Survival with the help of small plant-like creatures.
Most of us already know what Pikmin are – strange little helpful creatures with leaves or flowers growing out of their heads. They have different uses depending on their colour, and are essential to survival on an alien planet. But don’t panic if you have never experienced these creatures before, because Pikmin 3 is a journey of discovery.
The first discovery for many players of Shigeru Miyamoto’s creation may well be a new found interest in the Wii U console. Let’s face it, Nintendo’s spanky new piece of kit appears to have been floundering since launch and is in great need of a healthy injection of awesome titles. Well, that injection is on the way, with Pikmin 3 being the first dose designed to bring the Wii U back to health. It may not be the biggest title on the way, but for fans of the series who have been waiting nine years for something new, it is no less welcome.
The planet Koppai is running out of food. In an attempt to prevent disaster, the inhabitants send probes into space to search for a planet with a food source. Things are looking desperate until a planet is found that may well serve their purposes, and so a team of explorers are sent to check this planet out. But the crew, Alph, Brittany and Charlie, don’t quite make it as planned and find themselves crash landing on the planet’s surface and being separated from each other. Alone on a strange alien planet, the explorers must work out how to survive and find each other.
Fortunately, the explorers are not alone on the planet, and find themselves being aided by the super cute Pikmin, one of the indigenous species on this planet. As the player progresses, more information is found about the Pikmin, revealing facts for the player to flesh out their knowledge of Pikminology – especially useful for players who are making their first visit to the lovely world.
Progression is gradual, never threatening to overwhelm the player before they are ready. Time moves on and the player will have to leave the planet before nightfall, along with their Pikmin friends, or risk being eaten by some of the bizarre creatures that come out after dark. In fact, leaving behind a Pikmin will result in a frankly heart-wrenching scene where you see the missing Pikmin running after the departing ship, only to be overcome by predators.
Players are free to explore at their leisure, to a degree. Besides the day/night cycle dictating when they have to leave the planet, players will consume food for each day that they are on the planet, and if they run out of food, then all hope is lost. Fortunately, food can be found on the planet and collected by the Pikmin helpers. Even so, it is best not to loiter for too long enjoying the scenery, especially in the early game.
Through simple controls, the player is charged with assigning the Pikmin that they have found tasks by throwing them at the target. The player will gather an army of sorts of these little creatures, and different colours of Pikmin have different abilities, such as the red Pikmin being resistant to fire, or the rock Pikmin being able to smash glass or crystal. The levels are set up in such a way that players will find themselves revisiting them as they unlock new Pikmin who are able to overcome certain obstacles.
So, throw the Pikmin at an enemy, and they will fight that enemy until the life meter is reduced to nothing, throw the required number at a barrier and they will knock it down, throw them at a piece of fruit or a “Pikmin Pill” and they will carry it back to the ship and either store it as food or use it to create yet more Pikmin. The puzzles in the game generally come down to working out which Pikmin to use and how to use them. The player will also find themselves controlling more than one explorer as the game progresses, switching between them to perform certain tasks, or using them together to solve puzzles. Strategy comes into play when facing off against boss battles and other lesser creatures, where choosing the right Pikmin for the job becomes essential. Two new Pikmin are introduced in Pikmin 3, joining the ed, yellow and blue types. The already mentioned Rock Pikmin are tough as nails and handy for breaking stuff, while the flying Pikmin bring some aerial support while being able to reach area that others cannot.
Pikmin 3 makes good use of the GamePad controller, beyond allowing for off-screen play, with the touch screen usable for sending characters and Pikmin to different areas. The game can also be controlled using the WiiMote/Nunchuk combo or the Pro Controller, offering plenty of choice for the player. Each method of control has both benefits and pitfalls, and it will be up to the player to decide which is most comfortable.
Both the visual and audio aspects of the game are beyond reproach. Pikmin 3 is quite simply the best looking Wii U game so far, and the soundtrack is equally impressive. The environments are varied and all look stunning, while the native wildlife and the Pikmin themselves all take on an incredibly cute form, even when their purpose is to look threatening. The lighting and weather add to this to create a game that is as enjoyable to watch as it is to play. The audio track does a great job of setting the mood, with calm and peaceful rapidly changing to upbeat and tense when required.
To add to the extensive story mode, which can easily top 10 hours of gameplay, there are two multiplayer modes available. Mission mode will have players working together as they take on different objectives, such as collecting treasure or boss battles, while Bingo Battle has players competing with each other. A Bingo card is provided for each player, filled with fruit and other objects, and the players must race against each other to collect items and get a full line on the card. Both modes are a lot of fun and add yet more content to a game that encourages the player to come back time and again.
Not only is Pikmin 3 the best looking Wii U game so far, it is also the best game to play. If your Wii U is feeling unloved, Pikmin 3 is the cure. It is easily accessible and infinitely playable, and so good to look at. Pikmin 3 needs to be in your Wii U collection.