Pikmin 4 Game Review

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Pikmin 4 Game Review

Since the unexpected emergence of the original Pikmin on the GameCube, this peculiar blend of puzzle-solving and strategy has always held a special place in my affections. Yet, when I delved into Pikmin 4, my fondness for the series deepened immensely. Although the initial gameplay hours commenced at a pace that might be considered leisurely, it evoked an analogy to an onion, in the most delightful manner. Much like peeling back layers reveals greater intricacy, Pikmin 4 progressively unveiled enhanced complexity, ultimately manifesting as the pinnacle of its core concept. While not all segments proved as demanding as I had hoped, the game compensated with an abundance of adversaries, twice the variety, and nearly quadruple the concealed treasures that I delighted in amassing in prior installments. Its remarkable musical score, upgraded visuals, and exceptional post-game offerings held me captive until I had exhausted all its offerings.

Tactical Complexity and Gentle Guidance

Right from the outset, a groundbreaking feature emerges: In contrast to previous entries centered around beloved protagonists like Olimar and Louie, Pikmin 4 grants you the ability to tailor your character’s hairstyle, physique, and suit color. Though it may not rival the grandeur of character creators in titles like Street Fighter 6, this inclusion possesses a certain charm, as your chosen hues extend to your spacecraft and the entire space crew.

Nevertheless, my focus predominantly gravitated towards the mesmerizing realms of Pikmin 4, relegating my character customization to the background. The game dutifully carries on the tradition of embodying an extraterrestrial explorer of minuscule stature, navigating a planet uncannily reminiscent of Earth. The endearing aspect is the nomenclature of most collected artifacts, which mirrors their appearance; thus, “Space Spinners” and “the Stone of Advancement” reveal themselves as akin to fidget spinners and a Game Boy Advance SP.

Every element of the environment, from the earth underfoot to the foliage enveloping the landscapes, pulsates with vibrancy, imbuing each locale with a unique character. A seemingly modest garden, populated by larger-than-life insects and towering flowers that dwarf you, presents challenges like a shattered potted plant barricading a path and a dirt puddle metamorphosing into a miniature lake. The sands of a beach unveil novel routes and adversaries as the tide recedes, while a multi-tiered house transforms into a pseudo-mountain until you devise ramps for your diminutive companions, enabling them to unearth concealed treasures.

The allure and tactical depth of Pikmin games stem from the collection and orchestration of diverse categories of compliant, plant-like creatures to fulfill your directives, all while endeavoring to prevent their untimely demise. Unlike a full-fledged real-time strategy epic akin to StarCraft, Pikmin 4 lacks elements like base construction and, excluding the newly introduced nocturnal missions, the threat of a retaliatory enemy force. Nevertheless, the screen remains a bustling canvas when numerous multicolored minions engage in activities like tunnel excavation and treasure transport, all while you fling them into the fray.

For neophytes embarking on their inaugural Pikmin adventure, the experience might initially appear formidable, particularly given the need to master nine distinct and endearing creature types. Juggling multiple objectives and honing resource management skills can also feel overwhelming. Remarkably, Pikmin 4 adeptly introduces new Pikmin variations, items, and capabilities at a measured pace, evading the pitfall of inundating players with an excessive array of choices prematurely. The initial foray onto this captivating world is accompanied by an abundance of tutorials and elucidations – albeit veterans like myself, who have engaged with Pikmin games for over two decades, might find themselves racing to fast-forward through the dialogue, as it frequently treads familiar ground.

Adaptive Gameplay Mechanics

Pikmin 4

One of the most evident distinctions between Pikmin 4 and its predecessors lies in the absence of a time constraint for completing the story, as seen in the original, or the fear of resource depletion, a feature of Pikmin 3. This alteration transforms the experience into a more laid-back rescue mission rather than a frantic race against time. This design choice proves particularly welcoming for newcomers, alleviating the pressure and apprehension of making mistakes that might haunt the entire playthrough. I, too, relished this change, relishing the flexibility to tackle objectives in any sequence while satisfying my inner drive for 100% completion on each stage. A similar analogy can be drawn to Dead Rising 4, where the removal of time limits acknowledges the notion that games often serve as an escape from the tension of impending deadlines that pervade our academic and professional lives.

Despite the reduced time pressure, errors are still inevitable. Perhaps misjudging an enemy’s attack range could lead to freezing and subsequent Pikmin casualties, or an inadvertent toss might send Pikmin careening off the map instead of onto a spiderweb-laden treasure, resulting in unintended loss. In previous installments, such oversights demanded valuable time for Pikmin replacement before progression. However, Pikmin 4 introduces a valuable safety net: until the conclusion of the current day, players can opt to rewind and replay segments of a level to enhance efficiency. Essentially a swift checkpoint reload mechanism, I, a self-confessed perfectionist, frequently exploited this feature to optimize efficiency or safeguard my limited early-game purple and white Pikmin. Opting to retry a segment rather than spending a significant portion of the following day reacquiring lost Pikmin feels significantly more sensible.

