Detective Pikachu Returns Review

Elementary, my dear Watchog.
Detective Pikachu Returns

Catching up with Pikachu and Tim two years on from the 3DS original, Detective Pikachu Returns takes us back to Ryme City. The duo might be hailed as heroes for solving what was sending Pokémon into frenzies, but they still haven’t found Tim’s father and Pikachu’s owner, Harry Goodman, who went missing before the events of the first game. So our duo continue to solve cases in the city with the hope of finding the missing detective.

Separated into a series of interrelated cases, you explore the various areas of Ryme City, interviewing both humans and Pokémon, and collecting evidence to find the truth behind each case in question. The tutorial case starts off nice and easy with the duo trying to find Pikachu’s hat that was stolen by a Corviknight, but soon enough you’re investigating the activities of a shadowy organisation that’s abducting Pokémon across the city – it’s quite a narrative escalation!

Once you have collected enough evidence through investigation, you can make deductions about the current mystery. This brings up your casebook and give you options related to the evidence to answer the question. If you solve that, it leads to the next key question in the case, until the final question solves the entire case. What I will say about these is that they are almost insultingly easy and cannot be failed as you can just try again with the wrong answer greyed out. I know this is a game aimed at children, but I feel that kids deserve more credit than this.

Pikachu & Tim

The same is the case with the quick-time events that return from the first game. These pop up during particularly active points in the plot, usually involve Pikachu, and require you to either hammer the A button or press it with precise timing. Although these are fun digressions that break up the gameplay, they cannot be failed and mistakes only cost you time, so really they are just as insultingly easy as the deductions are throughout the game – if a little more fun to play.

One new feature in this game is the Pokémon you can enlist to help with your investigations. To use one example that really excited me personally, Pikachu can ride a Growlithe to follow scent trails. This allows you to track down perpetrators or find missing items during the case. This was a cute little addition to the game, and had a fairly interesting array of helper Pokémon. But, like other fun parts of the game, this was sorely under-utilised and only appeared in a couple of cases.

Detective Pikachu riding Growlithe for scent trails

Then there are the Local Concerns, this game’s side quests. During each case you can take on these missions for humans or Pokémon to help them with their problems. These are different in each case, but the unifying one that appears in each one is the Quiz Professor, who will vaguely describe a Pokémon loitering in that case that you need to find and relay back to her. These side quests are actually an enjoyable little feature, especially trying to riddle out the quiz answers.

Side quests solved will also result in a cute little news story related to that event in the daily paper delivered to Tim’s apartment for the beginning of each new case chapter, along with the Quiz Professor’s questions being turned into answers to the crossword in each paper. I have to point out though that you don’t solve this crossword yourself, with the characters just saying the answers they learned in the case through a series of text boxes. A missed opportunity, in all honesty.

If it sounds like I’m mostly down on this game, I will say that I genuinely enjoyed playing the opening hours of the game and could have forgiven the low difficulty, if not for the game’s length. Any fun I was having was dampened by the fact that the closing chapter crept up very quickly, and it was very obvious that it was the closing chapter. Ensuring that I finished the game with 100% of side quests, a complete run took less than 12 hours.

Detective Pikachu Returns environments are large and empty

Visually, the best I can say about this game is that it’s alright. The character and Pokémon models look okay, and the areas of Ryme City are pretty enough, but it doesn’t feel like much of a step up from the 3DS original. Plus, the areas of the game are large but empty, not even filling their space with objects to investigate or Pokémon to flesh out the world. Genuinely I feel like you could reduce the size of all of the areas by about a third and it would feel far better. This obviously is not a compliment to the game considering that it’s already as short as it is.

You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned anything about the music and that’s because, although I rolled credits only a couple of days ago, I’ve forgotten what any of the game sounds like, and I really mean any of it. I cannot recall any music tracks, sound effects, or even the sparse voice acting, it’s just all forgettable. Also, given the lack of content in other areas, I definitely take umbrage with the fact Detective Pikachu Returns isn’t entirely voice acted.

Detective Pikachu Returns falls flat, feeling like a hollow experience with under-baked and sparse bolts of brilliance. Wide and mostly empty areas, a difficulty level smaller than a Cutiefly, slightly more gameplay than your standard visual novel, short run time and limited usage of its one truly unique and fun mechanic. Forgive the cliche, but most of Detective Pikachu Returns’ moves just weren’t very effective.
  • You get to ride a Growlithe
  • Fun side quests
  • Good story in places
  • You don't get to ride Growlithe enough
  • Fairly short playtime
  • Insultingly easy