Pikmin 4 Review – Dandori all the things!

Pikmin 4 Review – Dandori all the things!

If you’re new to Pikmin, the marketing and box art might understandably suggest that this series is some sort of farming or gardening simulator. In fact, Pikmin is Nintendo’s take on the real-time strategy genre (with a sprinkle of puzzle solving) and has been a fan favourite since it’s original inception on the GameCube in 2001.

Over the years, the overall plot of the Pikmin games have stayed relatively similar and the newest release on the Nintendo Switch is no exception. You control a human-looking space traveler that accidentally crashes into planet PNF-404 (which is totally not Earth). You soon befriend an army of sprouts called Pikmin that loves nothing more than mindlessly obeying your every order.

Command and Conquer

You command your army of Pikmin to carry all sorts of mysterious treasures back to your spaceship or send them to bravely risk their lives to fend of dangerous creatures. Pikmin come in different colours and each has its own strengths and weaknesses that can be employed to solve puzzles to get your ship up and running again.

Pikmin has always focused on optimising your in-game day to get tasks done. Players should always aim to take the most efficient approach by sending the best Pikmin to do the job or by prioritising certain tasks – you want to ensure that you never have a bunch of Pikmin lazing about. Pikmin 4 builds upon this idea by teaching the world about the Japanese word Dandori, which is the art of completing daily tasks in an organised and effective manner.

Pikmin 4 plays very similar to previous entries but adds a couple of new mechanics and features. The biggest change is the introduction of a dog-like companion called Oatchi that can also be ordered to attack, carry items and treasure, or just serve as the player’s mount.

We also see two new Pikmin species in Pikmin 4, namely the Ice Pikmin and Glow Pikmin, the latter which is only accessible in a rather limited tower defence subgame that plays out at night.

Easy Peasy

I’m a big believer that games shouldn’t gatekeep, but in order to make Pikmin 4 more accessible to new audiences, it has fallen into the trap of making the game too easy for long term fans or strategy game enthusiasts. In previous titles, there was a definite sense of urgency by limiting the total amount of in-game days to complete the game.

There’s also a new instant, penalty free rewind option that lets players backtrack to various states in a section. Pikmin 4 also adds a whole bunch of game-breaking upgrades and gadgets that unlocks as you progress through the game.

One could argue that there’s some challenge in collecting the platinum medals in the new Batlle and Dandori challenge modes, but the passing score to clear these levels remain stupidly low. It feels like the game’s balance is off – the risk-reward tradeoff for completing last minute tasks as the threat of nighttime draws closer is removed simply because there’s no penalty for not completing the task in the first place.

With all that said, Pikmin 4 has become a more relaxed game which might resonate with the right audience. As with any flagship Nintendo title, the game is well polished and there’s incredible attention to detail. Pikmin are expressive and it’s a joy to watch them goof off or listen to them sing the Pikmin 2 theme song while working.

The Switch does show its age with the artstyle but at least it does so without dropping any frames.

Verdict: ✪✪✪ (Good)

Pikmin 4 is a solid entry in the series with loads of new content and interesting levels but might not challenge its loyal fan base enough.

 Poor (0-5) ✪✪ Mediocre (6-7) ✪✪✪ Good (8) ✪✪✪✪ Great (9) ✪✪✪✪✪ Must-play! (10)