Posted 05 Nov 2002 at 11:18 by Javid
Meet the Pikmin. Small, iddy-biddy sized creatures sprouted from the ground. Weird? You better believe it, but this game is one that should not be judged by its cover, underneath it all lies a compelling puzzle like adventure that you simply cannot afford to miss. Not convinced? Let Mr. Miyamoto work his magic and bask in the result…
Crash landing on an un-heard of strange planet after an unforeseeable collision with a meteor, you control Captain Olimar in a desperate search to recover as many of the 30 ship parts lost from the crash as you can. They are scattered across many different locations and are required in order to revive the burnt out Dolphin ship and return home to your family. And so, your quest begins, and before long you meet your first new little helper… that you call, a Pikmin.
Nothing short of incredible, the graphics do reach a very satisfying level. Water glistens as the sun sets, single individual blades of grass sway in the wind and glorious plants and surroundings are all craftily animated reacting to you are your pikmins movement. The game features 3 camera levels, zoom in to the closest view and the graphics are more visibly impressive, solid and unbelievably realistic. The pikmin themselves are well animated, their tiny eyes blink and they sway their heads in a loving manor. Aww, they're so cute!
Squeaky chirps from the Pikmin add to their lovable charm and growls from monstrous predators that inhabit the planet as they squirm to their deaths are all pleasing to hear. Other than that there isn't really much to say about sound. The themes played through the levels are very tranquil and easy going, enough to keep you gazed and involved in the game as countless hours whittle away though.
In a world of its own really, the general idea is that the Pikmin abide you every command. You can throw them up on bugs, on flowers, by walls etc and when you do they will automatically start bashing their little heads against them in order to diminish them. You start off with one red Pikmin, and by chopping down flowers with it, small 'pelets' drop out which when your Pikmin has got a hold of, he will carry back to its 'Onion' or in over words, its home. Once retrieved it will create more Pikmin planted into the ground. Once they sprout, you can pull them out, and begin building your army! Not only pelets can be carried back though, once you have enough Pikmin to kill bugs their dead corpses can also be carried back to base and soon you'll have hefty amount of Pikmin ready to start collecting lost ship parts. Its here where the core of the game really is as it's your goal to find and carry these parts back to your ship using your new little friends; In doing so you'll encounter larger enemies and be faced with a number of obstacles ranging from water hazards to walls to overcome. Further through your adventure you'll be introduced to 2 different types of Pikmin, yellow and blue. Yellow Pikmin can be tossed higher meaning they are great in reaching peak locations where ship parts have landed and they are also the only type that can carry and use bombs. The blue Pikmin are the only type that can resist water meaning they are key to reaching a lot of areas the others can't. Red Pikmin are the strongest however and best for battle. This is how the puzzle element is set in place and by using your skill and Pikmin characteristic knowledge, reaching ship parts becomes a very enjoyable yet head scratching task. Recover a ship part and have your Pikmin latch onto it so they can carry it back to your ship…keep an eye on them though as they might get stuck behind un-passable objects, or even get attacked! Add in too the fact that you can only have a maximum of 100 Pikmin in the field and serious planning needs to be done on the action you take!
Before long you will grow much attached to your collection of Pikmin. Just feel the pain the first time a bunch of Pikmin get chewed and spat out by a giant bug, the first time a bunch of red or yellow Pikmin begin drowning in water and you are unable to save them, their cries just pierce right through you. It's amazing how the game has been created so that you will do all in your power to help them survive.
The game is based over 30 days as the amount of vital living supplies Captain Olimar has left can only last that long. Co- incidence then that there are 30 parts! Days last about 15 mins in real time so how you take to the game depends on how you want to do it. You can either put all your eggs in one basket trying to get as many parts in a day as possible or you can stick to the steady one-a-day limit and concentrate on building a larger army of Pikmin. Going all out is most fun, and what's really impressive is that you can get your Pikmin working all over the place on multiple jobs. You could have a bunch of reds destroying a wall up north whilst have a bunch of blues rolling out a bridge down south whilst you keep command of some yellows gathering bombs to blast away a solid wall! Construct your time well, and it becomes possible to retrieve, 2/3 maybe even 4 parts in one day! Keeping in mind where and what your Pikmin are doing is very important as enemies are always on the prowl, if they catch sight of un-watched Pikmin, say goodbye. You can see how the game is very involving by this and how it's a joy to play, the sense of achievement after successfully recovering a ship part is one that has to be experienced to be believed. You'll feel very proud if you manage to get all 30.
The bosses bring the game to another level of enjoyment too, and it's at the foot of these at which your Pikmin will fall victims. Dead victims. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but battling the many bosses requires true tactical play, you can't always just rush in and attack. One particularly intriguing boss actually unleashes an evil substance that turns your Pikmin against you! They'll chase and no doubt hurt you; it's funny yet at the same time painful! Many classic moments like this are just waiting to be experienced and marveled at. Not only the bosses though, all the Pikmin eating predators are great to battle, and a huge amount of fun killing them and carrying their bodies back to base. Suckers!
The locations also need a special mention as they are expectedly huge and each one is home to different predators and bosses.
Your Pikmin can also be made to grow stronger too. By discovering 'nectar', a yellow liquid either dug up from the ground or relinquished from a plant, your Pikmin grow through stages, to a bud…and then onto a full-bloomed flower. Once a flower they become stronger and faster. Its all added spice into the mix of what is a genius game, even if it doesn't sound like it, to play it is to love it. Believe me.
Fairly simple to control, A to throw, B to call back, X to organize and the C-stick to charge! Great fun. Once better acquainted with the controls, you'll find that you can touch a Pikmin who's not in your command to get them as your front lead man and the one you will use next, then calling other types to follow behind. A tactic required when you need a yellow bomber to cause damage to an enemy before charging in with the tailing reds. Very intriguing.
Simple yet mastering having Pikmin on jobs all across a location will take time to get to grips with. To fully enjoy the game you really do have to live on the edge a little and get you Pikmin doing as much as possible and doing so is nicely implemented. The Pikmin know exactly what to do once you put them in the right place so you can just leave them to it. Bless!
Sometimes the camera can be a nuisance but only at very rare occasions. I do have one other slight complaint and that is, the paths to some parts are too similar. Knocking down yet another wall can get very annoying and after treacherous fighting through enemies to reach a part only realizing you need a whole bunch of bombs…again to blow up another wall can be a real pain, especially as bombs are very sparse and hard to find. Picky yes, but it has to be said.
Possibly the games major draw back this. With only 30 days lasting near enough 15 mins, you do the math. Not an epic sized game really especially considering that most of you will complete the game in less than 30 days anyway. There are however 3 different endings which tries to get you to play through it again, but playing the game through twice is probably the limit. Playing it the second time round though I have to say it's a lot more enjoyable. You take more risks, you know where the parts are and what you are going to face so planning is easier and you are a lot more successful. After that though, there's nothing other than the Challenge mode to keep you interested which is based on one day to see how many Pikmin you can sprout; It's fun yes, but not as fun as the main game.
It's hard to put across just how inventive, original and amazing this game is, you really do have to play it in order to see what all the fuss is about. Its length is a slightly worrying factor but it's not that bad, after all its quality not quantity and this game is quality in leaps and bounds. Yet another master piece from the creative, yet crazy mind of Mr. Miyamoto himself. We salute you!
N-Europe Final Verdict
A fine example of how a game can be different yet still be amazing experience. Buy it, play it, love it. You know you want to.