Review: Pikmin 2
Posted 14 Oct 2004 at 04:10 by James
It's a few minutes until sunset, the final rays of golden sunlight shining across the landscape. You've sent a squad of bluePikmin through a pool of glistening water to retrieve a new treasure on the opposite bank. A couple of Purples arecarrying pellets ten times their size. You send your companion off with a team of Reds to break down a wall, andyou're heading back to your Onion with the rest of your miniature army. And that's when the giant bird bursts fromthe ground...
This is the world of the Pikmin - a sparkling, surreal, magical world teeming with all sorts of weird and wonderfulcreatures - from the tiniest Pikmin to the giant Bulborbs. It's a world of beauty, with gorgeous, expansive environmentsbrimming with life. And it's a world of danger, with enemies waiting to devour your army lurking in seemingly empty spaces. If you've played the original Pikmin, chances are you'll feel right at home with Pikmin 2 - but although the changes made for the sequel are very subtle, after a few hours you won't know how you did without them the first timeround. The game looks very similar on the outside - but start playing, and you'll discover a whole new adventure. And if you're new to the Pikmin world, may I be the first to welcome you. You're in for a gaming experience like no other - likeonly Nintendo can deliver.
As mentioned, if you've played the original Pikmin, you'll know exactly how things work in Pikmin 2 - the controls are moreor less exactly the same, as is the general aim of the game. However, if you haven't played Pikmin before, then the game worksas follows: you control a squad of little plant men (predictably called Pikmin) and spend each day in the game finding treasure(which your Pikmin brings back to your ship), defeating enemies and collecting pellets (both of which can be brought back to thePikmin's 'Onion', which creates new Pikmin). You can have up to 100 Pikmin in your squad at the same time, and you need to thinkcarefully about how to accomplish each task. You see, there are five different types of Pikmin (two new to the sequel). Each hasdifferent abilities, and they are handily listed below:
Red Pikmin: Flame resistant, strong fighters.
Yellow Pikmin: Electricity resistant, lightweight, bomb carriers.
Blue Pikmin: Water resistant.
Purple Pikmin: Ten times stronger than other types, heavy enough to stun monsters.
White Pikmin: Immune to poison, poisonous, can dig for treasure!
All for One and One for All...:
During the course of the game as you discover these Pikmin and start building up your miniature battalion, you'll have to think about how best to exploit the character traits of your Pikmin. This element of the gameplay is helped by the huge (and stunning) levels, as mostof each level is often hidden away by a poison gas cloud or a pool of water, and you'll need certain types of Pikmin to cross these barriers and discover new elements of the level. Indeed, discovery plays a huge part in the game, and there's a huge amount of fun to be had in exploring unknownterritory, hunting for new treasures and discovering new enemies. What makes your adventure even more enjoyable are the Pikmin themselves.Though very small, each of them are wonderfully animated and seem to have their own personalities - some being clumsier than others, for example.
All the little traits of the Pikmin make you actually care about your army. You'll genuinely feel sadness when fifteen of your Pikmin are caughtin the beak of a giant bird, or accidentally lead a few Red Pikmin into a pool. You'll watch helplessly as your little soldiers, who have followedyou valiantly and without question, obeying your every command, are killed because you made a mistake. You'll feel you let them down. And in a game where you control 100 of these little guys at a time, to cause a player such emotion for a tiny vegetable man is quite anachievement by Nintendo.
Aside from the new Pikmin then, what other improvements can we find in Pikmin 2? Well, the introduction of Olimar's companion Louie meansthat with a simple tap of the Y button you can control your partner and send him off with a team of Pikmin to do another task. This opens up whole new possibilities, making the multitasking element more prominent than in the first games. For example, while Olimar and a group of yourPikmin are taking fallen enemies back to the Onion, you can send Louie with another squad to open up new pathways in the level. The addition of a second characters cleverly enables you to get more done in each day, allowing you to organise your time more effectively.
That said, time constraints are not much of a problem now. Remember in the first Pikmin where you had 30 days to complete your mission? You can kiss that goodbye, because this time round you have as many days as you want to collect your treasure, which increases the lifespan of the game (one of the complaints of the original). However, like in the previous game you cannot work at night, so you have to get as much done as you can before nightfall, lest any Pikmin you leave behind get eaten by the nocturnal enemies.
Thar Be Monsters:
Speaking of enemies, the rather meager ten-odd different species of foe in the first game has been replaced with a massive sixty different beasts, all huge,full of character, and ready to chew on your Pikmin - unless you do something about it. As mentioned before, taking vanquished foes back to the Onions increase the size of your army, with the Onion it's brought to creating new Pikmin of that colour. Like the Pikmin themselves, each species of enemy, and indeed each individual foe, has its own personality and charm, and it almost makes you regret murdering them with a vicious swarm of Red Pikmin. Almost.
While there's an abundance of enemies on the surface of the Pikmin world, like the game itself, there's more to the environment than meets they eye. During your quest for treasure you will come across caves, which you'll find contain a substantial amount of treasure - and a whole lot more monsters. Down here you'll also find flowers which can be used to create White and Purple Pikmin by throwing other Pikmin into it (sadly, Whites and Purples have no Onion of their own). The underground cave sections are divided into several floors, each with usually a couple of pieces of treasure, and a good few baddies between you and it. On the final floor there is generally a boss character to battle for an extra special bounty (but I won't spoil it for you). An interesting element of the caves is that time stands still while you are inside them - meaning you can take your time down there, and when you return to the surface with your remaining Pikmin you will be at the same point you left at. However, I say 'remaining' Pikmin because while you're down in the caves, you can't grow new Pikmin, meaning you're stuck with the squad you take down with you - so make sure you bring a lot of them. Being caves and all, they aren't as pleasing to the eye as the quite frankly beautiful outside environments, but they still aren't exactly an eyesore.
That about sums up the single player mode - time to cover a major new addition to Pikmin 2...
Yes, Pikmin 2 supports two player gaming as well as the meaty single player quest. Playing with a mate, you have one of two choices - one of these being the superb Challenge mode, which is an astounding 30 levels of co-operative goodness (as opposed to tackling the single player game together). These 30 challenges range from limiting you with a time limit to a certain amount of Pikmin, and are tremendous fun if you have an eager mate to hand. But are you after something more...competitive? If so, look no further, as the second of Pikmin 2's multiplayer modes is the head to head mode. This involves you raising an army of Pikmin and being the first to capture five marbles and bring them back to base before your opponent, or alternatively capturing their team marble, which wins you the game instantly if you succeed in taking it back to base. With some crazy, fun power-ups thrown into the mix as well, two player head-to-head is brilliant, brilliant fun, and will keep you playing long after the single player is done and dusted (and given the size of the single player game, it will take a fair while). The multiplayer modes thankfully increase the lifespan of Pikmin 2 by a considerable amount, and aren't just a simple add-on.
This game is a true gem. Start playing and it will suck you into the Pikmin world's gorgeous environments and exciting, highly enjoyable gameplay. Nintendo have taken the strategy genre into a whole new direction, and the result is an absolutely stunning experience that will make you sad to see it end. And even when you've completed the single player game a couple of months down the line, you'll keep returning for the multiplayer. This is the kind of game that may well be ignored by the mass market, but you'd be a fool to dismiss this - it's a huge amount of fun, full of that magical gameplay you can only expect from Nintendo, and one of the best games on the GameCube.
N-Europe Final Verdict
This game is a sparkling diamond in a sea of dull third-party titles. Buy this game.
A true joy to play
Won't appeal to all