Tons of charm are what sell this 2D side scrolling Pikmin adventure!
Almost two months back, I got my first look at Hey! Pikmin. I had the chance to experience three levels and see what this 2D exploration game was all about. Honestly, I was just cautiously optimistic and hopeful that Arzest could finally nail a game and keep me entertained all the way through. I have now played seven worlds from the complete game and it surprised me by how solid it was put together. Not only does the charm of the Pikmin translate well, but it is also a relaxing title to boot.
In Hey! Pikmin, we see Captain Olimar traveling through the galaxy once more but before he gets the chance to make his way home, asteroids cause him to make an abrupt landing on a nearby planet. Sparklium, the fuel for his Dolphin III ship, has suddenly been depleted and Olimar is stuck until he can find more. It is up to you to bring Captain Olimar home by completing 2D action stages and collecting everything that can make him fuel. This ranges from seeds to large scale treasures, which has always been a staple of the Pikmin series.
While you need 30,000 Sparklium to make your way home, it isn't as harsh of a goal as you might think. Sparklium is earned everywhere and any player playing attention will find ways to rank up points fast. Younger players will have plenty of time to get the goal together, while more wintered players will make it before reaching the end of the line. Even then, you are required to find a lost ship part at the end of the game, so there is no real rush. That is also the best way to describe the game. Unlike the regular Pikmin games, levels are more linear and puzzle based. They give you specific goals and goodies to shoot for, which is good for unwinding on your Nintendo 3DS.
Speaking of unwinding, let's talk about the controls. You move Captain Olimar with the Circle Pad, while all other interaction uses the touchscreen. This can be blowing your whistle, throwing Pikmin or even touching certain objects. All in all, it is pretty straightforward while walking on land or in the air. You move about, all while cleverly picking up all that you can find. It doesn't take long to get the hang of what you're doing and I found it quite fun to toy around with. It never becomes too challenging or head smashingly frustrating, which is one of the great things I like about it. You play a couple of levels, have a good time and go do something else.
The worlds are named Sectors and I only got to experience the first seven of them. You will have to get through six areas (levels), find all the treasure and look for new passageways to complete a sector 100%. These passageways can grant you access to secret spots or additional levels highlighted with the letter X. Depending on an area, it might take place across multiple screens in caves or one seamless experience across a field. In either case, it is filled with action that makes solid usage of both screens. The game makes use of the full Nintendo 3DS real estate, which makes for grand viewing angles during gameplay. In the first world, Brilliant Garden, this is highlighted with lush forest environments that are quite nice to look at. While the background are a little more stilted than I would like, they are at least a major step up from Arzest's previous work.
The real estate benefits the gameplay to the fullest. It gives you a grand perspective, allowing you to throw Pikmin at higher locations. This is in particularly useful with the Yellow and Winged Pikmin variations. The Yellow Pikmin can easily reach the upper screen, which is beneficial for goodies or pulling down vines. The critters are also resistant against electricity. This ability is also used in a grand number of ways. There is, for example, a level where you use these Pikmin as a source to connect two wires. It will give life to new platforms or locate enemies that like to live in the shadows. The Winged Pikmin, introduced in Pikmin 3, can be flung at high speeds. It will make destroying incoming enemies an absolute snap. Next to this, the cute fellows will pick up Olimar and help descent down into new areas. There are a couple of levels where you need to fully rely on Winged Pikmin for survival and it is a lot of fun.
There are more Pikmin types that come into play here. With the Red Pikmin, you get friends that are resistive to fire and enemies of that ilk. In one of the later worlds, the Reds will need to stomp out fire and clear the way for you. Other than that, they are fast and have furious attacks. Similar things can be said about the Rock Pikmin, which are basically known for two things. They are the strongest ones of the bunch and can break crystals all across the stages. When you meet them for the first time, the game asks you kindly to learn how to operate them. This requires a little bit of time, when compared to the others, but it is totally worth it in the end.
The Pikmin type that are showcased the least are the Blue Pikmin. The Blues are the best known for surviving water and being able to swim. While they are great fighters beneath the sea, their moving patterns don't really benefit these stages. In short sections, this is something you can tolerate. Once you move 20 (maximum amount of Pikmin during a stage) Blues all at the same time, you need to spam your whistle to constantly keep them together. Luckily, there are only handful of stages that make use of the Blue Pikmin, so your mind never fully goes into insanity territory.
As you can move along the bushes and blow your whistle, you are always given the correct Pikmin for the task. Hey! Pikmin gives you puzzle pieces to work with and it is your task to be careful with them. One misstep and an ally will say its dear life farewell. Where the loss of one Pikmin in previous games wasn't all that heart wrenching, here it can mean the difference of clearing a puzzle. In one of the stages I encountered, I got four Yellow Pikmin right from the start. Mere moments into the stage, I sadly lost one of them, which I didn't think was a big deal. Less than a minute later, I got access to a treasure that (you guessed it) needed four Yellow Pikmin to grab.
