I wasn’t a fan of Pikmin or its immediate successor when released on the Gamecube. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the games, it was simply a case of them never truly being on my radar. Sure, they had pretty decent reviews, and yes, they were the brainchild of a certain Mr Miyamoto, but I was never into RTS games and, well, gardening wasn’t really my thing either.
While it’s true that Pikmin isn’t really an RTS (in the traditional sense), or about gardening for that matter (beyond the simple fact that it’s set in a garden of course), as a somewhat uneducated outside observer, that’s how I saw the series – that all changed with Pikmin 3 though. Asked to review it for this very site, my opinion of Pikmin changed the moment I got my hands on it, and with my wife falling in love with it too, Pikmin 3 soon became something of an obsession in my house back in 2013.
And when I say obsession, I mean obsession – we completed just about every challenge in that game in both single player and co-op mode and even went as far as to purchase the DLC and finish that too. Needless to say, we got our Pikmin fix. That was nearly 5 years ago though and we are both more than ready for our next hit (so to speak). Sadly, rather than getting the fully-fledged Pikmin 4 that has been hinted and rumoured at for quite some time, we have instead ended up with the much more linear, Hey! Pikmin on the 3DS; a side-scrolling, 2D alternative that streamlines the fundamental tenets of the series into a much more limited experience.
Saying that, while it is indeed far more linear and, well, let’s be honest, not as good as Pikmin 3, Arzest’s, Hey! Pikmin delivers a brilliantly enjoyable handheld alternative, one that perfectly captures the essence of Pikmin while still managing to feel like a somewhat unique experience. Some will bemoan the lack of freedom while more will probably lament the games general lack of challenge, but judged upon its own merits, Hey! Pikmin showcases a successful tradition into 2D, one that makes great use of the Nintendo 3DS’ unique features without ever feeling gimmicky or unwieldy.
Hey! Pikmin might be in 2D and it might be a much more traditionally structured experience, but at its core, this game is still Pikmin to the bone, complete with all of the trappings one would expect from the series; Olimar’s famous whistle, different Pikmin with unique powers, simple RTS-style combat and rudimentary resource puzzles are all present and accounted for. Essentially, you still need to get Olimar from point A to point B, only now, the route is far more linear and you’re in search of the Sparklium (very much this games’ ‘Unobtanium’) required to fix Olimar’s damaged ship.
When it comes to the nuts and bolts of the mechanics, Hey! Pikmin requires you to pick up Pikmin at set locations and set them to work / battle at very specific points in each stage. The gameplay is a unique combination of combat and gentle puzzling across two screens that, while rarely delivering a genuine challenge, is never anything else than perfectly enjoyable. Even the boss battles, despite providing something of a spectacle and always being plenty of fun, are usually overcome with relative ease. It’s a shame that the difficulty never really ramps up (beyond a few moments towards the end of the game), but honestly, as long as it’s entertaining (which this game certainly is), I for one can forgive its more child-friendly difficulty settings.
The limited use of the top screen however is a little harder to forgive. It doesn’t affect the gameplay in any great way, but by having the somewhat unique verticality afforded by the 3DS’ two screens, it’s a shame that it hasn’t been implemented more successfully or with more imagination into the core experience. It certainly looks cool, but its limited use certainly feels like a missed opportunity.
Similarly disappointing are Hey! Pikmin’s attempts to expand the experience beyond the core stages via the rather forgettable, ‘Pikmin Park’. This mode allows you to put previously found Pikmin to work in the ongoing search for that all important Sparklium, and while it’s certainly a welcome enough addition, this, like so much of the supplementary content, provides little more than a brief (albeit enjoyable) distraction. The same is true of the limited amiibo support and the unlockable bonus stages that deliver entertaining but repetitive mini-games. Nothing here is bad in any way, but none of it adds anything of note to the core experience either.
It was never going to make the same kind of splash as Metroid: Samus Returns or Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon, but Hey! Pikmin is another fantastic addition to an often underrated handheld that is still going incredibly strong despite the introduction of the Switch. It’s far from ground breaking and it doesn’t quite make up for the lack of a fully-fledged Pikmin follow-up, but as a fun alternative, as something different to keep fans of the series going until the inevitable Pikmin 4, Hey! Pikmin delivers an enjoyable spin-off that makes the most of the 3DS hardware while still retaining the essence of the traditional Pikmin experience. The linearity and lack of challenge will inevitably put off some, but if you can look past these concessions, Hey! Pikmin will provide plenty of fun for fans and newcomers alike.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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