to make your journey easier, alongside that addictive feeling of finding even more treasure and watching your gauge go up. Without the stress of a timer you’re more inclined to experiment, and should you make a catastrophic mess you can also rewind your current day which completely takes the edge off any time limit. The only one you even have to think about is your daily one as it’s not safe to explore the planet at night.
Dungeons are back and even better in Pikmin 4 offering a slightly more focused puzzle experience. These dungeons usually introduce a different color Pikmin and demonstrate how you can use them before they ramp up the difficulty with mind-bending puzzles and Pikmin-swallowing boss battles.
While on the subject of boss battles, the combat has never been better than right here. You have options you didn’t have before such as using ice Pikmin to freeze enemies or using your trusty pooch to stun foes by dashing into them. While the combat has always been a little daunting in the series, Pikmin 4 gives you enough options to feel like a true warmonger with your legion of Pikmin.
Leaning Into The Thick Of It
Due to the amount of Pikmin you can have, you are limited to 3 types at any time. You slowly unlock the ability to have larger numbers as you adapt to the game and the amount of options and things going on. It’s a nice curve that never feels like it’s holding your hand, rather it rewards you for exploring and progressing.
Each day sees you choosing your objective before you set off to an area on the map screen and try to tick said objective off. Be it trying to find Olimar or the Rescue team, you’ll not only rely on the unwavering support of the Pikmin but also your trusty pooch who levels up with every successful objective. Like most of the game, it’s just adding that little bit extra to an already successful formula.
Talking of additions, Pikmin 4 will see you commanding two new Pikmin types. Ice Pikmin who are brilliant in combat and can freeze bodies of water, and glow Pikmin who are your main units in the new night adventures. These nighttime adventures are another unexpected and exciting addition to the game, as previously in the series you’ve had to stop adventuring once the sun goes down.
Dandori Give Me Mori
One fantastic new addition to Pikmin 4 is the Dandori Battles. These happen throughout the story or can be accessed in the main menu should you want to play them with a friend. They are, for all intents and purposes, “competitive Pikmin” matches where you have to micromanage to have your Pikmin accumulate more treasures than your opponent in a certain amount of time. While I was worried when I found my first one, as soon as it started I found myself craving more. Should Nintendo see fit to do a DLC pack of just Dandori Battles I’ll be pre-ordering that day 1.
Despite the sheer amount of things you can do and having to control hundreds of units, the controls are quite intuitive throughout. Even controlling man’s best friend becomes second nature quickly. And fortunately, should you forget anything, handy tutorials are kept within the in-game menu but I never really found myself fighting with the controls at all which is very impressive for a console RTS.
Pikmin 4 is a culmination of everything that made the previous titles work. Now with even more polish and great ideas such as side quests, skill trees to work on, and just really leaning into not only the exploration side but the puzzle aspect. Dungeons in particular give Pikmin 4 this ideal blend of survival and brain teaser, much in the vein of the newer Zelda titles only slightly less open.
Clocking in at around the 18-hour mark, depending on how much you want to get out of the game with side quests and treasures to find, this is one of the longer Pikmin titles and fortunately the pacing holds up. There is also the Dandori multiplayer mode which is great fun, and also the sadly tacked-on co-op which sees your couch friend play as a cursor of divine intervention rather than another member of the Rescue Team.
Amazing Looking Water In This Game
The presentation for Pikmin 4 is, as expected, top-notch. Nintendo has a knack for getting the absolute best out of the Switch be it in handheld or docked and Pikmin 4 is easily one of the best-looking games you can get on the system.
Pikmin has always been charming in presenting “real” items and locations as alien. Pikmin 4 retains that charm and manages to put out some frankly photorealistic results. From the second you find a Gameboy SP you’ll be charmed and impressed at just what the Nintendo Switch can do.
The music is cheerful when it needs to be and downright creepy when it comes to dungeons and nighttime escapades. Voice acting isn’t a thing, instead it’s that vocal track where it’s just grunts and other noises.
It is a colorful, vibrant, and distinctly “Nintendo” looking game with the iconic Pikmin and their equally as famous predators. The create-a-character toolkit is a little lacking but it was a nice and unexpected extra. And the water effects will make a certain Miiverse user drool (a very old Wii-U reference for you kids!).
If you had told me that this year one of possibly the best games I’ll play would be Pikmin 4, I’d have laughed at you, especially after having to marathon Pikmin 1+2. But here we are with a game that I adored every second of and can’t find any faults with.
Pikmin 4 could have done with a more substantial co-op component and maybe a story that doesn’t involve Olimar getting himself into trouble again. But I’m grasping at straws to find anything wrong with the game at all. It’s a little bit of a niche title but sleeping on Pikmin 4 as a Nintendo Switch owner would be a massive mistake for newcomers or die-hard Pikminions!
PIKMIN 4 IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Nintendo for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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Pride of utopia & greatest thing ever, I found the One Piece, Collected the Dragon Balls & won the Mortal Kombat Tournament in one night, it was quiet for me that night! Follow me on Twitter @powahdunk