Game Review: Pikmin 3

The first of Nintendo’s heavy hitters has landed for the Wii U in Pikmin 3. But is it good enough to turn the young console’s fortunes around, or will Nintendo’s newest platform continue to struggle?From the moment Pikmin 3 begins, it is immediately obvious how stunningly beautiful it is. Too long have we waited for Nintendo’s franchises to make the leap into the HD era, and everything in Pikmin’s world exudes a rare personality. Its lush vegetation, colourful enemies, and cutesy protagonists refreshingly bring the world to life and ensure you feel a genuine attachment to its inhabitants. Never before had I winced at the thought of very replaceable Pikmin perishing under my control; yet testament to the game’s engagement, it’s hard to not feel guilty as their colourful ghosts briefly appear on screen after being squashed, eaten or burned during a tough battle.Much of this can be attributed to how seamlessly the gamepad’s features are integrated into the gameplay. While provided with a bevy of control options, the pro controller and Wii remote/nun chuck combination simply can’t compete with the ease and functionality of the gamepad. If you’ve been waiting for an example of the second screen’s true potential, this is it. Never overbearing or stacked with features for the sake of it, the integration of an interactive map, above all else, is what makes this the best Pikmin yet, and the eight-year wait since Pikmin 2 all the more worth it.Unlike previous entries in the series, you now control three protagonists simultaneously, and as such, have the ability to explore new areas and complete tasks at a much faster rate if you’re able to successfully manage your team on the gamepad’s touch-screen. While you can cart around all three in one big group, multitasking is the name of the game and you’re willingness to embrace it throughout the game’s 15-hour campaign determines how stimulating and engaging your experience is. It’s a delight to play and I found myself coming back on several occasions to collect fruit I had missed, simply for the enjoyment I found in interacting with its world.However, it is by no means perfect and the touchpad’s greatest strength can soon become a frustrating weakness. While they do show up on the television, enemies do not appear on the touch-screen. Consequently, I managed to plot a course through areas littered with bulborbs just waiting to decimate my pikmin stocks on several occasions. Yes, programming the Pikmin to automatically engage enemies would drastically decrease the game’s difficulty, yet it’s a much better alternative to them all dying helplessly. At any rate, the ability to command the Pikmin’s actions should have also been mapped to the touchscreen, rather than limited to a directional function. Further, on one occasion when commanding a troop of blue and yellow Pikmin, the course I plotted didn’t block the yellow Pikmin from travelling through water, dooming them to a watery death with a completed bridge mere meters away. While not a frequent occurrence, these control issues do hamper the experience.Pikmin’s enjoyment doesn’t stop after you’ve battled through all of its amazing bosses — enemy-based challenges —, offering two new game modes for players to test themselves. In a first for the series, a new ‘Challenge’ mode has been added in, in which you attempt to collect as much fruit as possible in a single day. While clearly designed for experienced players testing the skills they’ve acquired through the game’s campaign, it also provides new players with a place to practice before delving into the main story. It strikes a perfect balance and becomes extremely fun when the day is dying and you’re frantically trying to collect that one last piece of fruit to best your high score.The second of the two modes is a competitive multiplayer game named ‘Bingo Battle’. Players compete to collect and cross off specific fruits from their bingo cards to get four fruits in a row and win the game. It’s extremely fun, and the competition really starts to heat up once you begin to sabotage your opponents’ hopes by nabbing the last fruit they needed. Disappointingly, like a lot of Nintendo’s recent efforts, multiplayer is limited to local play. Pikmin is known as a single player experience; however, the simple addition of online play and a leader board displaying players’ win-loss ratio would have made this mode infinitely more robust.Pikmin 3 is a must have for any Wii U owner and a great introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the series. The integral part the gamepad plays in enhancing the gameplay experience, coupled with how expertly it is integrated, make this the first example of a game which would only work on the Wii U. If you don’t already own one and are excited by the Wii U’s upcoming line-up of software, then Pikmin 3 is the perfect reason to pick up the console.by Mark SantomartinoCourtesy of Radio Respawn, SYN Media

October 2nd 2013
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