Video Games Review: Hey! Pikmin makes a good first impression but has no staying power

Crash-landing on alien terrain, long-time Pikmin hero Captain Olimar seeks to repair his talking spaceship and get home. Without Sparklium, the fuel that powers his ship, he’s a bit of a sitting duck. From this simple (and familiar) premise, Hey! Pikmin begins.

After his last few Pikmin adventures Olimar is very used to seeing some bizarre flora and fauna by now. It takes the player by surprise that Pikmin are somehow on this new planet like all the others he’s visited, but the planet itself also seems very familiar, littered with artefacts like old Nintendo cartridges and pens. Has Olimar just been taking off and stacking it into the Earth again and again for sixteen years now?

Returning fans will be pleased to know that Hey! Pikmin doesn’t shake up the way you interact with the little carrot-shaped critters too much. A whistle gets nearby Pikmin to pay attention, from where they can be commanded with your stylus to move, attack or pick up objects. For example: Sparklium seeds high above your head that you wouldn’t normally be able to reach? No problem, throw your Pikmin into the air! They grab it and bring it right back. Of course, it gets a tad more complicated than that as the game progresses, but it’s an easy example among the countless puzzles and scenarios the game throws at you on the way to racking up a total of 30,000 Sparklium. Every few thousand Sparklium you collect unlocks a handful of niftier features, such as being able to scroll the screen across to get a lay of the land ahead or double-check that no-one’s following you.

We can talk about features all day, but is it any fun? At times, the game reminded me of Lemmings, only instead of leading the little Pikmin to their deaths, they could be better thought of as willing slaves, happy to lift logs or take down big baddies as a team while you sit back and call the shots. I have always found it a little disturbing watching the local natives be absolutely beaten alive by Pikmin, I mean most of the bugs look cute, their large beady eyes just trying to go about their day and then comes along the Captain and his crew of pirate Pikmin!

For the most part, Hey! Pikmin is a solid, side-scrolling new chapter in the Pikmin franchise. That said, it is nowhere near as open and repayable as its previous titles. Once you’re done there is no real reason to return. One of my only other annoyances was the lack of any real notification that you’re about to reach the end of a level the light your spaceship emits getting stronger as you get closer, which is easy to miss. For example: I had one more secret item to track down, do I take the path above me or below? So, I took the path above and, as I climbed the wall, there was the ship and the end of the level. Without warning or even a chance to step backward, it immediately took me away and didn’t let me backtrack at all, leaving me to replay the entire level to find that one item again and try to remember to take the bottom path, not the upper. For a completionist list me, it’s rather irritating. A little warning you’re about to end the level on me would be nice. Have a button you can press when you want to end the level. Something.

Despite these gripes, it’s great to have the Pikmin back. What’s odd is the fact it has taken this long to reach the 3DS. Further, why not the Switch!? I want more and I want it done even better. Here’s hoping we see a Nintendo Switch entry sooner rather than later.

Score: 6.5 out of 10
Highlights: Cute visuals; Rewarding puzzles; Surprisingly funny writing
Lowlights: Nothing new; Zero replayability
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo 2DS
Available: Now