It’s probably not much of a shock to hear that Pikmin 4 is a good game. With a free demo, and three previous games to go off, it’s not a surprise to know that Nintendo has made another good title in the series. What is a surprise, however, is quite how much the developer has gone to town on Pikmin 4, breaking it out into something so huge, so engrossing that, after thirty hours, I was still going back in for more.
Sometimes it seems like a Switch-era Nintendo thing to do. Take a beloved franchise and flip it on its head, adding in ideas and depth that you just wouldn’t ever think of. Pikmin 4 does this as well, removing much of the time constraints (though not all), adding in night modes, reviving caves that were missing from the third entry, and just creating the most full Pikmin title to date. It does that thing when you finish it, like so many current-era Nintendo games, by making you wonder “where the hell do they go next?”.
This time around you’re playing rescuer to Olimar, with a created avatar leading the rescue mission, along with faithful pooch, Oatchie. As before, you explore the oversized worlds with your miniature adventurer, collecting treasures for your collection. But right away, the feeling of quite how “big” this game is, shows its hand.
Now, you’re finding treasures which transform into power for your ship. You need to power it up to boost the radar to find levels deeper into the world to explore, and eventually get enough juice to escape with everyone you save. There are resources that can be gathered and spent in an item shop, upgrading yourself and Oatchie, or buying items. Oatchie can be upgraded too via his Pup Drive. For every person you rescue it’ll gain a Pup Drive Point, and before you know it your two-legged dog is able to wield the power of 100 Pikmin by itself, can swim, dash, kill foes in one go, and so on. This is Pikmin, but not as you know it.
Levels are enclosed but huge, but there are caves you can explore which will also be filled with treasures, and it’s often where you’ll meet new creatures in Pikmin 4. For those who aren’t aware, the leafy plant-based creatures you control throughout the adventure are the titular Pikmin, and each colour signifies a different kind of use. Red is fire and also your generic worker. Yellow handles electricity, Blueys can swim and venture underwater: every type has its use. New to Pikmin 4 is the ice type (light blue), and they are superb. Able to freeze enemies in place, in thirty hours I never got tired of bombarding a giant enemy with masses of light blue icy friends, then charging into them with Oatchie and utterly decimating them with the rest of my army.
The levels are also really clever, and designed in a way that you might set off to do one thing, only to be distracted by something else you have spotted, and spend your entire day doing that instead. There are side quests now, too, offering reasons to play more, expand your Pikmin army, and find survivors. Whether it’s being rewarded for blooming more Pikmin, or building more bridge structures, there’s always positive reinforcement happening back at your home base after a day spent in the field.
And it could have stopped there and still been a really good Pikmin game. But no, this time around, you can adventure out during the night. While I won’t spoil the reason behind why you do this, I will say the night missions are anything but a gentle sojourn. The creatures are rabid at night, with glowing red eyes, and all of a sudden it becomes a tower defence game. You control the green Glowmin here, and have to gather enough of them to defend against growing armies wanting to topple your bases and fail your mission for you. The music ramps up and screeches orchestrally at you: it’s an actual stressfest and a nightmare, but it’s brilliant, and offers a break from the “regular” Pikmin moments you might be used to.
Dandori is a word you’re going to hear a lot during Pikmin 4. On top of everything else, there are multiple Dandori battles within each level of the main game. Here your screen is split in half and you face off against an opponent, and the idea is you need to get enough points by grabbing treasures, enemy bodies, gold, and more, to win the match. There are bonuses for certain items, and even this mode evolves over time to become more and more complex. Some Dandori battles are just timed solo missions, and the idea behind the word is that you plan accordingly and execute a strategy, while also being able to change on the fly. And let me tell you, getting the platinum medal on one of these missions is as satisfying a thing as I’ve done all year. It requires you to entirely clear a stage of all treasures, enemies, and items. It’s great.
The deeper you venture into Pikmin 4, the more it reveals itself. Early stages offer simple battles and puzzles to solve with your strategy, but by the end you need to understand why and how things work, especially if you want to unlock and see everything. There is just so much game here, it’s difficult not to be impressed by what’s on offer. Everything is underpinned by adorable visuals, and a soundtrack and audio design that’ll almost certainly be overlooked by most. But when you hear the Pikmin singing as you’re wandering around, or hear footsteps change from metallic sounding to cardboard underfoot, it deserves to be applauded.
I understand why people might be reluctant to dive in with Pikmin on the fourth entry. But this is a proper, truly modernised version of a series that is crying out for more love. The storytelling, gameplay, and wealth of things to do makes it a great jumping-in point for newcomers, while fans will adore the easter eggs and new things to do. You don’t need to know how many times Olimar has been brilliant, because this is a new adventure; this is your adventure. Pikmin 4 has magic within it, and is a truly accessible, brilliant experience for all ages. I’ve always liked the series but this is something pretty special.
Modernised and accessible
So much to see and do
Brilliant audio and visuals
Sometimes too much talking