Seven years ago, The Pokémon Company took a bold shift in their games releasing the first Detective Pikachu on the Nintendo 3DS. They had taken their beloved mascot and gave them a bit of a makeover. We were introduced to this human talking, caffeine reliant Pikachu with an attitude. The very familiar Pokémon gameplay was replaced by a more Ace Attorney/Professor Layton style of problem solving. After the release of a very successful movie in 2018 and a cliffhanger at the very end of the first Detective Pikachu game, Tim and his electric partner return on the case.
Detective Pikachu picks up a few years after the end of the previous game. You are Tim Goodman, a start up Detective looking for his missing father Harry. Tim and Detective Pikachu are also dealing with the fallout of the R incident, which involved drugs changing Pokémon behaviors, sending them into unnatural fits of sporadic rage, and it continues to hamper Ryme city. Tim and Detective Pikachu go on a quest to help these Pokémon and continue the search for Tim’s missing father. If you have never played the original 3DS game, it introduces you with a quick recap of the first game’s events and familiarizes you with the controls from the first game.
The gameplay is very similar to its 3DS prequel. You maneuver around various locations throughout Ryme City, including temples, fields and various cityscapes, interacting with every human and Pokémon to flesh out the world and give it some personality. You are able to communicate with other Pokémon with the help of Detective Pikachu, who plays translator when you’re trying to gather clues for your case. Once you have gotten enough clues, it is time to solve the mystery by deducing your facts and identifying your culprit. You can wrap things up by successfully guessing a series of multiple choice questions, which feels repetitive after a while.
New to Detective Pikachu is his ability to team up with other Pokémon to use their abilities to help him solve crimes. You will be using these Pokémon to sniff out trails, break a boulder in the way of a path you have to go on. Just like in the first game, Detective Pikachu is powerless.
One of the biggest missed opportunities in Detective Pikachu Returns is the lack of Switch-specific features, for example, you have to use your pad cursor and press A. There is also a very heavy reliance on quick time events. On the visual side of the things, this game looks like a very early Switch title and not one being released in 2023. That does not take away from the games biggest strength and that is its story, which is wonderful, funny and witty, and I found myself laughing a few times at the way Detective Pikachu would emote.
For me Detective Pikachu Returns was very easy, but I could see the appeal to a younger audience, looking for more different Pokémon content. I would like to play in this world of Pokémon again, and if they improve on what they have now, I can see this franchise could have some longevity.
Note: Nintendo provided us with a Detective Pikachu Returns for review purposes.