Pikmin 4 Preview – Getting a fresh perspective on this cute action strategy series

Pikmin 4 Oatchi Dog Header

Pikmin remains one of the more understated and overlooked gems of Nintendo’s game library. Originally released on the GameCube, it’s a series that blends action strategy and puzzle-solving in a way that was never really going to be as accessible and have quite the broad appeal of other Nintendo mainstays – cute Pikmin designs notwithstanding – but it still has a cult following and a degree of popularity that keeps Nintendo coming back to try again. Pikmin 4 will be its best shot at breaking out of that niche for the first time.

Now that the entire series is available on Switch, we can very easily dip back into the series’ past and see how it has grown and evolved through each iteration, and just how significant a shift Pikmin 4 represents in terms of game design.

We got to go hands on with an early level from the game, and the most obvious change is the camera angle, which is now much lower to the ground and lets you see far further into the distance than before. It’s a great change that helps to really emphasise the environments around you, amplifying that Honey, I Shrunk The Kids vibes, as you’re clearly a tiny alien on an Earth-like planet filled with all the kinds of objects and scenery you might expect to see, with park benches, picket fences, brick retaining walls, and more. You’ll be able to get your bearings much more easily without having to consult the map.

This shifted perspective also goes hand in hand with a smaller scale feel to the initial adventure. Where you could have up to 100 Pikmin right from the off in the previous games, here I was limited to just 20, pushing you to be a little more deliberate in what you’re doing, instead of having the kind of Zerg-rush mentality that was practically immediately available before. That number will certainly grow through the game, but a smaller cluster of Pikmin will be easier to keep track of.

Pikmin 4 Obstacle Environmental Puzzle

That said, you do have the adorable bipedal space pup Oatchi by your side, who can pitch in with a number of the tasks you’re setting your Pikmin to. He can help to carry items and he can get stuck in during combat, but he’s also got individual abilities, such as being able to wind up for a charge ability to smash through certain items blocking your path. His abilities will grow over time, so I didn’t yet have access to his ability to swim and carry a mini Pikmin army on his back and I wasn’t able to ride around on his back.

Of course, there’s also a handful of new Pikmin as well, and we came across Ice Pikmin while heading into an underground dungeon for the first time. These can… well, they can freeze stuff, which will provide a different option when dealing with wet and gloopy objects, letting you shatter gelatinous obstacles instead of always just leaning on the Blue Pikmin to deal with water.

Pikmin 4 Oatchi Combat

We just scratched the surface of what Pikmin 4 offers during our brief hands on time with the game, but between that and revisiting the GameCube originals, I’m excited to see what else this game adds. There’s character customisation for the first time, there’s the new Dandori Battles to play against AI or another person, and new nighttime missions where you’ll have to deal with the planet’s beasts when they’re at their most alert and dangerous.

It feels as though Nintendo has found the next steps for this series to take, with Pikmin 4 walking that tightrope of adding new ideas and complexity, but keeping things manageable and accessible through the changes to the camera, the number of Pikmin you can command, and giving you the adaptable Oatchi as a loyal companion. I’m looking forward to diving into the rest of the game to see if they’ve pulled it off.

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