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Pikmin 4 | Critical Consensus

Critics praise quality of life improvements and new features in Pikmin's return to form

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The recent release of Pikmin 4 has been highly awaited among fans of new and old, with many relishing in the idea of collecting trinkets and admiring cute creatures.

Since its debut on the GameCube in 2001, the Pikmin franchise has spawned four main title games and two spin-offs. Pikmin 4 has been in the works since 2015, and the wait has certainly paid off. At the time of writing, the game has a Metacritic score of 87 out of 74 reviews, matching that of its predecessor Pikmin 3, released on the Wii U in 2013.

In their 9/10 review for Nintendo Life, PJ O'Reilly noted that as a franchise, Pikmin "has never quite managed to establish a proper foothold in what could be considered the mainstream gaming space." However, it has long been a prized jewel in the crown of lifelong fans like IGN's Jada Griffin, who said her "heart grew two sizes" the day she picked up the latest Pikmin title.

"While the earliest hours started out slower than I would have liked, it reminded me of an onion - in the best kind of way - in that every layer I peeled back added more and more depth, eventually growing into the best version of the idea at the heart of it," Griffin wrote in her 9/10 review of the game.

The tides are changing for the Pikmin franchise, but that's not to say that Nintendo has strayed far from its original story.

In typical Pikmin fashion, you're dropped on an Earth-like planet after a crash landing. But this time, players take on the role of a recently recruited member of the Rescue Corps and are tasked with rescuing Captain Olimar.

Unlike the stressful nature of the previous Pikmin titles, "there's no limit to the number of days you have to finish the story like in the original, nor is there any threat of running out of supplies," Griffin explained in her review. Pikmin 4 is "more of a casual rescue mission than a race against the clock."

"The Pikmins have never been so full of life and character. They react to pretty much every scenario that’s presented in entertaining ways"PJ O'Reilly

The Pikmins "have never been so full of life and character," as O'Reilly wrote in his review, adding that "they react to pretty much every scenario that's presented in entertaining ways" - including two new variants: Ice and Glow Pikmins. However, the element that stuck out to most reviewers was Oatchi.

This dog helps wrangle the Pikmin and has his own abilities to aid in exploration and combat, which can be upgraded as players progress through the game. The general consensus is that Oatchi is an all-around good boy who deserves every bone he can find.

Nintendo has geared Pikmin 4 towards newcomers to the series with mascots like Oatchi and the ability to customise characters for the first time. But it's added several quality-of-life improvements to satisfy fans as well.

One such addition is the Rewind ability, which allows players to select a previously saved state or loop back to the beginning of the day to retrace their steps or save Pikmin that have sadly fallen in battle.

Griffin said this feature provides a way to "improve your efficiency", and VG47's Alex Donaldson, who gave the game four out of five stars, highlighted that the function "lets you experiment its most devilish challenges without having to engage in a soul-crushing grind to get more Pikmin" under time constraints.

Another novelty is being able to explore the various maps in multiple ways, whether on the surface, in underground caves (first introduced in Pikmin 2), or at night during Night Time Expeditions. The latter can only be achieved on specific maps, where players are tasked with defending a structure known as the Lumiknoll using only Glow Pikmin.

While O'Reilly called this aspect a "nice addition to the overall flow of proceedings," Elliot Attard expressed disappointment in his 7/10 review for Checkpoint Gaming. "The big problem here is how frequently you need to do them," he wrote, adding that the Night Time Expeditions felt "incredibly inefficient, taking a whole night to only obtain one resource."

He continued: "It's a bit of a slog and a bottleneck toward the end of the game. It's also inelegantly tacked on, rather than a natural part of the day/night cycle."

Griffin agreed somewhat but realised that "around the midway point of the campaign they added some new terrifying creatures and secondary points to defend, finally introducing the complexity and enemy variety" that was needed earlier on.

Alongside Night Time Expeditions are the Dandori Trials, a mode that became a significant highlight for reviewers like O'Reilly. He described this battle mode as "an absolute blast" where "facing off against a human opponent makes for surprisingly ferocious, and often hilarious encounters, where organising your troops, utilising lots of silly powers, and getting down to some good old tug of wars over treasures is the order of the day."

"Dandori Trials are perfectly built escape rooms that offer the time pressure the main game mostly forgoes"Emily Price

In her unrated review for Polygon, Emily Price found the Dandori Trials challenging but in a good way. "Unlike the combat encounters, these trials are fresh and intense, and were my favourite part of the game," she said, describing them as "perfectly built escape rooms that offer the time pressure the main game mostly forgoes."

Speaking of combat, Price felt distracted by the repetitive nature of it.

"Combat usually comes down to just overwhelming the enemy with Pikmin," she wrote, which has carried over from previous Pikmin games. "It gets repetitive when the solution to many puzzles in the later stages is just winning a fight."

There was an opportunity for the combat to be spiced up with a highly interactive co-op mode, but this is where Pikmin 4 fell flat for most reviewers. In her review, Griffin described the game's co-op as more of an "assist mode" like that of Cappy in Super Mario Odyssey.

Despite admitting that it's "a bit of a letdown for anyone wanting to play through with a friend or significant other," Griffin acknowledged that "it will be great for allowing kids to help out a parent or older sibling."

Checkpoint Gaming's Allard wasn't quite as optimistic, describing the co-op (or lack thereof) as "awkwardly implemented" and "just a straight-up downgrade when compared to offerings in the past. It's an unfortunate thorn in what is an otherwise blossoming game."

"Pikmin 4 is a shining example of what Nintendo's talented developers can do by taking a step back, simply analysing and improving what already exists"Alex Donaldson

While not being a tentpole franchise for Nintendo, Pikmin 4 has certainly wowed reviewers like Donaldson, who called the game a "shining example of what Nintendo's talented developers can do by taking a step back, simply analysing and improving what already exists."

Even though it may not have been as challenging to some, like Griffin noted in her review, "with twice as many enemy types and nearly four times the amount of hidden treasures" than the past games, she "just couldn't put it down until finishing everything it had to offer.

And on a more poignant note, Price concluded that Pikmin 4 "looks at life on Earth from an optimistic perspective.

"What if advanced alien explorers found joy and usefulness in what we have here - not in our greatest technologies, but in the bits and bobs we forget about in the course of a regular day?" she pondered. "I felt drawn to collect all the treasure in Pikmin 4 not just because I wanted to fill out one of my many checklists, but because I wanted to see the game's reinterpretations of human objects, a catalogue of jokes but also deep appreciation.

"And in this way, Pikmin 4 accomplishes maybe the best thing a piece of media can do - it makes the real world seem more wondrous than it did before."

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Sophie McEvoy avatar
Sophie McEvoy: Sophie McEvoy is a Staff Writer at GamesIndustry.biz. She is based in Hampshire and has been a gaming & entertainment journalist since 2018.
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