Here’s Captain Olimar in the S.S. Dolphin 2, going through space on another journey. Of course, it seems like any time someone gives this guy the keys to a spaceship, he’s got to crash it in the middle of nowhere. Why does someone with this track record keep getting sent on missions if they always end in some calamity? Maybe they should send someone else?
Well they didn’t, and so we’re on another unknown planet. Luckily Pikmin live here, and Captain Olimar is just as good with using them as he is at wrecking spaceships! Well this time it seems they only ran out of fuel, or Sparklium as the game refers to it. Since he’ll need all the help he can get in refueling the S.S. Dolphin 2, it’s the Pikmin’s time to shine. In all seriousness, I’m a huge fan of the Pikmin games and was very excited to see what this 3DS game had in store, so let’s see how it turned out!
Hey! Pikmin differs from previous games in the series and you can tell right away by the 2D perspective. This game also mixes up the usual formula of gathering resources within a set amount of days by removing any deadline. The world is no longer a smattering of landing zones, but structured with more traditional levels which have a mostly linear flow. What’s interesting is that you still play the game in a style similar to the console games in that the Pikmin will be tossed all over the place to solve puzzles and get items out of reach.
I touched on this with a review of Miitopia, but as we were given boxed copies of these games I was able to check out the description on the back. Here, it shows players a kind of mini-tutorial of just how the game is played, so you know exactly what you’re getting into with Hey! Pikmin. In case you aren’t in a store or don’t have the box on hand, I’ll describe the gameplay quickly.
You directly control Captain Olimar by having him walk around with the D-pad or circle pad. The shoulder buttons will bring up a map that’s sometimes helpful, but all other gameplay happens with the touch screen. You can activate your Pikmin whistle to gather the little guys to Olimar, use a jetpack to float a short distance, and of course touch where you want to toss Pikmin in the level.
Tossing Pikmin is the majority of what you’ll be doing on the touch screen, and the controls work well. They only become cumbersome when you may have to perform actions quickly and if you’re like me that means you’re fumbling around turning your jetpack on and off by accident when you only mean to blow your whistle and call your Pikmin from danger.
I really didn’t know what to expect from Hey! Pikmin, but Olimar moves around well, and it’s lots of fun tossing Pikmin onto enemies or areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Over time, I even got the hang of holding my stylus on the touchscreen to position my target just right, instead of tapping in hopes of being in a general area. This was especially helpful in targeting enemies, of which the game is host to many.
My biggest frustration with Hey! Pikmin is two-fold. The first issue is probably due to my lack of skill, but I felt that throwing Pikmin at enemies could sometimes lead to a misfire and then loss of a Pikmin just because I overshot and he touched the enemy while running back to Olimar. This is frustrating because certain environments or items require a number of Pikmin to push or lift an object, and if you’re short even by one, you’ll need to restart the area or come back later.
The game isn’t that long and I’m a completionist, so I would get hung up on losing a Pikmin at the tail end of a level and having to replay the whole thing just to see all that there is to see. Some people might enjoy replaying levels, as you can get special icons for not losing any Pikmin or finding all major sources of Sparklium. It’s no fun when you’re going back because you got screwed out of full marks by your own stupidity or an enemy sneaking up on your gang.
The other thing that bogs down Hey! Pikmin is all the stuff between the actual levels. You’ll get messages about what’s happening in Pikmin Park, which should be called Pikmin Hell since it’s a farming map where Pikmin go once they’re done helping in a level. Any time you bring Pikmin to this area, the game insists on showing small unskippable cutscenes of new Pikmin entering, and then repeating the same messages any time a resource has been mined.
This otherwise happens in the background, but you always have to go through this slog to actually acquire your resources. Usually it’s just a matter of a Pikmin type having spent the last few days digging up about 10 Sparklium. Great! Only 29,990 more to go!
And I’m not making that up. Nintendo decided an arbitrary number, say… 30,000 Sparklium, should be enough fuel to get off the planet. This is a strange way of charting your adventure, and feels tacked on for the sake of being like other Pikmin games. Oh well, at least there’s no grinding.
The overworld map has hidden and special areas with more action-based gameplay or interesting levels. These are fun diversions, but I keep noticing amiibo levels on there, too. Since I don’t collect amiibo and the one for Hey! Pikmin wasn’t sent over, I didn’t play those. Nintendo says you can reveal secret spots and solve touchscreen puzzles, but that’s pretty vague and I don’t feel like I’m missing out. The game feels otherwise complete, but if you have the compatible Pikmin amiibo, go for it!
I really enjoyed the music and look of the game. I even pulled up a few levels to listen to the charming soundtrack while I did other things, like writing this review! The 3DS speakers do the job, but you’ll definitely want to use headphones if you can. My favorite area might be Area 5 which has a harvest or fall look to it. I wish more games had seasonal art direction like this.
Hey! Pikmin was surprisingly more fun than I expected it to be, although I can’t really say what I expected. It plays at a quicker pace than it might let on, and keeps a lot of the mainstays of how Pikmin plays on consoles but without sacrificing the fun of a 2D game. I also like how the story is directed less toward Captain Olimar trying to get off the planet and more toward cute cutscenes that show how playful and silly the Pikmin are. This is a great diversion and I’m glad Nintendo is still experimenting with franchises, but after spending my brief time with Hey! Pikmin, I’m more ready than ever to see a Pikmin 4.