When Shigeru Miyamoto left Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda in capable hands, he began to craft Pikmin, his most personal project. He drew inspiration from gardening, one of his hobbies. The thought of little gremlins exploring his backyard must have struck a chord with his imagination because ever since the first Pikmin, it has been a passion project of his.
Miyamoto’s obsession with bringing “Pikmin to the real world” is evident through his deliberate design choices, aiming to create environments that appear more natural and relatable to players. Right now, as you’re on your device, there are Pikmin in your kitchen looting your tendies and doing battle with insects.
Every entry introduced new mechanics, streamlined others, and sometimes brought older ideas back. This third sequel is a culmination of everything the franchise has been working toward and aims to be the most ambitious Pikmin yet. How does it fare? Find out in this Pikmin 4 review!
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the below:
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: July 21, 2023
Price: $59.99 USD
The narrative of Pikmin games tends to follow a formula in which Hocotites or Koppaites crash land on PNF-404, and the diminutive aliens onboard must survive. The details will vary, and the protagonists will have to rely on a swarm of color-coded Pikmin to explore and conquer the planet, which seemingly represents a post-apocalyptic Earth.
PNF-404 isn’t shrouded in a grim and desolate atmosphere like many other dystopian games. Instead, Miyamoto sought to cultivate a unique atmosphere filled with whimsy and charm.
The game encourages players to explore this post-apocalyptic Earth and discover its hidden wonders. By doing so, Miyamoto aimed to shift away from the conventionally bleak and sorrowful ambiance found in titles like The Last of Us Part II, offering players a refreshing and uplifting gaming experience instead.
The plots of these games serve as an excuse to foster strategic gameplay, where gamers must manage their time and resources to explore PNF-404 more extensively. Pikmin 4 is no different; however, it dares to seemingly retcon the events of Pikmin 2 and 3, reimagining them in a new way.
The prologue of Pikmin 4 reintroduces Captain Olimar and unveils what occurred after he repaired the S.S. Dolphin. Players familiar with the first and second sequels will be taken aback by the unexpected twists in the events. However, these changes prove to be worthwhile and rewarding, especially due to the surprisingly dark nature of the story.
The tone appears family-friendly, with character designs reminiscent of Jim Henson’s creature shop. As the narrative unfolds and players delve into the crewmembers’ log entries, Pikmin 4 gradually introduces elements of body horror. It’s akin to anticipating Fraggle Rock but getting a blend of The Revenant and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.
The Pikmin, a species so different from our own, taught the Hocotates lessons about friendship, sacrifice, and the delicate balance of nature itself. Pikmin 4‘s story shows that not every tale can find redemption, and not every adventure leads to triumph. Some stories serve as stark reminders of the fragility of existence and the profound repercussions of our actions.
After players design their avatar with Pikmin 4‘s woefully limited character creator and get past the tutorial phase of the game, they are set loose in what can be best described as Shigeru Miyamoto’s backyard. Like always, Pikmin 4 is centered on plucking out Pikmin and throwing them at things to get tasks done.
A notable improvement in Pikmin 4 is the enhanced path-finding of the Pikmin, who respond swiftly to the Hocotate whistle’s call. Guiding these little creatures through the environment feels like overseeing a group of eager preschoolers. They intuitively understand their tasks and diligently carry them out until completion.
This latest installment boasts a substantial increase in size and length compared to its predecessors. The game is packed with abundant content, to the extent that the premise of Pikmin 2 is seamlessly integrated as a side mode. With larger maps, players need to move their bases strategically to avoid delays caused by a large troop of Pikmin transporting treasures, dead enemies, or lost civilians/rescue crew.
Pikmin 4‘s gameplay mechanics allow for all nine types of Pikmin, ensuring diverse and challenging puzzles without requiring a massive number of each type. Players can only take three types out at a time, ensuring that each area is designed around specific colored Pikmin. This way, players won’t have to take only twelve of each or the game doesn’t cut any types from the roster.
Thanks to the implementation of 3D platforming, players can conveniently navigate with Pikmin clinging onto Oatchi, avoiding any inconvenience with dozens of large hitboxes. Oatchi overall proves to be an invaluable asset and the quick-commands make it so easy to split up into multiple parties.
While the boss fights have a raw and visceral excitement to them, it is the Dandori battles that prove to be the highlight. Dandori in Pikmin 4 is like making the act of organization and efficiency into a competition and these fast-paced and hectic sequences put players to the test of their mastery of the game’s systems.
The Dandori battles, especially late-game, offset the laid-back and overall low difficulty of Pikmin 4. Even though this may be the easiest-to-beat entry in the franchise, it is the most packed with challenges and things to do. There is never a dull moment and it gradually introduces new ideas that keep the gameplay engrossing and surprising.
Pikmin 4 introduces a plethora of environmental puzzles that leverage players’ extensive control options, continually presenting fresh and innovative ideas. Oatchi can efficiently retrieve idling Pikmin, fend off wandering predators, and even serves as a swimming transport, ferrying the entire Pikmin army on his back. After Pikmin 4, there is no going back without him.
While Pikmin 4 expands upon the franchise’s premise, it leans towards being easier in the main game. This approach proves beneficial as it provides players with more opportunities to manipulate the Pikmin, offering multiple ways to tackle tasks efficiently. In contrast to the first game, where certain objectives were the main focus of a campaign that lasted about three hours, Pikmin 4 offers over 30 hours of gameplay.
The soundtrack is the same kind of whimsical melodies that Hiroshi Yamaguchi has done in past games. The main theme sets the tone for the entire game, evoking a sense of wonder and discovery as players embark on an odyssey. The music adapts, seamlessly transitioning to reflect the mood and emotions of each moment.
The graphics have improved since Pikmin 3 Deluxe, which is hard to believe because that game looked beautiful. The developers rely on “tilt-shift” to enhance the game’s sense of scale and in Pikmin 4, the effect is more convincing than ever. Tilt-shift is a photography effect used to create the illusion of miniaturization and make the characters feel small and feel tangible.
The tilt-shift visuals play a significant role in emphasizing the diminutive size of the Pikmin and the Hocotates. It enhances the feeling of being in a big world, surrounded by towering plants and oversized objects, making every element appear larger-than-life from the perspective of the tiny creatures.
The brilliance of the tilt-shift visuals goes beyond aesthetics. It serves practical purposes by helping players comprehend the scale of objects and obstacles quickly. This valuable insight allows players to strategize effectively and plan their approach to conquer various challenges with ease.
Pikmin 4 was a game that took a long time to make and while playing, it becomes obvious why. Thankfully it emerged victorious, not only as a game but as a transformative adventure that transcended the screen.
Pikmin 4 is an enchanting and expansive adventure, perfect for kids and kids-at-heart alike. It sets the bar high for young players, offering an easy-to-learn gameplay experience that promises endless fun. Like most good Nintendo games, it backloads the substantially challenging content after the credits, but even before that, gamers are going to have a fun time getting to that point.
Pikmin 4 was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code purchased by Niche Gamer. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Pikmin 4 is now available for Nintendo Switch.