Pikmin 4 Review - An Enormous Pint-Sized Adventure
The Pikmin franchise, launched alongside the Nintendo GameCube in 2001 has been one of Nintendo’s under-the-radar successes ever since. Each core franchise entry has been the recipient of glowing reviews, and yet, the franchise has never had stratospheric player counts. With each passing entry, Nintendo has made evolutions to the franchise, from adding new types of Pikmin, to new interface options that have expanded the ways that players can immerse themselves in the franchise. What they’ve not done to this point, however, despite the brilliance of each entry, is make meaningful additions to the games to expand the appeal or change up the formula. Pikmin 4, the latest entry in the franchise that arrives a decade after its immediate predecessor, finally does what prior sequels couldn’t, making several impactful additions that makes Pikmin 4 the most expansive, and immersing entry in the franchise to date.
How does Olimar keep finding himself in this mess? Who are the engineers putting together these rockets? I had to ask myself these questions because our beloved Captain Olimar has again crashed his rocket, but this time, a crew is dispensed to find him only to crash themselves? What is this, LOST? Anyway, the crew have again landed on a Pikmin-infested planet, and it’s on you, the remaining space-farer to land on the planet to recover everyone, using the Pikmin for help. Early in your adventure, players will encounter Oatchie, your adorable, bipedal pup who is an invaluable ally in your quest to recover the lost members of the Rescue Corp, Olimar, and the many other castaways that have found themselves stranded on the planet over time.
Interfering with your endeavours are another planet littered with Bulborb’s, Mat-At-Legs’ and more all to be thwarted, as well the pestilence that is the Leafling affliction, a virus of some sort that has infected many of the crash-landed castaways and threatens t consume the rest of your group as well. Solving the mystery of the affliction, reassembling the Rescue Corp, tracking down Olimar, and underpin an experience that is substantially larger than what we’ve seen from previous Pikmin entries. For those looking to 100% each region, save and cure everyone, and see all else that Pikmin 4 holds up its sleeve will be committing in excess of 30-40 hours with the game presenting multiple endings and multiple reasons to continue your journey. The plot itself is pretty wafer thin, but it’s the gameplay loop, and not the narrative, that Pikmin games have long been known for.
Pikmin 4 is a true Pikmin game at its core, but Nintendo has also made a number of significant additions to the formula to ensure that this latest entry is the most engaging and differentiated to date. Pikmin 4’s day-to-day loop remains the same, with players venturing out to find parts of their stranded vessel, using the Pikmin they find along the way to carry those objects back to the spacecraft for reassembly, and to fight off threats discovered along the way. Staying out too late puts all of your Pikmin in danger, so ensuring that you return before sunset is critical for keeping the team together, but it is with Pikmin 4 where players are finally given the opportunity to explore the darkness more. In the quest for a cure to the Leafling virus, players will venture out at night with Oatchie, where they will discover a new breed of Pikmin, the Glow Pikmin. This species allows you to go out on ‘Night Expeditions’, with the goal being to protect the Lumiknolls, these small ant nest-like structures that produce the all-important medicine to restore Leaflings to their former state. These nighttime jaunts are a welcome change of pace, acting as miniature tower defense opportunities that, while simple, are a lot of fun to engage with.
Across six different regions, players will reunite with every variant of Pikmin that we’ve seen over the franchise’s two decades, plus meet the new Ice Pikmin and Glow Pikmin varieties. The Glow Pikmin are essential to your aforementioned nightime escapades, however the Ice Pikmin are an essential player in the day-to-day exploration of this new planet. Ice Pikmin can freeze enemies in place, and create opportunities to unleash your greater swarm of Pikmin to tackle the target with more reckless abandon. The chilly critters are also great tools for creating icy paths for everyone to cross over; with enough of them tossed in water, the surface changes, and crossing is possible.
As well as the core missions, players can complete a range of side missions for those they’ve saved, and they’ll be rewarded with additional Sparklium, the currency that fuels upgrades to their ship, and Raw Material, which can be spent on a range of upgrades to your tools and equipment. Oatchie can also be upgraded; by reducing and/or curing castaways or crewmates, Oatchie receives upgrade points that can be spent to bolster his damage output, the amount of weight that he can carry, and much more. It feels like some intense kinds of off-screen DNA splicing is going on with the adorable hound, but Oatchie is an essential tool in optimising your day-to-day activities. A few end-game challenges are available too, including the running and re-running of timed “Dandori” challenges and competitive matches against the AI to accumulate the greatest level of Sparklium within a time constraint. The game even pays homage to the franchise’s roots with a mode introduced later in the experience that places you under the pressure of the calendar with a defined number of days to collect everything you need in order to blast off. Pikmin 4 offers some co-op play as well, although this mode draws parallels to Super Mario Galaxy and the ability to fire stones at enemies using the ‘Pebble Pitcher’ or to collect Pikmin. It’s sadly a pretty forgettable addition and certainly doesn’t help the other player feel like they’re a significant part of the experience.
While the designs of character models, Pikmin, and even the monsters themselves haven’t evolved a great deal from Pikmin 3, the designs that in some cases date back 20 years still look striking today. The Pikmin themselves are adorable, and the new inclusions of the Ice and Glow Pikmin fit seamlessly with the other breeds, the monster design, from the classics like the Bulborbs, to newer faces, all look as menacing as ever, and have been all rendered incredibly well. The detailing of Pikmin 4, much like its predecessor is top of the class, and while the game won’t be winning any beauty contests, it looks especially great on the OLED Switch display. The sound effects, from the roars of the monsters, and the excitable squeaks or distressing wails of the Pikmin all pop nicely, while the game’s soundtrack isn’t restrained but effective.
While there are some areas of of Pikmin 4 that have played it safe, and stuck to the established (and proven successful) formula, there are other aspects of Pikmin 4 that have done what fans have been pleading out for for years, and these evolutions and additions make Pikimin 4 definitively the best in the franchise. Pikmin 4 is certainly the lengthiest game in the franchise to date, clocking in at in excess of 40+ hours if you intend to see and do everything that the game has on offer, but at no point will you feel like time has been wasted. If we are in fact in the final throes of the Nintendo Switch’s life, then Pikmin 4 proves that the heartbeat of the platform is still going strong as we approach the end.
Pikmin 4 was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch OLED Model with a code kindly provided by Nintendo Australia