Elementary my dear Goodman:
After seemingly hundreds of games starring the little electric mouse we’ve all grown to love, he finally has a voice. Pikachu, the surprising star sleuth of Detective Pikachu, is a different beast to the excitable, high-pitched incarnations we’ve seen before.
Here he’s a sarcastic, world-weary detective and somehow – against all the odds – it just works.
Tim Goodman, protagonist of Detective Pikachu, is an average guy whose only superpower seems to be having the most boring name imaginable. That is until he runs into a talking Pikachu, whom only he can seem to hear and understand, making Tim’s life suddenly interesting (unlike his name).
Before long Tim is roped into Pikachu’s detective gig, solving crimes and figuring out mysteries. With the chatty, dry-witted Pikachu at his side, Tim endeavours through the Pokemon world in a weirdly grounded adventure. Seeing cities in profile rather than from the usual Pidgeys-eye perspective gives the series a whole new side to explore and it’s an opportunity that isn’t squandered.
The missions are fun (and funny) and the cases get progressively more interesting and less mundane as the game goes on, but it’s this fresh take that really steals the show. Seeing the Pokemon world without the fighting, levelling and gym-conquering obsession allows us to see a world that actually feels lived in.
Pokemon live out normal existences as city pests, pets or even colleagues. After playing mainline games for twenty-plus years, this was one of the most interesting glimpses into a world I’ve wanted to inhabit since I was ten – and it was a real kick.
The gameplay is good fun too, with simple but enjoyable mechanics that make for a neat puzzle game – especially for younger players. Playing out like a simplified version of Phoenix Wright, each case presents dioramas of sorts to interact with, collecting clues and talking to Pokemon and people alike to build cases. The puzzling here is straightforward fare which tends to play itself most of the time, but it’s still satisfying stuff.
It runs into frustrating territory when you’ve figured out whodunit a long time before Tim and Pikachu, as the game doesn’t let you skip to the end or present a theory early, but this doesn’t get in the way too much (and likely won’t be a problem for younger, more inexperienced players).
When you’re not collecting evidence, the game offers simple QTE sections where you’ll be hammering buttons or reacting quickly to prompts on screen. These break up the slower pace of puzzling, and help with the overall pacing of the game.
Detective Pikachu looks fantastic on the aging 3DS hardware, proving that this old dog still has plenty of new tricks up its sleeve. The game benefits from having a bold style full of large character models, with plenty of detail being lavished on each one. I was thrilled every time I saw new Pokemon from the city emerge, as they’ve been lovingly crafted here and really live up to the strong aesthetic Pokemon has always enjoyed.
The sound is also great, with a fun soundtrack and fantastic voice acting. It feels weird to be praising voice acting in a Pokemon game, especially when the star of the show is a grumpy middle-aged Pikachu, but here we are. It makes for a great break from tradition and hopefully shows Nintendo that this sort of stuff can be knocked out of the park when handled correctly. I’m not saying I want every Pokemon voiced in the future mainline games, but I’m up for experimentation!
“Detective Pikachu” is one of the strangest success stories I’ve reviewed here at GamerKnights. When I first heard of the project I was baffled but intrigued, though I assumed we’d simply never get it localized over here. When the Western release was finally announced I was stunned, but I’m pleased to say it was a brilliant move on Nintendo’s part. Detective Pikachu isn’t just a great puzzle game, but it’s one of the most telling entries in the Pokemon series when it comes to world building. I came away from the ten hour experience with a much deeper understanding (and appreciation) of the Pokemon world, and I’ve fallen for it even more.
Now get that Pikachu a coffee, he deserves it.