If Game of the Year awards had a category for ‘most fun game title to shout aloud’, my winner would be Hey! Pikmin. Aside from having a great name, Hey! Pikmin is also a fun little game that shows Nintendo is far from done with the king of the handhelds.
Hey! Pikmin tells another tale of our intrepid Captain Olimar landing on an alien planet somehow filled with the same strange garden creatures all those other planets were populated with – the Pikmin.
By travelling around the various worlds present in Hey! Pikmin, Olimar can meet and befriend a plethora of the little dudes, all coloured differently to signpost their abilities. These friendly and familiar faces will once again help Olimar grab a load of alien tech – every household objects to you and I – and discover more about the strange planet he’s landed on.
When I saw the first trailer for Hey! Pikmin I wasn’t entirely convinced. I’ve enjoyed all of the 3D offerings of the series, but I wasn’t sure removing a dimension would add much to one of Nintendo’s quirkiest IPs. As is usual when it comes to doubting Nintendo, I was wrong, and was pleasantly surprised by just how much I dug this new Pikmin adventure.
Being a 2.5D platformer is a nice change from the deeper dives of Hey! Pikmin’s console brethren. It plays a lot like 2015’s Yoshi’s Wooly World, another Nintendo gem. Stages are simple enough on your first trip through, as you utilize climeable vines and a modest jetpack to get through the mostly garden-themed stages. You amass a troupe of loyal Pikmin (starting afresh each level) who you can toss to grab collectibles – much like Yoshi’s eggs – or interact with simple puzzles.
The first playthrough will be a cakewalk for more experienced gamers as Hey! Pikmin seems aimed squarely at the younger generation, hoping perhaps to introduce them to one of Nintendo’s more intimidating series. Indeed, when I first played Pikmin on the Gamecube in my early teens I found it a daunting prospect, with the ticking clock mechanic thoroughly off-putting. I’ve since come to treasure that title and its sequels, but if Hey! Pikmin had introduced me to the world, the critters and – most importantly – the scale of Pikmin first, I’d have had an easier time falling in love with the series.
After beating a handful of levels the first time round, I found myself drawn to replay them and get a set of the completionist medals Pikmin awards. There’s one for getting all the Pikmin in the level to the end safely and another for grabbing every collectible. This is where the real game lies for older gamers, as grabbing everything or finding the perfect, safe route is a trickier prospect.
Hey! Pikmin’s only contentious point when it comes to gameplay is the controls. You move Olimar using the left stick as you’d expect, but everything else, from throwing Pikmin to pushing on-screen buttons for your jetpack or whistle, is controlled by tapping the touchscreen. I found it works great, but then again I was one of the nutters who loved Kid Icarus Uprising’s controls (a similar beast, though a lot more demanding than anything Hey! Pikmin asks of you)
The fact you’re touching the screen to aim the Pikmin-tossing also means that most of the action takes place on the lower screen, with the tall garden surroundings stretching up into the top screen. It’s a visual trick that was used frequently when the original DS came out, but fell out of fashion quickly and never really made a comeback. I’m thrilled to see it used here again, as it really lends that sense of scale to a series that benefits from it. Having the surroundings stretching up and away from you is almost foreboding and looks wicked, but because I’m so out of practise with dual-screened gameplay I constantly missed pickups that were twinkling away on the other screen to where my attention was. Once I got back into the groove I found these trinkets easily enough however.
Hey! Pikmin has an infectious little soundtrack too. The score is a mix of oddball tunes that wouldn’t really fit anything but Pikmin, and that’s just fine. If you’ve played the series before you’ll know what to expect, but if you’re a newcomer be prepared for a game that finds a lot of its best humour in its weird little songs.
“Hey! Pikmin” is a great entry point to the Pikmin series, and a smart change of pace for handheld machines. Whilst it’s not as deep or challenging as its console brethren, there’s plenty of charm to make up for it, and series vets will likely dig the new perspective.