Time Manipulation and Helpful Companions

Pikmin 4

The ability to rewind remains accessible until the conclusion of your expedition, bringing significant relief. If you’ve played Pikmin before, you understand the tension that arises when a 10-second warning emerges, indicating the impending end of the day while numerous Pikmin are still ferrying items from various spots. In Pikmin 4, should you fail to gather them all before nightfall, the game informs you of the potential losses and presents an option to rewind time to a checkpoint, granting a chance for another attempt. This feature saved substantial time and spared me the need to replay entire levels due to errors in the final stretch.

Amidst the multitude of elements to manage in Pikmin 4, a delightful new companion emerges: the two-legged pup known as Oatchi. Oatchi can transport both you and your entire Pikmin brigade over obstacles, uncover concealed items, and facilitate jumping to access shortcuts and items in unprecedented ways. His upgradeable abilities added motivation to search for lost crew members on the planet, as locating them rewards you with ability points to enhance aspects ranging from his lifting capacity to dig speed. While these enhancements felt substantial, some, like his Pikmin retrieval function, became obsolete once I unlocked the ability to summon Pikmin myself with a simple button press.

Strategic Mastery and Diverse Combat Tactics

Among his repertoire, Oatchi’s charge attack stood out as my preferred ability. Its heightened levels not only extended the duration of enemy stun but also directed my entire Pikmin horde to swiftly dispatch the target. This tactic emerged as a premier combat strategy, typically proving effective against most foes – barring bosses – often culminating in a single move, contingent on my Pikmin numbers and their specific types.

The crux of Pikmin 4’s combat lies in comprehending this dynamic, with its diverse array of 110 adversaries, including novel elemental iterations of familiar creatures like Bulborbs and Dweevils. Adapting your Pikmin composition becomes essential to counter these varied foes. For instance, engaging a Fiery Bulblax with any Pikmin type other than red would result in them igniting and meeting a fiery demise. Similarly, the Horned Cannon Beetle’s vulnerability was shrouded until I employed larger Purple, Ice, or Rock Pikmin hurled into the blowhole atop its head.

Grasping the Oatchi strategy early on proved invaluable, diminishing the time spent replenishing fallen Pikmin and permitting a greater focus on amassing the 239 treasures strewn across the six distinct locations and 22 cave sub-levels I ventured into. Upon fully maxing Oatchi’s Rush ability, the thrill of charging through an enemy lineup, witnessing their souls ascend skyward, retained its allure.

Diverse Sub-Levels

Pikmin 4 Fish

Certain sub-levels immerse you within mechanical structures adorned with conveyor belts, a child’s room brimming with constructions assembled from wooden blocks, and a freezer stocked with frigid, dry ice that halts most Pikmin in their tracks. Navigating these perils never failed to elicit a grin – though a distinct one from the wry smile I sport when hearing the plaintive cries of my loyal Pikmin, occasionally flung to a fateful plunge to accomplish an objective. Moreover, there are enticing Easter eggs in the mix, tempting you to examine musical items closely without divulging too much.

Many boss encounters are reserved for the lower tiers of various cave sub-levels. While numerous familiar faces return, an engaging array of fresh adversaries also emerges, such as the Sovereign Bulblax and the Foolix – a clever evolution of the Goolix from Pikmin’s inception. The Foolix’s adept disguise as a nectar drop initially caught me off guard, exemplifying its namesake by making me look the fool. Given the assortment of new foes boasting elemental traits, combined with Pikmin 4’s limitation to three Pikmin types at a time, strategizing my daily approach became paramount. Rock Pikmin, with their robust nature inflicting substantial boss damage and preventing crushing beneath weighty adversaries like the Yellow Wollywog, held a consistent role. Yet, I frequently toggled between ice, winged, and white Pikmin when countering aerial threats like the Lesser Spotted Jellyfloat or toxin-based Moldy Slooch. This dynamic interplay, combined with Oatchi’s array of skills, usually tipped the scales in my favor.

While direct Oatchi control is an option, I found his role as a party-splitting mechanism more advantageous. From the map interface, I issued instructions to Oatchi to locate treasures, missing team members, or specific Pikmin breeds, allowing me to concurrently address tasks on the opposite side. This broadened my choices significantly; for example, in Serene Shores, I dispatched Oatchi and Blue Pikmin to areas only accessible to them, while simultaneously commanding a contingent of Yellow and Red Pikmin to the beach for enemy confrontations and buried treasure recovery. Mastering this multitasking skill proves essential for securing optimal rewards in later challenges.

Co-op Quirks and New Pikmin Dynamics

Pikmin 4 Coop

Cooperative play in Pikmin 4 presents a minor issue. Unlike Pikmin 2 or 3, where a second player could control a character and aid in splitting tasks to expedite stage completion, Pikmin 4 introduces a different approach. Here, the co-op partner operates as a reticle on the screen, capable of tossing pebbles to move objects or strike enemies while your character carries on with their usual actions. This resembles more of an assisting mode, akin to what we saw in Super Mario Galaxy, rather than a conventional co-op setup. While it might disappoint those seeking to team up with a friend or significant other as in previous iterations, it does offer a suitable option for kids to assist parents or older siblings, and vice versa.

