Published on April 28th, 2014 | by David Dakota
Review: Pikmin 3
Summary: A lack of online play is the only downside to this excellent addition to the series.
When I first booted up Pikmin 3 something strange happened. I just sat there staring at the title screen. I couldn’t tell you what most games’ title screens looked like, let alone have I sat there just staring at them. But Pikmin 3’s title screen is a thing of pure beauty that deserves to be taken in and savoured. This sets the tone for the whole game – an experience with which you just want to take your time and observe and enjoy every detail.
Nintendo have been criticised for their slow uptake of HD graphics, but before you even start playing Pikmin 3 you will realise that despite being late to the party Nintendo are already masters of their new technology.
The beauty of the title screen follows through to every area of the rich, inviting and diverse game world. You will just want to take your time and explore every corner of the environment. Whether it be a lush jungle broken up by sandy pools, a river in autumn or the frozen tundra – each area is equally stunning.
The strange thing is, I didn’t want to explore simply to advance my progress or find fruit, which is the main goal of the game, but to just see what I could find and enjoy more of the incredible eye candy on offer.
The game not only looks incredible, but the musical score and sound effects fit the world perfectly and all help set the scene. It is an immersive experience which is also littered with Nintendo charm. Little touches that will astound and uplift can be found throughout the levels and animations and expressions from the Pikmin and their foes often bring a smile to your face. What’s more, the interactions and conversations held by the three protagonists are often hilarious.
The goal of exploring and pushing back the boundaries in the game world and finding fruit is done via solving puzzles which are arranged via a ‘rock, scissor, paper’ styled system. Those who have played Pikmin before will be instantly familiar with this aspect of the game.
Red Pikmin can walk through fire and are stronger in battle. Yellow Pikmin can be thrown higher and are immune to electricity. Blue Pikmin can move through water. Finally the new Rock Pikmin can smash through ice and crystal and pack a punch when thrown at enemies. The central mechanic of the gameplay and combat is arranging your Pikmin to do the right job at the right time. The White and Purple Pikmin from Pikmin 2 also return, but their appearances are confined to the challenge mode rather than the main quest.
To be successful at this game you have to think on your feet. Despite the cute look of the Pikmin and calm serenity of the beautiful environments, the player must be a world class Field Marshall and an expert in multi-tasking to get ahead.
Whilst you may wish to meander around taking in the sights the game doesn’t let you. Each time you visit any area you have to adhere to a strict time limit, a day in game terms. If you haven’t done everything you want to do and got all your Pikmin safely back to the spaceship in that time frame you will lose any left behind.
Therein lays the challenge. You need to arrange your Pikmin into small teams and have different groups doing different things all at the same. The key to success is making sure that your plan is perfect, executed in a timely manner and all the elements come together at the same time. When you pull it off it feels fantastic, seeing your Pikmin carrying back their fruity bounty to the ship with time to spare is an uplifting feeling. Failure leads to Pikmin being left stranded to be eaten alive by the local wildlife, something that always causes my heart to sink.
Thanks to the character and appeal of your plant like soldiers you phrase ‘no man left behind’ really is at the fore of your mind. I found it difficult to look at the Pikmin as disposable troops and always felt pressed to ensure every one of them got back to the spaceship safely.
Due to the wonderfully immersive and beautiful world I found the time limits set for exploration to be sometimes rather irritating. I realise that the time limit is the factor that provides the challenge and forces you to multi-task and arrange your Pikmin with military precision. However at times I just wished it wasn’t there and I could just explore every area to my heart’s content without watching the clock.
As your Pikmin army grows and new areas open up to be explored you find the challenge slowly increases. The number and ferocity of the enemies as well as the difficulty of the puzzles all rise to present a hearty challenge – but one that never feels like it is insurmountable or a grind. One challenge I wasn’t expecting though was which control scheme I should choose. Pikmin 3 can be played using either the Gamepad or the Wii Remote. When exploring the Gamepad is actually the perfect complement to this game and serves as a map. It really does enhance the experience and means you are less likely to leave stray Pikmin behind or let any get lost as you can always see their locations with a quick glance at the second screen in your hands.
However the dual analog controls are far less precise when it comes to combat. As soon as you have to take on a sizeable enemy you need pinpoint accuracy, speed and precision. Pikmin is essentially a real time strategy game so historically a mouse would be the best suited control scheme. The Wii Remote pointer offers the same accuracy and speed as a mouse and allows you to despatch enemies much more easily.
This issue left me torn on how to play the game and I often found myself switching between control styles mid-level due to the challenge presented. This was especially true when it came to boss battles which present a significant challenge and are far more enjoyable and less frustrating when using the pointer controls for targeting weak spots and gathering your troops.
It really is hard to pick out any major faults with what has been included in Pikmin 3. Sadly the major fault lies with what hasn’t been included, online play. The co-operative multiplayer challenges that are found in the challenge mode are fantastic. They can be played alone, but they are much better with a friend. Inexplicably Nintendo chose not include an option to play these missions online.
I have been playing real time strategy games online since the days of Command and Conquer. Command and Conquer came out in 1995 and I played it online via a 56k modem. Yet in 2013 Pikmin 3 comes out with a multiplayer mode yet it isn’t online. Nintendo’s philosophy of trying to force everyone together in the same room to share a screen is as antiquated as it is frustrating. Again gamers are faced with a whole game mode that is full of challenge and contains hours and hours of gameplay that they will barely touch because Nintendo insist on snubbing online play.
Pikmin 3 is a magical adventure and in a beautiful world that begs to be explored and admired. From the first time you look at the title screen you will be entranced by its beauty. However underneath the aesthetic charm and serenity of the environment is a challenging and highly playable real time strategy game that pushes you to your limits.
Whereas you will often want to meander around the world taking in the sights you are constantly pushed to multi-task in an effort to complete different goals within a strict and sometimes unforgiving time limit. But the feeling of success is truly uplifting.
This is a Nintendo game through and through. Filled with charm, polished to perfection and as fun as it is challenging. It’s all done in a very ‘Nintendo’ way and you know you won’t find a game quite like this on any other system. But sadly, the ‘Nintendo’ way means you won’t be enjoying it online with your friends.
Even with the lack of online play it would be hard not to recommend this title, not only for its beauty and gameplay but also as one of the few games on the Wii U to be really enhanced by using the Gamepad as both a second screen and as a controller.