Review: Hey! Pikmin (3DS)

Did Pikmin successfully make the leap to 2D?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 08/30/2017 07:00 1 Comment     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Easy to pickup and play; plucky visuals convey the sense of scale that the series is known for; Amiibo use is fun, though not necessary; treasures add some spice to otherwise very sedate levels
Poison Mushroom for...
Minimal challenge; level design borders on bland at times; an introduction to the series that leaves out some of the most important bits, like strategy and exploration; overly familiar story setup

Let’s get this out of the way early: if you’re looking for a traditional Pikmin experience this is not the game for you. Hey! Pikmin is a very sedate, gentle walk through the diminutive shoes of Captain Olimar and his Pikmin pals. It’s comparable to the level of challenge found in a Kirby game, which is to say you have to go out of your way to have your skills tested. For what it is, Hey! Pikmin is a cute, whimsical platformer that gets a lot right and a lot wrong, resulting in a middling experience overall.

The setup will be familiar to series fans, as the game starts with Captain Olimar shipwrecked and dependent on the local Pikmin to get his craft back up and running so he can go home. It’s a sort of lazy way of establishing Olimar’s latest misadventure, but considering Hey! Pikmin might be some fans’ first introduction to the series, it’s forgivable. Still, I’d have been open to a more unique spin on this formula for variety’s sake.

Hey! Pikmin is controlled primarily via the 3DS touch screen, with movement of Olimar delegated to either the Circle Pad and D-Pad or the face buttons (for right and left-handed players, respectively). It’s not the first time that Nintendo has implemented a touch-focused control scheme in one of its games, and developer Arzest has done a wonderful job of making it work seamlessly. While I’ll never understand the decision to make Olimar’s first portable adventure a 2D platformer, it controls just as one should.

The team at Arzest has made a number of different games and applications for Nintendo over the years. Titles like Yoshi’s New Island, the StreetPass Mii Plaza on 3DS, and more were all created by the studio. Other than Yoshi’s New Island, this is arguably the developer’s biggest release and it’s evident that a lot of effort was put into Hey! Pikmin regardless of how successful or not some of that initiative was. The graphics aren’t mind-blowing (and there’s no glasses-free 3D to speak of), but they’re oddly inviting and do a solid job of conveying Olimar and friends’ tiny stature in comparison to their surroundings.

In a move that hasn’t been common since the days of the original DS, Hey! Pikmin makes use of both the bottom and top screens simultaneously to portray the game world. The result are stages with a sense of verticality to them, something that further helps to heighten the sense of being small. The soundtrack is also appropriately sedate to match the overall tone and feel of this relaxed platformer, though it isn’t all that memorable. It’s easy to pick-up and play Hey! Pikmin, but whether you’ll actually want to is another matter entirely.

Again, this is some light fare to be sure. There are over 40 stages to tackle across eight “sectors”, with Olimar utilizing roughly 20 (give or take) Pikmin at a given time. The Pikmin have their traditional buffs in place (red resists fire, yellow shrugs off electricity, etc.) and must be hurled around the environment to move obstacles, battle baddies, and help solve puzzles. However, it doesn’t take much brainpower to get through each stage. Progression is fairly straightforward, with the only real challenge being to find all three hidden treasures.

Hey! Pikmin‘s treasures themselves are charming, comprised of everyday real world items ranging from rings to video game cartridges. They’re hidden around each stage, with some taking more thought to find than others. Overall, however, like completion of the stages themselves, it doesn’t take a lot to accumulate them all. The only other activity to take part in is Pikmin Park, where the more of the nominal creatures you collect, the more can be set loose to mine for resources. I didn’t find it all that riveting, mainly because there’s no real strategy involved: pick a squad of Pikmin, click on the zone you want them in, rinse, and repeat.

This is by no means a bad game, but unlike the best Kirby titles where a lack of difficulty doesn’t come at the cost of creative game design, Hey! Pikmin feels like it scales back to the detriment of the core experience itself. Enemy encounters require little more than hurtling a stream of Pikmin at rapid speeds until the foe succumbs, with boss battles being the only true saving grace of combat. A great deal of the Pikmin series’ charm is on display here (including some cute cut scenes that highlight the dry humor this franchise is known for), as well as some of the basic mechanics but, at the end of the day, Hey! Pikmin lacks the strategy and exploration that fans love, and as a result is a by the numbers title that can safely be overlooked.

Thoughts on Amiibo

It’s possible to use the Pikmin and other Amiibo figurines in Hey! Pikmin, but it’s by no means necessary. The toys can spawn extra Pikmin during a stage, but given how easy the stages are, it’s likely that only the youngest or most neophyte of players will even need to resort to this. The rest of the unlocks revolve around in-game statues that can be found in the map’s various “hidden” stages. “Hidden” because, well, you’ll find these stages no matter what! The Amiibo can be found within and collected as a typical treasure. It’s a cute, optional addition that only the most ardent of completists will be annoyed to not have access to—or interest in using.

One Response to “Review: Hey! Pikmin (3DS)”

  • 690 points
    KisakiProject says...

    I thought it was really good. It worked as a translation from 2D to 3D. Its easy but has a decent amount of exploration. The caveat being I’m not a big 2D platform guy and I am a big Pikmin guy.

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