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Hey! Pikmin review - A much simplified take on the cult Nintendo IP

For: 3DS
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Straight-forward strategy

Product: Hey! Pikmin | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: 3DS | Genre: Puzzle, Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
There's a pretty good chance you've never played a Pikmin gameAll three games in the series to date debuted on two of Nintendo's least successful consoles - the Gamecube and the Wii U.

Don't think that this is any indication of the franchise's appeal, however. Essentially Nintendo's take on real time strategy, each Pikmin game is as adorable to look at as it is delightful to play.

Hey! Pikmin is something of a first for the series in several ways. For one thing, it's launching on an actual successful console. Also, it's notable that this console is the 3DS, making Hey! Pikmin the first handheld game in the series.

The result is a game that plays very differently to the three mainline Pikmin games, and the move has been a successful one - if only partially.

Side-on strategy

What we have here is a simplification of the Pikmin template, which has then been applied to a side-scrolling platform-puzzler.

Just like in the main Pikmin games you control Captain Olimar, a tiny astronaut who finds his spaceship waylaid on a strange (to him at least) planet. Weedy and ineffectual on his own, Olimar must corral a gang of faithful vegetable-like creatures to collect trinkets and move heavy objects.

The act of lobbing Pikmin at interactive elements works brilliantly with the 3DS touchscreen. It's as easy as tapping where you want them to go, while your left hand manipulates the circle pad to move Olimar himself.

Pikmin are divided by types. Red Pikmin are the strongest, and are also impervious to fire. Yellows can be thrown the furthest and can withstand electricity. Blue Pikmin can swim, Rock Pikmin can shatter certain rocks, and pink Pikmin can fly.

All will need to be thrown into battle (quite literally) to take out lumbering beasts, and it remains a heart-breaking sight watching your assistants being chomped to death.

Simple plan

There's much less micromanagement in Hey! Pikmin than there is in the mainline games, for better and worse.

Multitasking is virtually non-existent, with the ability to send groups of Pikmin out to forage for new materials over time closer in spirit to a mobile freemium city builder than the host series. You don't have to flip between multiple groups of Pikmin in the game proper, and problems typically fit snugly within the span of the 3DS's double screen.

That makes the game easy to manage for first timers and younger players, as well as being well suited to portable play. Conversely, there's a lot less tactical depth here than series veterans have come to expect.

You'll stumble across multiple optional diversions as you attempt to hoover up enough loot to unlock the next section (and ultimately repair your ship), but nothing that will make you feel like the pint-sized general that the main games do. Progress is relatively linear and orchestrated, barring the odd secret entrance or hidden chamber.

Pikmin and mix

One thing that's been retained from the mainline games is Pikmin's unique charm. There's always been a warm sense of humour running through the franchise, and that's well represented here, with Olimar's imaginative re-categorisation of banal objects always raising a smile.

It's hardly a handsome game - the 3D models are basic and some of the level furniture is plain ugly. But the series's well-established art style carries Hey! Pikmin through, and it's amazing how much can be conveyed with a startled look or an exaggerated shake of the head.

Hey! Pikmin is a heavily condensed, simplified, and yes - dumbed down take on a beloved series of games. A fair amount of magic has been lost in the process, but there's enough of the original essence remaining to sate existing fans and maybe even win over a few new ones - particularly if they're young.
Hey! Pikmin review - A much simplified take on the cult Nintendo IP
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 19 September 2017
Hey! Pikmin lacks the smarts and the sheer visual appeal of the main series, but it's a warmly appealing diversion for fans and younger newcomers
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