It are moments like these that made me learn to play considerate. Once again, the game doesn't force you take everything hasty and you should take this approach to heart. The Pikmin carry everything to Captain Olimar directly this time around, which can cause for alarming situations. Your Pikmin are always a target when you are letting them do your dirty work, so keeping a close eye is the best thing you can do. You need to be careful yourself as well. If you overshoot a Pikmin and it touches an opponent, the Pikmin will be defeated on the spot. As a result, I found myself replaying stages until I got them down and collected all the treasure. Considering the paths that you need to find, it becomes a chill way to see the game through to the end.
Before we head into the final bits, I do want to highlight some of my favorite stages in the game so far. For starters, there is a level in the fourth world named Ravaged Rustworks. It offers a unique industrial environment, where you climb on pipes and other harsh materials. The first stage, The Loney Tower, sees you climbing to the top without any help of Pikmin. You need to rely on steampipes, walking and Olimar's jetpack. On your way down, you start to get a band together as you slowly search the end. It was a really refreshing take on the formula and something that I couldn't get enough of.
Next up is the level Valley of the Breeze, which can be found in the Leafswirl Lagoon sector. In this stage, you solely rely on the Winged Pikmin to get you down to the end goal safely. This is easier said than done as enemies lurk around ever corner. I found myself constantly holding the Circle Pad up, so that I had a little more time before my next step. It is thrilling to head down the shaft and try to snag anything I could get my hands on. Finally, there is Barriers of Flame in a world named Sweltering Parchlands. Instead of using Red Pikmin to clear the fire, you will be forced to improvise with Yellow and Rock Pikmin. It makes for some neat moments throughout!
In addition to the regular stages, every world ends with a boss stage. It is here that you fight against gigantic enemies from the Pikmin universe. Just like the stages, these bosses rely on the gimmicks of the Pikmin. The boss of one sector sees you fighting against a Fiery Blowhog and trying to dodge his attacks. You will need Red Pikmin to pick up bombs and ensure that the Blowhog swallows them. This causes a knockout, giving you the chance to deal some massive damage. By defeating the bosses, you are granted treasures that are 1,000 Sparklium each, so it is certainly worth your while.
Hey! Pikmin supports amiibo in the Splatoon, Super Mario and Animal Crossing lines. These amiibo can be scanned in to grant you access to secret spots. They can best be described as one room puzzle challenges that you need to overcome. The task is to find the optimal route to the statue and snag them with the help of your Pikmin. Completing a challenge grants you 200 Sparklium every time, so it is great for younger players who aren't as confident in their skills. Do be aware that you are limited by how many amiibo you can summon to each secret spot. Not anything too major, but certainly something to keep in check.
As far as the presentation of Hey! Pikmin is concerned, I am honestly impressed. The backgrounds are nice to look at, but I do wish there were more going on. That being said, everything happening on the foreground perfectly fits the Nintendo 3DS. The characters and set pieces look sharp on the system and bring a lot of color to the side scrolling stages. If you are looking for 3D effects however, you are out of luck, Hey! Pikmin doesn't support them. The music is equally good. There is a lot of atmosphere that goes along with it, which the composer has absolutely nailed. It breathes Pikmin and offers additional character to the worlds.
Another part of the presentation is the pure charm present in the game. If you want the game to instantly put a smile on your face, you owe it yourself to read the logs. From enemy entries to treasure, Captain Olimar gives insight on what kind of purpose they serve. What helps is that the names for everything are hilarious. One of the treasures you will find is an NES cartridge for Ice Climbers, which carries the name ''Revenge Fantasy''. Even the amiibo statues that you capture get their Olimar takes as well. Another way that Hey! Pikmin brings the charm are with little scenes in the levels. As you go along, the Pikmin will play around or pop up in unique ways. I don't want to spoil too many of those, but there are a lot of them to see.
Hey! Pikmin is, so far, a way better game than I was anticipating. The flow of the levels is solid and it simply relaxes me while I play. While there are some annoyances like the underwater levels, there is nothing here that speaks to me as being game breaking. I flew through the first seven worlds, mainly due to their variety and unique level gimmicks. It is so fun to just pick up the game, play a few stages and move on to something else. Naturally, I have to see where the end game takes me, but I have honestly a hard time seeing how this one could go wrong. With plenty of charm and intriguing goals to shoot for, Hey! Pikmin delivers a package perfectly suitable for a handheld.