Even though not as popular as Mario, Zelda, or Metroid the Pikmin game series is meanwhile an integral part of Nintendo’s gaming universe. Twenty-two years after the release of the original Pikmin the story around Captain Olimar and the small Pikmins comes to Switch.
This time however you are not playing Olimar, but you are part of a rescue mission whose task is to find him after contact to him was lost. After landing it is your task to find Olimar and investigate what is happening on the foreign planet. As foreign the planet is for the rescue crew as well known it will be for you as a player. A garden, small beach or even a living room set as regions to be explored. The key gameplay elements remain unchanged compared to previous games. You collect items of various type to repair your spaceship, complete side missions or invest in upgrades. You control the Pikmins by assigning different tasks to them like collecting items, constructing a bridge, or fight an enemy. The key is to use the different types of Pikmins adequately to resolve the different tasks and manage the different groups optimally making best use of the limited time per day.
Pikmin 4 introduces some new Pikmin types in course of the story. Starting with the classic types of red Pikmins (good in fight), yellow Pikmin (lighter and immune to electricity) and blue Pikmin (good swimmers) the game adds ice, stone and flying Pikmins as well. Some of those new special types of Pikmin you will find in the new dungeons only. Dungeons can be entered from the surface of the main level and bring you to a multi-floor cave below the surface with special puzzles to be solved and enemies to be fought with. At the end of each dungeon, you usually free other researchers who also stranded on the planet or even a known lost member of your own crew. Some of them need to be healed as they are fully covered in leaves and only after they are healed will be able to talk to from the central hub around your spaceship. From this hub you start the daily expeditions, talk to crew members for side missions and invest in items and upgrades. As in previous versions your time per expeditions is limited and you must return all Pikmins safely to your spaceship before sunset. Pikmins you do not manage to return in time will get lost. While being in the dungeons the time will not proceed leaving you enough time to complete them in one go. There is another new exemption from the classic expedition formular as there are dedicated night expeditions now. During night expeditions only the special green glowing Pikmins are available, and your task is to defend the so called Lumiknolls (small earth sandcastle like buildings) from attacking monsters. Managing to defeat a Lumiknoll till sunset will earn you the medicine to heal a crew member from the leave disease. The short and faster night expedition are an intelligent idea to bring variety into the expeditions.
Inside your crew you also have the dog Otschin now. Similar as the crew members in previous Pikmin games you can control him directly and therefore he can manage a second group of Pikmin. He is stronger in battles and his good smell can be used for searching dedicated items. Additionally, he can swim and can carry Pikmins over water. In the hub world his capabilities can be further leveled up making him a better fighter, allowing him to carry heavier items or make him recover faster from injury. Not only his special abilities but his cuddly design make Otschin the star of Pikmin 4.
Besides dungeons also special Dandori battle can be entered from the levels’ surface. Dandori battles are challenges against a CPU-controlled NPC accompanied by a dog like Otschin. The goal of those battles is to collect more treasures than your component within a given time-limit. Special objects serve bonus points in those battles and dedicated events like bombs entering the scene shall give it additional excitement. The battles are played split screen allowing you to follow the opponent’s actions in detail and only few of them are mandatory to complete the main story. As battles can be hectic it was a good decision to keep them mostly optional and the mandatory Dandori battles are easily doable in two or three attempts.
The graphics follow the well-known design of the Pikmin series with colorful landscapes, enemies, and characters. The quality of textures is a real plus making Pikmin 4 one of the best-looking games for Switch. However, this comes with the price of very long loading times at the beginning of the expeditions and when entering the dungeons. The soundtrack is nothing special but those familiar with the series will recognize the typical themes immediately. Managing the Pikmin and Otschin will need some training especially if you never played a Pikmin game before. The possibility to freely assign certain actions on the 4 directional buttons helps to keep controls easy.
Pikmin 4 adds new features carefully to the known gameplay giving those familiar with the previous games new impulses for a playthrough. On the other hand, level design and story follow the well-established bases of the series. Those who played and liked previous Pikmin games will also like this one. For those who are not fans of previous entries the new features will likely not change their mind. For newcomers it is worth to take a look and for sure Pikmin 4 is the best entry in the series so far.
- dog Otschin with special abilities
- design and visuals of the surface levels is wonderful
- night expeditions bring variety into the gameplay
- more Pikmins with special abilities
- very simple story (as typical for the series)
- Dandori battles can be too hectic
- long loading screens
“Careful integration of some new features into the known Pikmin gameplay and the well-designed levels make Pikmin 4 the best game in the series so far.”
Sources: Screenshots: own screen captures