Regarding the two novel Pikmin types, the first encountered are the ice Pikmin, introducing the ability to freeze bodies of water and enemies. Their freezing prowess, combined with Oatchi’s stun capability, became a favorite tactic, enabling the chaining of status effects on both large and small adversaries. This approach bypasses the need for extensive enemy elimination, opting to freeze them temporarily for swift in-and-out maneuvers. Additionally, ice Pikmin play a pivotal role in demolishing ice barriers and maneuvering through frigid caves that impede other Pikmin types, rendering them a versatile choice in numerous scenarios.

Glow Pikmin represent the second novel addition, primarily featuring in regularly occurring night missions. Here, the gameplay shifts from real-time strategy to a simplified tower defense setup. The objective involves safeguarding anthill-like structures until morning, or until all enemies are vanquished, utilizing solely Glow Pikmin. While initial stages at lower difficulty levels are concise and straightforward, they progressively evolve into complex levels with multiple points requiring defense against relentless enemy onslaughts. This often necessitates leaving Oatchi on defense duty while exploring on foot to ascertain optimal protection routes for various points. While the initial reception might be lukewarm, as the campaign progresses, new menacing creatures and secondary defense points inject the sought-after complexity and enemy variety.

As someone who craves challenges, one of the newly introduced elements was not a personal favorite: an array of potent single-use items. Alongside familiar tools like the ultra-spicy spray, which temporarily enhances Pikmin performance, and bomb rocks used for demolishing barriers, these single-use items, such as the Lightning Shock that paralyzes everything on the screen with electricity, seem disproportionately overpowering. The ability to hurl homing or proximity-triggered bombs diminishes the tension in battles, which otherwise had me frantically maneuvering and deploying Pikmin to overcome enemies while protecting my squad from harm. Upon experimentation, I found myself compelled to artificially restrict their usage in most scenarios, as they undermined the necessity for strategic thinking. While undoubtedly advantageous for younger players who are still acclimatizing to Pikmin’s intricacies, these items seem overly simplistic, particularly given that Pikmin 4 lacks the difficulty settings found in previous iterations of the series.

Resource Management

Pikmin 4 Resources

The power of these special items is, however, constrained by the raw materials required to acquire them, which are also utilized for constructing bridges, securing shortcuts through levels, and implementing permanent enhancements for both yourself and Oatchi. Occasionally, even with minimal item usage, I found myself lacking sufficient raw materials to construct a bridge due to excessive expenditure on upgrades. This compelled me to backtrack and gather more materials from deeper within the level to facilitate bridge construction.

Upgrades emerged as my preferred allocation of raw materials, encompassing an array of enhancements ranging from swifter movement boots to suits conferring elemental resistances and armor amplifying both HP and Defense. While most upgrades aren’t obligatory for completing the storyline, certain locations demand elemental immunity for both yourself and Oatchi, such as an entrance to one of Pikmin 4’s concealed sub-levels nestled within a stove’s burner. Procuring these upgrades early on mitigated obstacles, infusing a sense of anticipation for each subsequent upgrade becoming accessible.

The narrative consumed approximately 20 hours for its completion, yet in true Pikmin fashion, this denouement represents less an ending than a prelude to more adventures. Though I can’t delve into specifics, I can attest that Pikmin 4’s post-credits content potentially ranks among the series’ finest offerings. In fact, the game’s primary drawback lies in reserving its most innovative features until after the initial ending and credit sequence. I would have relished the opportunity to delve straight into these imaginative locales, encounter their eccentric inhabitants, and unlock its homage to prior Pikmin titles.

Beyond the storyline and its aftermath, Pikmin 4 introduces two modes tailored to assess your mastery of the concept of Dandori: a Japanese term encompassing strategic task organization and efficient execution. In the Dandori Challenges, you’re tasked with collecting all treasures within a designated area, constrained by a limited Pikmin count. The final couple of courses in this mode deviate from Pikmin’s customary child-friendly trend, posing substantial challenges for the most adept players aiming for the coveted Platinum medal. I must confess that some of these courses necessitated multiple attempts on my part!

Additionally, there’s the Dandori Battle mode – an exhilarating fusion of combat and collection. This mode serves as an engaging platform to test my multitasking prowess against an adversary equally determined to emerge victorious. While you can engage AI opponents or challenge a local friend in multiplayer mode, it’s unfortunate that the game lacks online capability.

Final Verdict

Pikmin 4 Nintendo Switch

Much like its wonderfully peculiar predecessors, Pikmin 4 once again captivates me with its endearing creatures, unwaveringly obedient despite their own safety. Although the challenge level tilts a tad too far towards the easy side, the introduction of new elements such as ability upgrades, two novel Pikmin types, and the faithful companion Oatchi injects a refreshing dynamism into the conventional gameplay, breaking away from the established grab-and-throw Pikmin mechanics of the past. The game boasts the largest array of adversaries to engage, treasures to amass, and enticing post-game content that pays homage to the series’ roots, leaving me not only with a positive impression of Pikmin 4 but also an optimistic anticipation for the series’ future direction.

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