#486 Pikmin

Posted: 11th June 2018 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

700th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: Gamecube
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo

Another landmark! 700 already. I mean, this is 7 years in the making, but we’re getting closer all the time.

At this point, there are some game series I really need to start – multiple entries where I haven’t played any. This is not on purpose – just how it goes sometimes – but we wanted to make sure we actually covered them on time. Pikmin is a Gamecube addition to the Nintendo line up, one where you guide these cute Pikmin creatures to repair your spaceship and get out. So far, I’ve mostly seen this through Nintendoland, which had a minigame based on it, but I want to see how it plays out.

Our Thoughts

Consoles have always struggled with setting up strategy games the way the PC does, one where you can play with a large number of units and have the large scale battles from Command & Conquer or even Warcraft – one where a double digit number of units or ore work out the fight and building up an army matters. Without mouse select, how do you split and order units. This is, to be fair, a problem that seems to be solved by now, but I’ve yet to experience it in all its solutions.

Pikmin, to its credit, has created a good solution. You play professor Olimar, a space traveller who has landed on an unknown planet and found these plant creatures called Pikmin. They grow like seeds, with the help of a hive, and when you pick them they will follow you. You can give them limited orders, mostly by throwing them at things to pick up, fight or otherwise manipulate. Some coloured ones have extra abilities (like exploding, which does sound horrible) and so you get the three basic ‘units’.

You lead them around the level. They will follow you unless you store them in their hive, or leave them waiting while it’s convenient to have less around. That last bit also happens when they get stuck behind something, which means you need to be careful with the swarms that follow you. This is even more important because, as night falls, you go to bed and any Pikmin that aren’t safe with you will disappear and die. It’s an interesting mechanic that forces you to pay a lot of attention… and do a sweep of the area just before you go to bed.

What makes it difficult, though, is that the controls to control Pikmin aren’t always great. Most important, while the colour Pikmin you use for different tasks matters, you cannot select which one you throw. You just use whichever one is the nearest, which isn’t great if you slightly move and get a bomb in rather than your tenth standard one. It really stands in the way and nearly lost me just about everything and creates a giant management chore instead to get it right. With the time limit present – yeah, that is thing here too – the time pressure makes the time you need to sort this even more frustrating. A single button hookup could have sorted this and it baffles me this wasn’t done before.

Final Thoughts

These control niggles undermine what’s a fun strategy game. When you get the chance to explore, there are a lot of things to discover and track down and a number of nice, simple puzzles that stand in your way – the big step is to get enough Pikmin there. I wish I could play it slightly more sandboxxy, slightly more focused on strategy and exploring, but here it has a solid enough game.

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