Game: Pikmin 4
Consoles: Nintendo Switch (reviewed on)
Release Date: July 21, 2023
I’ve always had a weird relationship with the Pikmin series. As I mentioned in the past here, some of the games are phenomenal whilst some of them stress me out to the point where it felt like I had an office job all over again. But Pikmin 4 is astounding. It takes everything I hated about the original games and just removes it. Much like the plants and the cycle of rebirth that the game celebrates, the developers realized that for a plant to grow healthy, you need to prune some of the rot away.
From the start you know that you’re getting a different experience. When you first start the game you get a long bit of story about what Olimar has been up to since the third game where not only do you discover what he’s been up to but you also get to discover how amazingly low his voice is. I was not ready.
Afterwards he crashes (as is Pikmin tradition) only this time he while he thinks he’s returning to a familiar planet, he finds that everything is not how he remembers and the landscape is both vast and different. Of course the player understands why, he’s landed in someone’s home.
From here you and your new bipedal space pup set out and complete a tutorial after which Olimar sends out an SOS for a rescue team to come find him and thus the real game begins.
Apparently everyone and their space grandmother got the call for help because not only did a rescue squad go after him but botanists, researchers, treasure hunters, and more all decided to give the planet a once over, and, as is Pikmin traditional, they all crashes spectacularly. And it is up to you to find all of them including Olimar and get them safely home.
And when I mean “you”, I mean “YOU”. For the first time in a Pikmin game you get to make your own character based off a variety of body types, hair styles, skin tones, etc. I had a really cool design in place but then my kids practically forced me to pick the chubby mustachio’d fellow as they felt it was closer to how I actually looked. Thanks kids.
Upon arrival, the first thing you encounter is the rescue squad’s patrol pup who quickly becomes YOUR patrol pup. This dog is your constant companion and an absolute game changer. Over the course of the game it can be used as a mount to get around quicker, an extra attacker in battle, an extra hand (or 20 if fully upgraded) to lug things around, and most importantly, it can jump! Because of this, the game is free to explore a greater variety of puzzles beyond the standard “Olimar fell off a ledge and can’t get back up” variety.
And don’t worry, when you ride the patrol pup, all your Pikmin cling to its fur meaning where you go they go, immediately. No more losing Pikmin around a tight corner when you’re not paying attention.
Another fantastic addition to the game is the time limit. Sure, the day and night cycle is still there but there’s no over all time limit. It’s not like some of the games where you have a certain amount of days to achieve a goal or else you face the bad endings. You can take your time and explore. As long as you respect that you need to be back before nightfall you’re fine.
This took a major amount of stress away from the game for me. As a writer, the very last thing I wanted in my escapism is a deadline. I already have a whiteboard filled with them, I didn’t need more.
My favorite thing though, is that this is all about fun. The game has a ton of minor stories scattered about. Character interactions with some of the silly characters you rescue. It no longer feels lonely like the previous games, your home hubworld starts becoming a lived in area by a diverse range of characters you can interact with.
Enemies come in a wider variety as well and, as there are new Pikmin, there’s new ways to combat them. For example, the big Bulborb that Pikmin is famous for, the large red and yellow biped with the eye-stalks. Lets say you’re riding your patrol pup and have a slew of Pikmin hanging onto the back. You can charge the patrol pup into the Bulborb and while the collision does damage, it also flings all the Pikmin off the back of the pup and directly onto your target where they all start attacking at the same time. This powerful shotgun attack can make short work of enemies that normally resulted in you losing a couple. Does your enemy shoot fire attacks? Or has some other sort of devastating move? Throw a bunch of ice Pikmin at it and the enemy will freeze giving you more time to attack it. Or, slam your patrol pup into a frozen creature to shatter it.
Speaking of Pikmin, Pikmin 4 features 9 different types. And you can have three different ones with you. Everything from the traditional ones like your standard red bois, to the newer ones like the Glow Pikmin that flutter about casting light in the darkness.
One thing you do need to get ready for is hearing the word Dandori. You’re going to see this word a LOT. Too much maybe.
Dandori is a style of management that involves planning out your moves for the day ahead of time so that you know how to most effectively utilize the time available to you within a work period. This game seems to fancy itself dandori fanfiction as if it were to push dandori anymore it would have to print it on poster board, roll it into a tight tube, and beat you into a coma with it.
In fact, several times in the game you encounter strange beings (who I won’t spoil and you should discover for yourself) who challenge you to a Dandori battle. In these Dandori battle you find yourself in a battle against a seperate opponent, having to generate Pikmin and gather resources trying to see how efficiently you can utilize the several minutes they give you.
They’re a fun little diversion and it is how some “boss” battles are done but, honestly, I can do without it. Being good at it and completing it means that the game will then praise you on your growing skill at dandori and I swear if I walk away from this game with a business skill I’m going to scream. I don’t want it.
All in all though, Pikmin 4 is an incredibly fun and wonderful game that takes the lonely strategy title and fills it with life, fun, variety, and a story and cast of characters that livens up the often bland Pikmin experience. Even if you played Pikmin 1-3 and hated them, I would suggest giving 4 a try. It’s genuinely that good and fixes a lot of faults I’ve had with the series and is just an all-around blast to play.
Pikmin 4 (Nintendo Switch) Score: 9.5/10
With the exception of the forced “Dandori Battles,” the game is an absolute joy to play filled with fun story twists, silly characters, and a fantastic art design. Pikmin 4 has taken everything good from the first three games, removed everything that doesn’t work, and somehow adds new things that make the over all experience something beyond what I could have expected from a Pikmin game.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.