Detective Pikachu Returns review

by on October 4, 2023
Reviewed On
Release Date

October 6, 2023.


It’s fair to say that Detective Pikachu Returns is intended for a younger age group. While not as extensively hand-holding as a game like Rain Code, it’s best thought of as a more child-friendly introduction to titles like the Ace Attorney ones, allowing a toe to be dipped into the visual novel genre, while offering up some fun Pokemon-based shenanigans while you do it.

And that’s not to be sniffed at, because Detective Pikachu Returns is funny. In fact it’s almost funny enough to carry the story on its own. As a direct continuation of the previous game (and movie, I guess), you won’t be lost in the weeds too much, as there’s plenty of exposition early on to explain away what’s happened as well as what’s happening. Essentially, while the story from the first game has been tucked away nicely, there are large loose ends to work out, and before Detective duo Tim and Pikachu can get to them, they’re enrobed in a whole new mystery, yet again involving Pokemon and their interactions with humans.

Detective Pikachu Returns

How this all manifests, as a game, is that you will spend the majority of your time with Detective Pikachu Returns walking around and talking to people and Pokemon, finding out about them, what they know, and how it all pertains to the case you’re investigating at the time. Once you’ve gathered enough information, you can “Start Deducing” using your evidence, whereby you’re offered up a selection of narratives that fit your evidence, and solve the mini-case. This all culminates in end-of-chapter scenes where it’s all put together and you solve the case and get the bad guy.

It’s important to note, though, one specific phrase I mentioned there: “gathered enough evidence”. Detective Pikachu Returns will always tell you when a scene has been thoroughly investigated, and it often won’t let you progress until you’ve found key things. Logistically, I suppose, this makes sense, but you will almost always be way ahead of the game’s logic. There are certain moments where you have it figured out so far ahead of time, entire scenes can feel like busywork, but you do have to go through the motions before you can deduce the outcome.

It’s hard to come down on the game for that, as I feel it’s aimed at a younger audience. But I do wonder when The Pokemon Company is going to realise a large part of the audience is now of adult age, and would like a bit of challenge. You can’t fail in Detective Pikachu Returns, and even sections where you’re not talking or deducing will just set you back a small section if you do mess up, allowing you to replay until you get it right.

Detective Pikachu Returns

On that note, there are some quick time events included, either requiring you to mash A or time a button press within a very generous window. During your adventure you’ll befriend certain Pokemon, and while I won’t spoil anything here, you do get to use their abilities in a unique way. This just about enough additional mechanical aspects to proceedings to ensure you shouldn’t get bored, but I’d like to have seen the developer go further with this, and make more use of the large cast on offer.

But back to the story, because that’s ultimately what Detective Pikachu Returns is all about. It’s well voiced and there are enough cut-scenes to make it look and sound lovely. It’s got that Pokemon-style about it, obviously, and it runs well in both handheld and docked modes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s rendering enclosed areas and, being perhaps a tad harsh, it could load them a bit quicker, but there’s variety and enough interactivity to make it feel less of a traditional visual novel, and more accessible to newcomers.

Detective Pikachu Returns

It’s all held together by the tremendous voice acting and performance of Detective Pikachu himself, however. Like the previous game, it really does make you laugh out loud. Similar to how the movie adaptation of the first game would make you chuckle at the black coffee drinking electric mouse, Detective Pikachu Returns nails that entirely. It’s always a delight, and it remains such a clever idea, pulling everything together.

Detective Pikachu Returns won’t be for everyone. To be completely clear, it is a visual novel with interactive elements aimed at a younger audience. There are no risqué jokes nodding to adults, and there’s no bypassing the hand-holding (even the addition of story-skip mode doesn’t quite do it), but it is a whole heap of fun. It’s a relaxing time in a universe full of characters you know and love, and it’ll make you laugh. Make no mistake about what this one is, and you’ll likely get plenty out of it.


A charming, funny story
Doesn't outstay its welcome
A lovely way to experience Pokemon


Very easy
Can be slow
No real fail states

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Detective Pikachu Returns is a relaxing time in a universe full of characters you know and love, and it’ll make you laugh, but it won't be for everyone.