His Review with Ian Abbott
Pikmin 3 is an interstellar fruit gathering adventure in which a trio of tiny space ship mates command up to one hundred inch-high vivid animal/plant hybrids. Discovering data, investigating territories and scrapping with curious critters, I had to recover a cosmic drive key to enable my crew to return home with rare fruit seeds that would solve the chronic food shortage on Koppai.
Commanding these little fellas, who followed my every order to guarantee a continued existence in the early part of the game, ensured that focus wasn’t lacking, and drilled home the perilous situation the crew were in; if there was no fruit juice left in the locker we’d die. This fostered a sense of huge responsibility within me and encouraged a connection to the Pikmin. They in turn demonstrated an unswerving loyalty to me, so the least I could do is try not to kill them (although I could easily have created Pikmin genocide by wiping out whole types if my whim had dictated it). There were five types of Pikmin available (including two new colours – black and pink), each with a different, unique skill; from the yellows who were able to be thrown higher and conduct electricity to the new flying pinkettes who could hover and carry things but were weak and susceptible to cobwebs. The pace and strategy increased the further I progressed through the game. Deploying sub-groups of Pikmin with a single crew member allocated to different areas of the level enabled me to collect more fruit, unlock new areas, and achieve much more than with a single group of 100. It took me 14 hours (50 in game days) to complete the single game and when the I felled the final boss I felt a swarm of satisfaction which was immediately tainted as my final graph indicated a total of 1100 Pikmin had been killed on my watch. Heartbreaking.
With a lush synthesized orchestral score from Asuka Hayazaki running throughout the game, it was the end credits’ chorus of individual voices combined to create a Pikmin choir which emphasised that these tiny creatures were full of character and personality. We’d made it through this big adventure and I couldn’t have done it without them.
There are five different combinations of how to play the game to suit all tastes and equipment (Gamepad only, Gamepad + TV, Wiimote Motion Plus + Gamepad + TV, Wiimote Motion Plus + Nunchuk + TV, or finally the Pro Controller + TV). There wasn’t an obvious optimum way to play it, but there were slight differences. I played with the Gamepad + TV which lacked the pointability and direct targeting of the Wiimote but did offer the possibility of an overview map and enabled me to despatch individual subgroups crews to go to different parts of the map, completing multiple tasks at once. When playing one of the multiplayer missions with Tracey (we loved the Bingo Battle), I had the distinct advantage of being able to see on the Gamepad map where each of the necessary fruits were for a winning line whereas Tracey (on the Wiimote) had no such device or luxury. Great perhaps for providing balance if older or skilled gamers are pitched against younger or less experienced players who could make the most of the advantage and join in. There is heaps of replay value and the chance to hone abilities even further in the Mission Modes where I gathered fruit, battled enemies and re-defeated bosses (once unlocked). These distilled modes packed the essence of Pikmin 3 into 7-10 minute bouts of miniature warfare which tested my skills and appealed to my ultra competitive side whilst I tried to achieve the platinum medals in each of the areas.
In a game where most of my time was spent simply walking around or ordering Pikmin to carry fruit, it was the detail and consideration which Nintendo offered that was so rewarding; from the inventive names of enemies (Calcified Crushbat or Fiery Blowhog) and fruit (Insect Condo or Wayward Moon), to having to use all three space crew to access areas which are out of bounds to a single astronaut. There were also ten data files hidden across the game that provided a mysterious ten digit code which directed me to a secret website (viewable only through the Wii U browser)…
Pikmin 3 had a slightly dark underbelly with its tales of food shortages and loneliness out in space, but it was dripping with joy, was a unique pleasure to play and I’d consider this to be a must own title because there’s no other sci-fi game quite like it. If you haven’t got a Wii U yet, this is your whistle to fall in line.
Her Review with Tracey McGarrigan
For many progressive races and species, looking beyond the stars and dreaming up technology to break through the Exosphere in search of new horizons, alternative homelands, fresh resources and forms of life is not only a curious pastime but essential research as supplies slowly dwindle away back on terra forma. Sadly, the football-headed, pointy eared, stub nosed population of Koppai have already found their larders are worryingly bare and so Captain Charlie with his crew mates Alph and Brittany have boarded the good space ship Drake, in search of a new food supply. Their destination is outer space. 279,000 light years later, the trio have crash landed on planet PNF-404 (which looks and sounds and if we had smellovision, would probably smell just like Earth) and there’s a rustling in the long grass…
Waving at the stranded crew whilst happily lounging around in the undergrowth, high-pitched, clipped greetings cutely chimed out as the leafy Pikmin revealed themselves. Startled, Captain Charlie blew hard on his whistle (conveniently built into the helmet of his space suit), only to find that his shrill warning prompted a chain of Pikmins to form, dashing over to him and lining up to help out however they could. So began the delicate relationship between the Pikmin and crew that makes this title surprisingly emotional at times, difficult at others and joyful throughout.
