Hey! Pikmin (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Captain Olimar returns once again in this 2D puzzle-platforming entry in Nintendo's popular Pikmin series.
Representing something of a departure from the first three Pikmin games on the Gamecube, Wii and Wii U, Hey! Pikmin is an action/puzzle platformer featuring series protagonist Captain Olimar who has, yet again, managed to crash-land his spaceship on a hostile alien planet and has to collect 30,000 'Sparklium' to get home. As luck would have it however, the Pikmin are on-hand to save the day.

The graphics here are attractive, with subtle watercolor-style backgrounds and sharp, colorful sprites. Oddly though, despite being on the 3DS, the game offers no stereoscopic 3D at all. Sound-wise, the game delivers too, offering a number of pleasing musical numbers and sound effects to accompany Olimar's journey.

There is no denying however that the Pikmin themselves are the stars of the show. These cute little helpers, which follow Olimar around and can be used to attack enemies, pick up items and solve simple puzzles, run to his side when he blows his whistle. There are several different types - red Pikmin that are immune to fire, blue Pikmin that can go underwater, yellow Pikmin that can interact with electrical obstacles, rock Pikmin that can smash crystals and flying Pikmin that enable you to float.

The game is separated in to eight main areas containing five regular stages, a secret stage and a number of bonus stages in each. Between stages, the player has access to an area dubbed 'Pikmin Park' in which Pikmin brought back from each stage congregate and can be assigned to search for valuable items in environments suited to their particular specialities.

The Sparklium that Olimar needs to collect can be obtained either in the form of direct pickups or through the collection of special treasures which are essentially common household items worth a certain amount of Sparklium each. Stages have between two and four of these and much of the game involves solving the simple environmental puzzles to gain access to them. There are also a few one-room puzzles accessable from the area map and boss fights which also drop items worth a significant amount of Sparklium.

The puzzles themselves are predominantly straightforward. Most involve having the Pikmin pull down a vine, stand on a pressure pad, build a bridge, stamp out fires or other basic tasks. There are a few more tricky puzzles in the game, mostly involving navigating the environment in a certain way, but overall this is certainly not a taxing game and is well suited to younger audiences.

One minor complaint concerns the fact that, upon reaching a crossroads in a stage, it is often impossible to know which direction might hold an item to collect and which will lead you down a one-way path to the exit. What this means is that you will often need to replay stages in order to collect everything rather than playing each stage once and grabbing everything while you are there.

Another aspect of the game that can be frustrating is the way Pikmin are lost if you accidentally leave them behind. Sometimes a Pikmin will simply stop following or become stuck without you realizing it. The Pikmin counter at the top of the screen flashes red to indicate that this has happened, but sometimes you will never be able to return to pick up the missing Pikmin before an invisible timer expires and he simply dies offscreen.

Completionists who are attempting to 100% every stage without losing any Pikmin will find this particularly frustrating, as will those trying to obtain items which require a specific number of Pikmin to pick up or access. It can be irritating to reach the final treasure in a stage only to find you are one Pikmin short and are faced with replaying the whole stage from the beginning.

Those issues aside however, Hey! Pikmin is a worthy addition to the 3DS library and a fun little game for fans of the Pikmin series. It might not be quite what everyone was hoping for, especially with talk of a fourth entry in the main series currently in development, but the developers have certainly done a good job converting the core concepts of the series to a two-dimensional format.

If you can get your hands on this one, it's well worth a playthrough.