Pikmin 4 Review
At long last, a new Pikmin game has arrived. As a newcomer to the series, I can’t speak to the game’s new features with the necessary authority. I can, however, provide an outsider’s perspective on the experience. For those of you also new to this franchise, welcome! Pikmin 4 is a fascinating blend of real-time strategy, Nintendo charm, and nature documentary brutality. I’ve watched a lot of Pikmin get chewed up and swallowed by slightly larger creatures. It’s rather distressing, to be honest.
Let’s touch on the narrative before we get to the cutesy savagery. You play a rescue rookie tasked with retrieving Olimar from the harsh wilds of Earth. Of course, you have to rescue the rest of your team first. Earth is super dangerous to people your size, it turns out. It’s not just Olimar, either. Earth is host to a whole mess of stranded travelers. Rescue ops end up being the bulk of your activities in this game. Between that and resource acquisition, there’s little else to occupy you. Thankfully, both tasks are pretty fun stuff.
Rookie To The Rescue
Stranded citizens and crew members are found through exploration, boss fights, and Dandori events. So, the one activity turns into three of them, which I appreciate. Exploration is the umbrella event, your whole reason for being on this planet in the first place. You catalog creatures, collect mysterious artifacts, and try your best to stay alive. My favorite part of exploring is the completion percentage, because I am a simple animal at heart. Getting it to 100 is soothing, while having to leave it at 75% for any amount of time gets my hackles up. It’s honestly remarkable. You don’t have to completely explore every region, but I felt compelled to do so.
The combat is where things get all National Geographic on you. Pikmin are a renewable resource. They’re more plants than anything else. Yet I still hate watching them get eaten. Actually, the drowning, burning, crushing, and electrocution aren’t great, either. This is one of Nintendo’s great strengths: making cute little guys that you want to love and protect. It doesn’t help that you’ve got someone on comms going ‘Oh no! The Pikmin!’ every time they get merc’d. To be clear, I still sacrifice them in glorious battle when I need to. I just feel a little bad about doing so, thanks to the excellent character design.
Many Tiny Lives Lost
I love the Dandori battles. They add an extra competitive edge to the usual tasks in Pikmin 4. Sometimes you’re competing with someone else, sometimes you’re just shooting for a particular score. Either way, you’ve got to think on your feet, and it rules. Dandori battles are also the hardest tasks in this game, I think. If nothing else, these are the challenges I failed the most during my playthrough. But even if it took two or three tries to succeed, I was happy to make the attempts. Failure just had me itching to jump back in and improve my run.
Another new feature is the night battles. You still can’t explore at night. Instead, you engage in these horde mode defensive fights, beating back waves of enemies until the night ends. You need different strategies, and different Pikmin, to succeed here. Like the Dandori battles, night battles steadily escalate in difficulty, but I didn’t mind. The rest of the game is so laid back by comparison, you end up eager for a more serious challenge. At least, I felt that way for most of the game. Eventually, the main campaign found ways to kick my butt, which I greatly appreciated.
Pikmin 4 takes a curious approach to difficulty and challenge. You can brute force your way through most fights easy enough, but you’ll lose a lot of Pikmin doing so. The tough part is winning with zero casualties. You’ve got to know which Pikmin type work on which enemy. You also need to memorize the attack patterns of said enemies. They’re not complex by any means, but you’ve still got to put the work in. You also need to manage your Pikmin carefully. For most of the game, most Pikmin types need to be found, rather than grown. It’s a small detail that makes losing certain types a lot more painful. Rare variants are treated like special ammunition. You don’t bust out the Rock types for just anything, you know.
Sacrifice For Success
Although I love the battles, the strategic depth, and the characters, it’s this game’s pace that kept me hooked. You’re able to take things one day at a time. Even your less productive days still feel accomplished. Maybe it’s just the allure of that ‘100% explored’ announcement, but I was ready to sniff out every corner of this game. It’s a bummer watching Pikmin die, but it’s also a great motivator to learn from your mistakes. I was expecting the rescue/resources activity split to get boring, but it never did. If you’re hoping for a compelling narrative, you’ll be disappointed. But Pikmin 4 is more about the core gameplay loop than anything else. Slowly exploring every part of this game, gathering your tiny army, and looting every piece of possible treasure is its own reward. Whether you’re a newcomer or a series veteran, Pikmin 4 will be an excellent adventure.
***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***
- Dandori battles are a blast
- Exploration feels satisfying
- Surprising level of strategy
- Minimal narrative
- Simple gameplay loop
- Uneven difficulty