Hey! Pikmin (3DS) Review
When Hey! Pikmin was first revealed, a lot of fans of the series dismissed the game entirely for not being like the classic formula – comparing it to that of Chibi Robo Zip Lash. Having never completed a Pikmin game before due to the fast paced strategy needed, a scaled down 2D game seemed up my alley to get a glimpse of the series.
Let’s get this out of the way first – Hey! Pikmin isn’t Pikmin 4. It’s not even made by Nintendo themselves, instead developed by Arzest who have worked on such games as Yoshi’s New Island and Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Being released on the 3DS, the game drops the 3D RTS feel of the series and instead opts for a 2D Platformer with very (very very) light puzzle action.
The game plays out in tune of the recent 2D Nintendo formula. You have 8 worlds, 5 or 6 levels in each (some with secret exits even) and 3 collectibles in each level. The game is kind of a mix between Kirby & Yoshi’s Island, in which the eggs are basically replaced 1:1 with Pikmin in a lot of aspects. The Pikmin aren’t really used much in the game, only to build the occasional bridge, gather some rare treasures, and attack enemies. Olimar is pretty useless in this game, unable to defend himself other than a jet pack he can activate to get to areas where Pikmin can’t.
This makes the game feel tediously slow, even if levels are only around 5 or 6 minutes each. What also isn’t helping the game’s pacing are random cutscenes that happen throughout some levels. There’s not a lot of text in the game as this is clearly being marketed towards children, so instead of little cinematics with the Pikmin play out to show game mechanics like bombs, or immunity to certain elements – and that’s great. What’s not great is having to sit through multiple 20-second vignettes of Pikmin bouncing around, or running from enemies, or being generally cute. They serve no purpose to the game and only further slow down the already slow pace of the game.
The game is controlled via the circle pad and touch screen, making the 3DS a bit uncomfortable to hold for long play sessions. Pikmin can be tapped across the screen to attack enemies, pick up objects etc. Yellow Pikmin, like in the previous games, have the ability to jump higher and can cross the screen gap of the 3DS to attack enemies from above. However with the touch screen being smaller than the main screen, sometimes aiming the Pikmin can be a little hard to judge, especially when Yellow Pikmin never seem to go where you tap them due to their higher arch. I had a few instances where a simple miss tap leads a Pikmin to its inevitable demise, but largely the controls work fine.
So what’s the actual story of the game? Well, Olimar crashed his ship onto a strange planet – raise your hand if you’ve heard that one before. Fortunately, the ship seems to be in functional order, just out of fuel, which conveniently enough can be extracted from various items around the plant. Sparklium seeds are the main collectibles in the game ala coins from New Super Mario Bros, with a goal of 30,000 to get you home to safety. At various milestones, you will upgrade Olimar’s health, or increase the duration of his jetpack as the ship slowly builds up to being operational. While the Sparklium seeds are a great way to gather up fuel, you can also extract it from the 3 treasures in each level to yield a higher gain.
Like in the previous games, the treasure you are collecting are various real world objects that Olimar will catalog in his journal with his take on the item. The descriptions and naming are easily the most enjoyable part of the game (that says a lot, I know). Some highlights include an NES Cart of Super Mario Bros which Olimar depicts the inevitable tragedy of a mustachioed man with obstacles all around leading to his inevitable demise, or the Isabelle amiibo, which stumps Olimar into questioning it to be a person or an animal, dubbing it a ‘Business Pet’. Yes, it’s a new Nintendo game so of course, amiibo are part of it. Other than normal levels, you will find Secret Spots scattered around each sector. These are mainly little puzzle sections in which Olimar is given a set number of Pikmin and a goal of a Pikmin Pellet to collect. However, scanning an amiibo replaces the pellet with an in game representation of that figure. 42 amiibo in total work and will net you 200 Sparklium each, making a complete collection will net you almost a third of the game’s requirement.
For those without the amiibo, the Pikmin Pellets you can collect will increase your population in the Pikmin Park, a safe haven for the Pikmin to explore in between adventures. Being Pikmin, they are of course able to be put to work, and some treasures and Sparklium can be found around the park in tufts of grass or pools of water. There are 5 main sections of the park, and Pikmin of all types are needed for various elemental advantages, however, I quickly exhausted the areas I had available to me leading my Pikmin to stand aimlessly around with nothing to do. This is all done automatically between levels, so not a major gripe but with each level adding 20 Pikmin to the park (assuming none die) you will quickly have more Pikmin than areas to explore.
The Pikmin amiibo releasing the same day as the game can be leveled up based on how many Pikmin are in the park and can be used in levels too quickly increase your count. Some levels require a certain number of Pikmin to access secret areas or treasures, this is a great way to not have to redo the entire level with one Pikmin short. The Olimar amiibo from Super Smash Brothers will net you 4 Pikmin once a level and they’re unable to be upgraded.