Pikmin has an established formula for its really good 3D real time strategy games and for the most-part it has worked well. However these games are best suited to console platforms, so as Nintendo have sought to bring the series to handheld, they’ve discovered that making the translation might not be so simple. Enter Hey! PIKMIN, a game made by Arzest – a primarily handheld developer, that tries to combine Pikmin management with 2D platforming.
The premise is very similar to other Pikmin titles and therefore relatively harmless. The universe’s most incompetent astronaut – Captain Olimar – is returning to his home planet when he manages to warp into an asteroid field. Despite his best efforts, he crashes onto a remote planet and is informed by his ship’s AI that it will take 30,000 Sparklium to fix his ship.
What’s more annoying is the tone of the game, which at times felt like another Nintendo property that saw a 2D venture – Chibi Robo!, right down to the flying robot AI telling you things. It’s not quite as obtrusive, but it was similar enough to never shake off that first impression I’ve had since the reveal of Hey! Pikmin, that they’re trying to do the same to Pikmin as they did to Chibi Robo!.
It’s utterly charming to watch and play on the screens of the 3DS. Sure, the little cutscenes severely hamper the pacing, but the antics of the Pikmin were adorable at times and even the worlds explored had variety and vibrant colour. Nothing else about the game is memorable in the presentation, though; music is uninspired if somewhat Zen in style, but nothing more.
Unlike regular Pikmin games, this one is 2D, meaning the control method had to change accordingly. As a result, you control movement with the D-Pad or Circle Pad if you are right handed and with the buttons if you are left handed. Touching the screen is your primary method of throwing Pikmin to interact with objects, whistle to recall you Pikmin, and use a jetpack to fly a short distance.
Each level makes use of up to three different types of Pikmin out of the five available. Red Pikmin are fire resistant, Yellow can be flung further and are resistant to electricity, Blue can swim, Pink can fly, and Rock can smash diamonds and hard armour. While it’s nice to see them all return, there’s nothing original in how they act. I’d like to have seen at least one completely new Pikmin type.
Levels are designed with small detours in mind to gather more Pikmin, collect items for more Sparklium, and even find alternative exits. While recurring enemies are a thing in Hey! Pikmin, new ones are introduced often enough to keep things somewhat fresh.
Hey! Pikmin’s biggest problem though is the fact that the core gimmick of the franchise – herding around sentient carrot-like people – just isn’t fun in 2D, largely due to unresponsive AI. More often than not, I randomly lost Pikmin due to their bone idleness, randomly tripping up and finding themselves detached from the group. You can backtrack to recover them sometimes, but that doesn’t always work.
This wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that Pikmin have major anxiety issues, dying when left alone for too long. I wouldn’t mind so much if leaving them behind caused enemies to attack them, but there’s little to indicate this beyond a flashing red light that’s hard to focus on when gallivanting across the levels. The only real workaround is to blow your whistle every few seconds to ensure all the Pikmin are present, like a primary school teacher on a school trip.
I suppose having this minor challenge from such an imperfection is a step up above the rest of the game, which is painfully easy. In fact, the only level I died in was 8-B and that was due to falling in a poison pit which forced me to restart the level. Yes, there is a bit of a challenge to complete a level perfectly, but essentially it’s just a very dull game with little that stands out. I had to take breaks from the game while reviewing, just to alleviate some of the boredom.
Aside from the main levels, there is the Pikmin Park, which upon completing a level enables you to rescue the collected Pikmin and put them to work scavenging nearby territory for more Sparklium. It does seem akin to a Victorian workhouse as there’s no real incentive for the Pikmin to work beside having shelter, but it doesn’t take long to fully excavate the entire park area.
There are also secret areas which act more like puzzles, where you can obtain more Pikmin for the workhouse Park, as well as Sparklium Springs that feel more like special stages from other games where you fling Pikmin at orbs to collect more Sparklium. Neither of these have any real bearing on the rest of the game, though finding the secret exits that lead to secret levels do give a little replay value. Boss battles sadly however are painfully easy.
Much like Chibi Robo! Zip Lash was a bit of a flop in converting a primarily 3D franchise into 2D, Hey! Pikmin makes errors of its own. While the antics of the Pikmin seen in the levels are adorable and the game is visually pleasing, I just couldn’t get over the way the Pikmin behaved when I was playing. It’s otherwise a rather bland and forgettable adventure that Pikmin fans can quite easily skip.