Tromping through the world’s snowy banks or tropical gardens on a Honey I shrunk the Kids scale, the crew’s task was simple; find new sources of food to take back to their hungry home planet. Controlling their new Pikmin friends was easy with one whistle to group them together, another low whistle to disband them and a final one to attack en masse. All my crew member had to do was throw a loyal Pikmin at a target, be it a flower or a giant egg-shaped toad, and the little guy simply got on with the task of attacking and harvesting. With five families of Pikmin to choose from, each with their own unique ability, there were a huge variety of tasks to carry out in different ways, and planning was essential in order to avoid massive casualties. Blue Pikmins were able to troop underwater whilst Red Pikmins could take on firey enemies. Head-butting their way across the tundra, they worked together as they broke through walls and crystals, unblocked routes by shoving or digging, rebuilt broken bridges, harvested seeds to swell their Pikmin numbers, carried fallen enemies, uncovered technology, and found fruit to take back to base. Using the gamepad which perfectly offered an overview of the land, I could access extra research data about the environment, fruit stocks and creatures, instantly at the touch of a finger, as well as take the odd holiday snap. It’s a huge departure away from the accurate, pointed targeting of the Wiimote as seen in Pikmin 2 but I found it to be a more authentic experience as a space explorer, directly connected to the technology and the world.
Even with an army of cute roots at my instant disposal, foraging and survival was actually hard work, fraught with tension and often sadness. Should a non-blue Pikmin stray into water, they’d fizz with panic, crying out to be rescued and needing a calming yet sharp whistle to bring them to their senses. The ghostly signal that a Pikmin had fallen in battle, accompanied by a heart wrenching sigh if my crew member badly timed an attack was hard to witness. Without the help of the Pikmin, my crew simply wouldn’t survive. Being responsible for and simultaneously reliant on each the colourful creatures created a poignant relationship. I’d spent time carefully building up their numbers, and there was no way to complete the game without a strong army to call on, so each death, though sometimes unavoidable, was a blow against progress. The real challenge in Pikmin 3 was finding the balance between commanding and protecting the Pikmin within daylight hours, as the sun rolled along, ringing out quarterly alarms until the final sombre bell tolled as it began to set. Having to repair the ship, rescue crew mates when they get in a spot of bother, command, herd and protect the hard working servants, source food and allocate rations all proves that living in space is tough; a recurring theme in sci-fi titles, but unusual in a game aimed at a young audience. The pressure to find precious food to survive was always present and, as Ian experienced, failing to rally all the Pikmin up before the end of the day, knowing they would be left to the mercy of the monsters that only come out at night was a bitter pill to swallow as the little tin, pot-bellied spaceship floated up into the safety of the planet’s atmosphere every evening. On board, the discussions around new things learnt that day about the Pikmin, examinations of the fruit (with my favourite of Botanist Brittany’s descriptions being the lemon, A.K.A the Face Wrinkle “a fruit so sour that one bite makes my whole face want to climb into my mouth to pull it back out”) and the daily entry into the ship’s log is pure sci-fi for a wide audience and is brilliantly woven into the gameplay. How the science of survival is presented for little ones exploring the genre is perfect.
The most striking thing about Pikmin 3 is how majestic it makes outer space look as the good spaceship Drake sits against some beautiful, twinkling vistas. The land below is vivid and lush with intricate paths, shortcuts, hills and surprises in store whilst the marching bright celebratory music which rewards even small achievements like uncovering a datafile or an abandoned signal device is pleasantly rewarding. Elsewhere, the soundtrack during boss battles is thrilling. The stirring triumphant swell of music after defeating a gangly legged, or wavy winged, gigantic boss when it spilts open to reveal its spoils is majestic.
The Pikmin in this space adventure are bursting with personality. Despite their unfailing loyalty, they weren’t simply bug eyed lemmings, unwittingly and mutely following. Some got caught up on the way, many would shiver in terror when facing large enemies – which all have a distinctly traditional Japanese aesthetic with giant sagging mouths, goggly eyes, tattooed colour, fringes and whiskers – whilst others tooted a happy chirpy tune as they followed orders. They are remarkable creatures in a remarkable game that doesn’t hide the dark side of space exploration but makes every day of playing fun and more than worth the voyage.
Pikmin 3 is out now for the Nintendo Wii U. PEGI 7+