When the first trailer for Pikmin 4 was revealed, it had been almost 10 years since the third entry dropped back on the Wii U. You know, that console that nobody bought? Well, apparently Nintendo thought it was high time that this niche little RTS series made a comeback on a platform that actually had a decent install base. Of course, Pikmin fans were undoubtedly excited, if a little cautiously optimistic. Nintendo must’ve seen that wholesome games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley were making a resurgence, and wanted to get their loveable bite-sized protagonists back on the market. Sounded like a good strategy! So, had the wait been worth it? Keep reading to find out…
That Classic Nintendo Feeling
You probably saw this coming, but Pikmin 4 has confidently continued the delightful and endearing charm of the beloved Pikmin series, captivating players with its unique blend of real-time strategy and exploration. The game brings back the beloved tiny plant-like creatures and their custom-made captain for yet another thrilling adventure amidst an alien-yet-not-so-alien world. The graphics and art style are as beautiful as some of the most graphically intensive titles on Nintendo Switch. Pikmin 4 showcases lush environments teeming with intricate details and vibrant colors, as each little critter retains its adorable design and personality, making it super easy to become emotionally invested in these little helpers.
The gameplay mechanics remain solid too, offering a challenging yet accessible experience for different demographics. As the captain, players must strategically command different elements of Pikmin to overcome obstacles, defeat enemies and gather resources back to base. But this time, new Pikmin species have been introduced, adding fresh strategies and quirky gimmicks into the mix. It’s impressive how the game maintains a smooth learning curve, while offering depth for more seasoned players to master the advanced techniques. They’ve also included buyable gear for the captain to make things easier. One piece called the Homesick Signal returns any missing Pikmin from your squad back to the base, while another named Tuff Stuff increases the HP of your captain.
Gameplay-wise, there’s nothing wrong with Pikmin 4, in particular, I just didn’t have as much fun playing this RTS as I thought I would. While there are several enhancements like an automatic cap on how many Pikmin you need to throw, a rewind time feature and a cute playable pupper named Oatchi who can be upgraded with several different abilities, the level design, puzzles and general tasks start to feel tedious after the 6th or 7th hour. However, the Night Missions—fun little tower defence type of games—and the Dandori Battles do help to shake things up a bit. Quite literally with the latter, as you rattle your opposing captain’s pooch to death and rumble the walls out of existence in a score attack contest of who-can-collect-the-most-valuable-treasure. Good times! While the boss encounters can also be fairly interesting to take on and do require some careful planning, they aren’t the most challenging foes you’ve ever come across. I mean, this is a wholesome Nintendo game after all. Their difficulty levels are normally pretty consistent.
Exploring an Unknown Planet That Definitely Isn’t Earth…
All things considered, discovering vast alien landscapes is a joy in Pikmin 4. The game world feels alive and dynamic, with unpredictable events and surprises keeping players engaged throughout their journey. The day-night cycles and environmental changes adds a layer of realism, forcing players to consider their planning and time management skills when tackling tasks, as any stray Pikmin who are left outside of the Captain’s base won’t make it home after the clock ticks over to sunset… Thankfully, they won’t have to worry about time whenever they head underground. Cave explorations are a huge part of this game and offer some of the best opportunities for finding valuable resources to quickly move between the six levels of Pikmin 4. They also contain nice contrasting visual designs from their main hubworld counterparts and pepper in some fairly challenging puzzles to clear as well.
One notable issue lies in the game’s camera system, which can seem a bit clunky and imprecise at times. This can lead to frustrating moments, especially during hectic encounters with enemies or when trying to navigate through tight spaces. It’s a minor flaw, but one that can disrupt the overall flow of the game. One thing that does quite the opposite is the game’s soundtrack. It deserves a lot of praise, as it sets the mood perfectly for each area, all while enhancing the sense of adventure. From peaceful, melodic tunes in serene regions to intense dark swells during monster battles, the music enriches the game’s atmosphere tremendously.
In terms of innovation, Pikmin 4 falls a tad short of expectations. While it certainly refines and expands upon the established Pikmin formula, some players might have hoped for more groundbreaking features or innovative gameplay elements to push the franchise forward. Even Pikmin 4’s storyline about rescuing a stranded Captain Olimar falls a bit flat. While it is charming, the narrative doesn’t quite reach the emotional depth seen in previous installments. It would have been nice to see a more profound connection between the captain and it’s Pikmin, much like the heartwarming relationships built in Pikmin 2 and Pikmin 3. However, the somewhat silly characters and narrative still provide decent enough motivation to progress, as well as an odd laugh here and there. The way human objects are named, in particular, will surely put a smile on your dial.
At the end of the day, Pikmin 4 is an enjoyable and enchanting adventure that will undoubtedly please longtime fans of the series, as it’s charming characters, gorgeous visuals and strategic gameplay effortlessly tap into those cozy afternoon vibes. While it might lack some of the emotional impact of its predecessors and next-level gameplay innovation to truly stand out, Pikmin 4 still manages to deliver an entertaining journey filled with cute little creatures and a ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ type of flair.
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Pikmin 4 contains some fresh ideas and quality of life features, but it still feels a little too simplistic from a gameplay and story point of view. Nevertheless, if you’re keen on a relaxing check-the-box simulator, you can certainly do much worse.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by Nintendo. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.