Hey! Pikmin may be the latest jump into the world of Olimar and his colorful friends, but it is unlikely that this is the Pikmin game fans were hoping was coming next in the franchise. Taking a departure from the strategy role-playing style of the main entries in the series for GameCube and Wii U, this Nintendo 3DS title is also an odd addition to the current library of games for the platform, as it feels like a launch title intended to show off the console’s technology due to the extensive use of the stylus to play the game. Players can glide through the game with minimal effort, as the touch screen puzzles focus on observing before acting, instead of fast-paced tapping. This concept is fairly different from the main Pikmin games, as immersion has always outweighed a casual gameplay style. In turn, Hey! Pikmin feels more like a worthy successor to developer Arzest’s Yoshi’s New Island game at times, rather than a proper Pikmin sequel.
The game begins with Captain Olimar headed home to Planet Hocotate, when a rogue asteroid strikes his ship, forcing him to crash land on a nearby planet filled with Pikmin. It’s up to Olimar and his tiny followers to repair the ship and collect thirty thousand Sparklium—the fuel that runs the aircraft—in order to get home. While brief and void of narrative complexity, the story feels appropriate for the scope of the game, as it is much smaller and more streamlined than previous entries in the franchise. The main theme behind Hey! Pikmin is relaxation, almost like a more hands-on version of Brain Age, which can be picked up and played at any time. The gameplay mechanics are straightforward and easily adopted after the first level, with no stressful tasks to force the player to return to play on a daily basis. Of course, this can be seen as a good and bad outcome, especially for seasoned Pikmin fans expecting an immersive journey, but for newcomers it will likely strike positive notes.
Players are tasked with completing side-scrolling stages within Sectors, eight in total, in order to farm the planet for Sparklium. Each Sector contains five main levels, labeled A through E, with the final one being a boss fight. Within a typical stage, Olimar can be controlled using the directional pad to walk left and right, climb up and down materials like ladders and vines, and use a jetpack to briefly hover above the ground to collect items and traverse pits. Unlike Olimar’s controls, the other main mechanic comes with the Pikmin themselves, who are collected throughout the stage to be thrown as weapons, as well as perform helpful tasks for Olimar, all done with the stylus.
The other buttons are essentially useless in the game, with only the D-pad and stylus available to use. This decision is, at first, oddly overwhelming, as realizing the entire game will fully utilize the stylus feels like a foreign gameplay mechanic. Once I completed the first few levels, however, it was surprisingly nice to only have to worry about what was happening on the touch screen, instead of learning a complicated button configuration. Since the creation of the Nintendo DS, there have been games attempting to incorporate the stylus, but many of them only explored the feature through a puzzle or two. Thankfully, Hey! Pikmin sticks to the mechanic and runs with it. The only downside is it does take some time to find a proper hand placement on the console, as using one hand to control the D-pad and the other using the stylus can be cumbersome with the more complicated puzzles that require fast tapping across the entire screen.
There are five different colored Pikmin available to use throughout the game, with each housing their own special ability, such as the black Pikmin and their ability to crack crystals and boulders or the lightweight yellow Pikmin that can be thrown far distances. The variety of Pikmin keeps the gameplay fresh, as the puzzles gain more complexity once all five colors are available to use, allowing the levels to feel longer and more difficult. While the game is meant to be a more relaxing experience, the late game puzzles do take some thinking to solve, and that’s a good thing, as it feels like an experience worthy of the player’s time. And developer Arzest seemed to feel comfortable with the run and throw mechanics at least, employing similar mechanics from their Yoshi game here.
Tapping on a point of the screen will create a throw point for Olimar, sending the chosen Pikmin to the location to damage an enemy or pick up an item, which becomes a major focus of the game. Within each main stage are three large objects to collect that can be transformed into Sparklium once scanned, but a majority of them must be reached using Pikmin. Due to the overall relaxed gameplay style, the item collecting feels on point, as it gives a task that never feels more challenging than it should be. Most collectibles are hidden behind special obstacles like electric fences and crystals, which forces the player to always manage their Pikmin’s abilities, instead of a game where you simply throw Pikmin at walls for hours. While none of the Pikmin ever feel overused or neglected, the use of variety does hit a snag in the habitat mode.
Outside of the main levels, an area known as Pikmin Park acts as a safe haven for the Pikmin Olimar collects from level to level, and while it is a glorified storage area, the Pikmin do at least gather materials over time. It’s helpful to receive a bit more Sparklium after certain Pikmin have dug up items, but the concept feels far too hands off compared to how the creatures are used in main levels. Pikmin Park is such a passive experience that it feels like an unnecessary cop out to earn more Sparklium. There’s zero challenge or effort to earn anything, which makes it forgettable, and I often found myself having to force myself to even check the area for the Pikmin’s findings. This decision to not flesh out the Pikmin Park doesn’t ruin the game by any means, but it does bring into question why it even exists at all.
Adding to this is the Amiibo support, which seems to be an incorporated feature only because the game is available on the New Nintendo 3DS models. Most of the current Amiibo work in the game, offering ten extra Sparklium once per day, but the Super Smash Bros. Olimar Amiibo and the brand new Pikmin Amiibo grant access to special areas. Unfortunately, we were not able to use the Pikmin Amiibo, but the Olimar figure opened a bonus stage, which gave a clear indication of what to expect from the add-ons. The stages themselves are simply one large room with one puzzle, which will reward the player with another collectible item once completed. In turn, purchasing and using the Amiibo doesn’t add a new layer to the game, but instead gives a reason for completionists to hunt down every item in the main levels.
The best way to describe Hey! Pikmin is “harmless fun,” as the overall experience never feels daunting or rewarding enough to inspire strong feelings. The puzzles range from purely simple to mildly thought-provoking, and the questionable modes like Pikmin Park aren’t criminal enough to earn a serious judgment, as the player will just enjoy the time passing while playing. Although, in this case, taking the safe route isn’t always a good thing, as it will be hard to appease Pikmin fans hoping for the next evolution of the series, while also being so random that it will probably pass under the radar of players unfamiliar with the franchise looking to try a new game.
Pikmin fans hoping for the next evolution in the franchise will have to wait for another attempt, as Hey! Pikmin is an enjoyable, but vastly simple experience that doesn’t live up to its namesake.
E10+ - Everyone 10+
|Hey! Pikmin is available on Nintendo 3DS or 2DS. Primary version played was for 3DS. Product was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.|