Detective Pikachu for Nintendo 3DS piqued my interest when I first saw the trailer, mostly because it was unlike anything else in the Pokémon universe of games. A Pikachu with a grumpy, old-man personality? A Pikachu that’s a bit of a lech? It’s weird enough to prompt a closer look at the whodunit game from developer Creatures Inc. Will we solve the case? I grab my magnifying glass and don deerstalker hat to find out.
The facts in the story of Detective Pikachu are thus: one Tim Goodman, our doughty protagonist, is new to Ryme City, looking for his missing father, Harry Goodman. Instead of finding what he seeks, Tim runs into Detective Pikachu, a genius, problem-solving pokémon, and together they set out to solve the mystery of what happened to Harry, and perhaps solve a few other crimes along the way. Tim finds that he’s the only person who can hear Detective Pikachu’s voice, so there’s a whole mystery THERE that needs solving.
Detective Pikachu is unlike any other game in the Pokémon franchise. It plays far more like a “point and click” adventure than anything else, and there are no random battles to be had, nor “‘em all’s” to “gotta catch”. It’s just you, Detective Pikachu, your inventory, and cool deduction skills.
Two things spring out at you very plainly when you start playing Detective Pikachu: one, the animation and character design are absolutely beautiful, almost Pixar-like; and two, the voice acting is totally on point. So much characterization comes through in the voice of Detective Pikachu alone! You can hear he’s a grumpy old fart, and he has this gravelly, noir-gumshoe tone that is so out of line with the usual “pika pika!” we’re so used to hearing that it’s comical. I understand that there’s a Detective Pikachu film in the works, and that the titular character is to be voiced by Ryan Reynolds, so that’s something else to look forward to.
The gameplay itself is heavy on the “collect evidence and put the story together” kind of gameplay, with the odd QTE built in for the sake of a little action. Thankfully, it’s not the pixel-hunt I’ve seen in other adventure games, so most of what you’d need is right there on the screen. The lower screen holds the case files and maps and so on, as well as a way to talk to Detective Pikachu if he finds anything interesting or if he needs to get your attention somehow.
What I loved about this game is that it presents a completely different face of the Pokémon world, one that isn’t built on the one-on-one battles of the main game in the series, and the whole pokémon universe is a good deal richer for seeing other aspects of life that don’t involve Pokémon centres, intense eye-watering battles, and villainous teams. It’s also nice to have a story that is very personal, and not at all centred on saving the world in one way or another.
On the downside, there is a fair amount of repetition in terms of the game’s play-cycle. You explore the area, gather clues, and then fit the clues into the narrative to solve the case. What stops the game from being a boring grind is just how varied the locations are, how entertaining the story is, and the character interactions between Tim and Detective Pikachu. The game is also a little on the simple side, and until you’ve gathered the requisite clues and shown you’ve understood the case, you aren’t allowed to jump the gun here.
Detective Pikachu one of the most refreshing Pokémon games to come to us, and it’s a pure delight to play, even with the slower sections in the middle. Thankfully, the slow bits don’t last more than a chapter or so, and the game picks up again quite quickly. The character of Detective Pikachu is the best thing to come out of the Pokémon universe to the 3DS in ages, and while the game only clocks in at around twelve hours, it’s an enjoyable ride.