Welcome to EXPlay, (Explain & Play) the review series where we care not for scores but tell it how it is when it comes to every game we get our hands on, whilst also taking the time to include some lengthy gameplay, to give you the reader, the chance to shape your own impressions and views whilst watching and reading.
In this explanatory review, we’re covering Pikmin 4 by developer, Nintendo EPD:
Pikmin 4 (The Explanation)
Nearly 10 years…that is how long many of us have waited to say Pikmin 4 has [crash] landed on a Nintendo console once again. Sure, we got Hey Pikmin on the 3DS and Pikmin Bloom on mobile devices, but a 3D entry into the series was a long time in the making. Did our patience pay off? Find out, in my Explain & Play review for Pikmin 4, now available on the Nintendo Switch.
For those of you that haven’t yet watched our coverage of the demo for Pikmin 4 three weeks ago, here is a refresher on the series and the game itself. Pikmin is a real-time strategy game that started off on the Gamecube in the early 2000s. A few years later a second entry in the series arrived on the Gamecube and built off of the first game in so many ways and introduced many concepts that fans of the series love. Pikmin 3 was released on the Nintendo WiiU in 2013 and in a deluxe package on the Nintendo Switch in 2020.
Pikmin 4 takes all of the good things in the Pikmin series and balls it up in one game, minus maybe one part that I want to get off my chest from the start. The co-op multiplayer in the campaign for Pikmin 4 doesn’t have split-screen multiplayer but opted for gameplay where the second player maneuvers a reticle around the game world shooting pebbles at enemies and Pikmin carrying objects to help speed them up. After sinking tons of hours into the multiplayer in Pikmin 3 Deluxe on the Switch with my wife, the lack of an adequate multiplayer campaign is the saddest part of Pikmin 4.
Now that I got that off my chest let me outline the main parts of the game, the gameplay, missions, and side quests you will come across. Pikmin 4 opens up in the first hours similar to the other games. You start off the game playing crash landing on a familiar planet and needing to rescue other team members while navigating the harsh environment where critters attack you on site. Finding the plantlike Pikmin which have various abilities (immune to fire, electricity, ice, rocks, and more) will add them to your team which can then be used to toss at breakable walls, and enemies, pick up treasures found in the world, and keep you company as you dive to the depths within the caves.
Where the newest game in the series melds the past games and expands on the series gameplay mechanics is what makes Pikmin 4 a standout and capstone for the pint-sized heroes. Firstly, the game casts you as a new member of the Rescue Squad, which allows for a customizable character. While the options are somewhat limited to a few body types, hair colors, and other attributes, the addition of a customized character lends itself to feeling closely connected with your minuscule rescuer.
You will gain new abilities and gameplay mechanics as you rescue various team members. These can come as items that protect you from fire, electricity, or getting frozen. You will also learn new abilities for your new pal Oatchi, your space doglike creature that joins you on your quest. Giving Oatchi and your character ability progression adds a decent amount of game-building as you slowly learn about the world and how Pikmin 4 works. You will gain abilities that will make your job easier though you can add points into abilities you want at your pace that match your gameplay style.
One thing that can be said about the Pikmin series is that Nintendo pushed the visuals on the various iterations and Pikmin 4 is no different. The setting, insects and enemies, fruit, and real-world objects you will encounter are designed so realistically. Being this far into the life cycle of the Switch means that designers and developers have spent a lot of time maximizing the look and feel of games. Pikmin 4 is an artistic masterpiece in Nintendo’s arsenal of great-looking games. The way the small Pikmin bounce to attack enemies, carry objects, swim, hurl to their deaths, and most importantly lay out on the ground waiting for you and begging for attention are all well done.
Pikmin 4 brings back the earlier game’s unique items that you will find strewn around the overworld and caverns you navigate through. The items you find in the game turn into sparklium when they are brought back to your base. That sparklium is used to reach new areas in the game. Each item has a funny name given to it and collecting all the items within a category will net you a reward. Along with sparklium there are blue bits called raw material that can be brought back to your base and exchanged for items like bombs, mines, and bones for Oatchi. You can also use the raw material to convert to claw to build out bridges among other obstacles you will need to navigate. There is a fine balance between spending your raw material on upgrades and items to help you along your path versus unlocking new areas within the overworld.
Along your journey, you will come across these short missions called Dandori battles. Battles can come in a variety of flavors from you against a mysterious NPC antagonist or you against the clock. You start off each battle with very few or no Pikmin at all and you must work against the clock and your opponent to gather more to your team and use flowers to increase your numbers. During battles, some items may have a higher value and are coveted by you and your adversary. The tide of battle can change quickly as the higher valued items can pop up suddenly in the last minutes of the level. I found the Dandori battles to be a nice change of pace to the main game.
Speaking of changes to the main game, a most welcome change even if simplistic in nature, are the nighttime missions that implement the new Glow Pikmin into the mix. Glow Pikmin come to life in the caves and nighttime levels where you need to harvest Lumiknoll to help save the members of the team that have grown leaves. During the nighttime battles, you will encounter enemies that are enraged. Their eyes glow extra red and they attack the Luminknoll mounds. The main objective is to survive the night by keeping the mounds intact as enemies try and attack. There are trick knolls you can have the Glow Pikmin take the glow stars you pick up to which will attract enemies and distract them from the main mounts you are set out to protect.
If it’s not evident in my EXPlay there is a lot to discover in Pikmin 4. The new ideas and expansion of the main gameplay loop are a welcome addition to the series. There is a lot to uncover in the form of 100s of treasure items all rendered beautifully in the game. As you find crewmates you unlock side missions that set you up with rewards to help fend off enemies and keep you safe from fire, ice, and electricity, help you walk and dig faster, and more.
The only qualm I have with the game is the lack of split-screen multiplayer like in past games where you and a partner can work together across the map or you split your attention between two or three squads. While that omission is more of a personal preference, Pikmin 4 is a must-own game on the Nintendo Switch for fans of the series as well as a decent entry for anyone looking to get into the series for the first time.
Pikmin 4 (The Gameplay)
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Action, Adventure, Strategy
No. of Players: 1-2 (Single System)
Release Date: NA & EU: July 21, 2023
File Size: 10.5 GB