Captain Olimar is at it again, gathering Pikmin and ordering them about like some sort of space general in the latest game in the Pikmin series, Hey! Pikmin. And the Pikmin, being Pikmin, and jumping at his every whistle and command. To top it all off, they’re now flitting between the two screens of your 3DS, so that’s…double the trouble? Quadruple the trouble? I can’t keep proper count anymore, but let’s just dive into this review and hope we don’t lose any more of the Pikmin as we meander our way down to the inevitable score at the bottom of the page.
In Hey! Pikmin, Captain Olimar is aboard his trusty spaceship, the SS Dolphin II, heading back home to Hocotate, when the ship finds itself in the middle of an asteroid field. The ship takes some damage before plummeting to the closest planet. Upon awakening, Captain Olimar finds that this planet, too, is infested with Pikmin, willing to obey his every whim and order as he tries to get his ship repaired so that he can escape and head for home.
If you have ever played a Pikmin game, whether it be the original Gamecube versions, the Wii remakes, the excellent Wii U sequel, Pikmin 3, or even the minified version of the game in Nintendo Land (which, in my opinion, has the best music in the series), you’ll be familiar with the concept. The Pikmin are tiny, plant/creature hybrids whose strength lie in sheer overwhelming numbers. They come in various colours from the fire-resistant red Pikmin, the electricity-resistant yellows, and the water-resistant blues, to the flying pink ones and the rock-like grey ones. Captain Olimar, who is not much bigger than a Pikmin himself, directs the Pikmin with his whistle, ordering them to attack things, move things, or collect things. Pikmin, it seems, lack much in the way of original will power. If you noted the colours and thought to yourself, “I smell puzzle mechanics”, then you’d be quite correct. Not only are areas hidden due to Pikmin colours, but also due to Pikmin numbers. For some areas, if you don’t have sufficient quantities of Pikmin, you’re going to have a bad time.
In terms of gameplay, Hey! Pikmin takes a sidescrolling perspective on things instead of the traditional 3D environments of prior Pikmin games. You control Captain Olimar using the control nub and direct Pikmin with the stylus on the touch screen. This control scheme works well, because you can keep Olimar moving while still telling the little critters what to do. The action takes place over both screens, with the map displaying as a temporary overlay on the top screen. The object of the game is to collect 30,000 pieces of “sparklium” this game’s particular form of unobtanium MacGuffin. All this bling will be used to repair the SS Dolphin II and help get Olimar back home to Hocotate. Each area has a collection of “things” that will confer great amounts of sparklium to Olimar, so your main objective is really to collect these things, even though it may take multiple playthroughs of the same area to get all of them. There’s no time limit on each stage, so it’s worth going slowly to check the nooks and crannies to find stuff you may have probably missed. Some areas, naturally, are barred behind amiibo paywalls, and since I don’t possess any Pikmin amiibo, I couldn’t play these to tell you whether they were worth the cost or not.
Beyond the main play areas in Hey! Pikmin, there is also the Pikmin Park, where you can set to work any Pikmin you’ve found. The little critters will clear tracts of land for you in an effort to find more sparklium, although you have to use the correct type of Pikmin for each region, or else nothing will get done. This area adds little else to the game, however, and even the amounts of Sparklium you get here are a pittance compared to what you’ll find in the game’s levels.
Hey! Pikmin wasn’t developed internally at Nintendo, but rather by Arzest, the same people behind Yoshi’s New Island and Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Neither title has been a favourite of mine, and my fear was that Arzest were going to butcher this Pikmin game as much as they had the others. Thankfully, this game appears to be a somewhat better title with a far more reasonable design than Yoshi’s New Island (not to be confused with the 3DS Yoshi & Poochy’s Woolly World, a far, far superior game to the Arzest version). The level design of Hey! Pikmin is not bad at all, with multiple paths through many of the levels, giving you a decent reason to play through some stages multiple times. Many of the stages contain secrets, too: hidden walls, blocked doorways, paths that yield to specific numbers of Pikmin, and so forth.
On the other hand, I was fairly unimpressed with the game’s graphics. There’s no 3D mode for starters, which is somewhat forgivable given that the game takes place on both the top and bottom screens. The music, too, is also generic and nothing memorable, although the sound effects are true to the original Pikmin sounds, down to the “oopsie! Oopsie!” noises the Pikmin make as they carry stuff around. The game’s puzzles are nothing difficult, and you can easily go from one side of the stage to the other without collecting a single object. I imagine that the game is aimed at younger players, but even my own kids had an easy time of Hey! Pikmin. And then, despite the change in dimensions from 3D to 2D, the game brings nothing new to the table. It’s a generic sidescroller with Pikmin as a puzzle-solving mechanic. The other gripe I have is mostly plot-related: even though this was supposed to be a different planet to the one Olimar originally landed on, it looks like exactly the same place. The Pikmin are identical, the enemies are identical, and even the artifacts that were left behind are ridiculously similar to existing stuff. How have identical life forms sprung up on different planets? I want to know!
Overall, I felt this game was a better outing from Arzest than prior games, and while I have some issues with Hey! Pikmin, I still enjoyed playing it. The setting is fun and the Pikmin themselves are still cute. While the game might not be much of a challenge, some of the puzzles can be liable to give perhaps brief pause, especially to younger players. It’s cute, fun, but not really the same as an internally, Nintendo-developed Pikmin game.