Hey! Pikmin shows a lot of promise and potential for a great platform game featuring Pikmin, but chooses to keep things way to simple to live up to the Pikmin name. It's lack of challenge quickly becomes a thorn in its side and makes you long for a more challenging (and traditional) Pikmin 4 on Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo is often set aside by some gamers for making games that are ‘too kiddy’. And while many of their games are suitable for a younger audience, most of these are family games and offer a lot of entertainment for adult gamers as well.
Hey! Pikmin is unfortunately not among the many Nintendo titles that will win the hearts of both young and old.
That is a shame because the original Pikmin games actually did. It’s kid-friendly aesthetic was merely a promotion for its suitability for younger gamers, under which a well-conceived strategy game was hiding. That same aesthetic has been preserved for Pikmin’s 3DS adventure ‘Hey! Pikmin’, but not much of the strategy and challenge of the original Pikmin formula was retained with the transition. Hey! Pikmin is strictly a 2D platform game taking place in the Pikmin universe, that touches upon many elements that are familiar to those who’ve played Pikmin before. There’s the fact that you play as Olimar, and there are the many familiar types of Pikmin that you encounter throughout your adventure. Every color of Pikmin has its own specific abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, as we’ve come to expect from the series. Red Pikmin resist fire, Blue Pikmin can swim. It’s all pretty self-explanatory. As you progress through the game, you get more different kinds of Pikmin simultaneously and have to carefully judge which Pikmin are used to overcome each obstacle.
You travel through eight different worlds in this manner, and they hardly become more difficult as you progress and that is, by far, Hey! Pikmin’s biggest flaw: it’s way too easy. While this means that young kids can probably finish it from beginning to end, there’s simply not much to do for experienced players. Enemies and bosses simply require you to chuck a few Pikmin at them, without any real thought or strategy. Pikmin can always be replenished so you don’t get stuck, and while you can technically lose all your hit points and lose a life, you’d really have to try to get to that point. Secret treasures aren’t that well hidden, removing that challenge as well. These treasures are a nice touch, though, because they are similar to the spaceship parts in the original Pikmin in that they are required to help you reach the end goal: amassing enough ‘sparklium’ to refuel your stranded spaceship. However, collecting the required 30,000 sparklium can be done in many ways, and most of them can be repeated indefinitely, which means there is no pressure to find all treasures and you can’t really fail. You can reach the 30,000 threshold way before you reach the final level if you want to.
The only simplistic thing about the game that is actually a good thing is the game’s control scheme. All you use are the directional buttons for walking and the stylus for throwing Pikmin with great accuracy, and that is actually a really clever system that works really well too.
Accessibility is not a bad thing at all: not every game needs to ask every last ounce of your concentration or skill. It’s okay to just play a more relaxing and forgiving game once in a while. But Hey! Pikmin is a bit too leisurely in this regard. It simply becomes stale and boring a bit too quickly. That is a shame especially because the Pikmin games before it were actually quite challenging but in a good way. Removing the strict time-pressure that the original forced on you is probably not a bad idea, but it would’ve been much more interesting if we actually needed to find the treasures to complete a stage, or if more careful use of Pikmin would be required to complete levels. The way it is now, you can pretty much walk through the game half-heartedly and reach the end ten hours later forgetting what you’ve exactly been doing. Hey! Pikmin just has you wishing you were playing Pikmin 4 or even the previous games, and that’s never really a good sign.
All of this while there’s nothing wrong with the core concept. A 2D platformer within the Pikmin universe clearly has potential.That much shines through almost constantly. Perhaps painfully so, even. The game’s graphical style is quite endearing (even though there is absolutely no 3D support) and the many ways in which you can use different types of Pikmin to open up secret areas and paths within a level are fantastic in theory. Collecting the many treasures (each with their own funny names, be sure to pay attention to that) is a fun thing to do if only it was a bit more challenging or ultimately relevant to the game’s progression.
It all comes together to make Pikmin into a game that is not totally bad, but just not living up to the potential that it had. With Pikmin 4 coming to Switch in the future, you’d hope the 3DS iteration would use every chance it had to create the proper hype. Perhaps that has actually worked: after playing through Hey! Pikmin, the hopes for a good Pikmin 4 are higher than ever.