I’ll be honest with you, I have never played a Pikmin game in my life. I don’t know how to explain, but something about it has never made me want to grab a copy and play it. Maybe it was the countdown-based gameplay. Maybe it was the fact that it was, basically, a strategy game for consoles. Maybe it was the fact I was in that dumb age when kids don’t want to admit they like childish-looking games when the first one came out. Many years have passed, and yours truly has attempted to mature his gaming tastes by trying to play as many new games as possible. It felt like the perfect opportunity to try out Hey! Pikmin, a spinoff and the first portable game in the franchise. The results weren’t exactly terrible per se, but it wasn’t a great first introduction to the series.
Hey! Pikmin is a simplistic 2.5D platformer as opposed to adhering to the main games’ strategy roots. It’s obviously designed for a younger, more casual audience, given its easy-going nature, short stages and overall lack of danger. You control Olimar, just like in other Pikmin games, and you still control the little Pikmin and tell them to pretty much do everything you can’t. But this time around in a 2D perspective. Olimar can’t jump, but can use a jetpack for a limited amount of time, as well as use Pikmin in order to reach distant locations or carry items for you. It’s just that simple.
The game retains a lot of the graphical and sound design charm of the mainline games (I haven’t played them but I have watched them at least!). Hey! Pikmin‘s soundtrack is very similar to the original games, even including the same typical adorable voices the Pikmin keep shouting during the game. The graphics are pretty good and loyal to the Gamecube titles, but they also bring one hell of a problem. You see, the graphics are good. Too good. Due to this fact, Hey! Pikmin suffers from very bad framerates. The console can’t handle that level of detail and elements onscreen, and it gets worse the more Pikmin you have under your control.
The game’s terrible framerate also heavily impacts its gameplay. While the controls are incredibly simple and easy to learn, relying solely on the circle pad and the touch screen to tell your Pikmin to do everything you can’t, the bad framerate causes a very bad responsiveness delay in your commands. It also doesn’t help that you can’t even perform any actions while in air. For instance, if you find a platform you could theoretically reach with the help of performing a jump followed by a jetpack hover, you can’t do such an action because the game doesn’t allow you to do anything while you’re jumping. Not even call your Pikmin for help. I get that Hey! Pikmin is supposed to have a gameplay that’s as simple as it can possibly be, but goodness gracious it’s too simplistic sometimes!
Speaking of simplistic, that’s how I can summarise my entire experience with this game. There is no sense of actual difficulty caused by actual challenges or puzzles. The game itself isn’t very difficult, but it doesn’t mean it’s a relaxing walk in the park. The gameplay and graphical issues appear enough to make you die a few times. There is fun to be had here, don’t get me wrong, but its flaws are infuriating, and will make you quit in minutes at some points.
While Hey! Pikmin is far from being a terrible game, the fact it was made by Nintendo made me expect a lot more from it, and therefore I can’t help but feel quite disappointed with the end product. It’s great to see Nintendo still supporting the 3DS with exclusive titles, but this game is definitely not something that’ll help the portable in the long run. And it definitely didn’t help me get curious for the mainline Pikmin games on other consoles.
Oh, there’s Amiibo support as well. Because why not. Sadly (but not really), my 3DS can’t communicate with those little thingies. Sorry, Ninty…