Making its first jump from 3D to 2D, Hey! Pikmin is a simplified version of the original console titles. While I felt compelled enough to finish the quest, this sidescrolling take on Nintendo’s real time strategy sim isn’t very fulfilling.
Like the previous Pikmin titles, Captain Olimar has crash landed on an alien world and the tiny plant-based pikmin are there to help navigate the environment with light platforming and puzzle solving. The biggest difference with this handheld version is that each level is its own contained world as opposed to growing an army of pikmin and calling upon them when needed through a day and night cycle.
The pikmin still help as they always have: the red pikmin are immune to fire, the yellow pikmin can be tossed higher and work with electricity, blue pikmin can swim, pink pikmin can fly, and rock pikmin can break through tough objects. However, everything has been simplified in Hey! Pikmin especially combat. Instead of encountering large intimidating enemies, combat is nothing more than waiting for creatures to mindlessly turn around before tossing pikmin on their back. In fact, I actually had more difficulty defeating smaller one-hit enemies because sometimes the throwing mechanic is not very accurate and pikmin die easily with one simple miss-toss. The end goal is to collect all the treasure in each stage while completing each level with a full batch of 20 collectable pikmin. But when pikmin can accidentally die in one hit from a simple enemy, replaying levels for a perfect score gets tedious.
Even if the combat was more entertaining and bosses required more skill, environmental puzzle solving is also stripped down. Each encounter is nothing more than tossing the correct amount of pikmin on a platform or using the right category of pikmin for the job directly in front of you. The solution for each puzzle is easily distinguished and mostly feels like simple chores.
Instead of stockpiling pikmin for later use, the collected pikmin at the end of each stage are sent to the pikmin park. Acting like a timed mobile game, the colored pikmin automatically work through a task to collect energy to help get back home while you play the main game. Remember the dispatch mission in the Final Fantasy Tactics games, where you send off a few of your characters to run a mission on their own, then come back with some loot after some time has passed? It is the same thing here with the pikmin park. Unfortunately, the treasures and items they find have minimum impact on the overall quest and story.
Hey! Pikmin also has optional amiibo support. Figures from the Mario Party 10 series, Animal Crossing, and the Olimar Smash Bros amiibo can all be scanned to unlock very simple and short levels to collect a digital version of said amiibo. There is a dedicated pikmin amiibo that works exclusively with this game and is used in conjunction with the pikmin park. The more pikmin that are placed in the pikmin park, the higher the level of this dedicated pikmin amiibo. The higher the level, the more pikmin can be called into the game at any one time. The only time I found this to be useful was when I found a treasure but was one or pikmin short of lifting it as a couple of my pikmin died from the inaccurate tossing mechanic. It is handy as you might not have to replay levels but is entirely optional and isn’t anything spectacular.
My other complain with Hey! Pikmin is the pacing. And when I say pacing, I mean that Olimar, the pop-up text, and even the spaceship flying-in intro sequence at the beginning of each stage isn’t fast enough. I know I am a spaceman on an alien planet; I don’t need to see the same spaceship flying animation at the beginning of each stage. Olimar also does this weird stop-bounce animation each time he lands from a jump which is confusing and results in inaccurate controls. Calling the pikmin to your location requires a tap of the whistle icon in the bottom right corner of the touch screen. Unfortunately, this button is sort of small and often had me accidentally tossing pikmin to that side of the screen when I wanted to call them to me. This was another example that lead to accidental pikmin deaths. It is also worth pointing out that Hey! Pikmin is playable in 2D only. This is because the game takes place on both screens and would be awkward to have the top screen popping out while the bottom screen is 2D.
I feel like the Pikmin series has potential to work in 2D but Hey! Pikmin still leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, I am curious as to why they went with a sidescrolling perspective instead of a top down view like the console versions. It is not that Hey! Pikmin is a bad game, it is just that it is very plain and would benefit with a sprinkling of flavor. Because of this, this handheld game might be more appealing to younger gamers or newcomers to the series. Longtime fans, however, will eat this meal but still feel hungry.
Not As Good As: Nintendo Selects Pikmin 3 on Wii U for $20 (half the price of this 3DS game)
Better Than: New Yoshi’s Island
Also Try: Warlocked on Gameboy Color
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