Recently, I started playing Pikmin 3. Having never played any of the games in the series before, it caught me off guard in a number of ways. For instance, I didn’t expect the little critters to melt my heart with their sheer cuteness. I also found that watching those same adorable creatures die in assorted ways was rather traumatic. Most surprising to me was how hardcore its gameplay mechanics were. Dig past its cuddly exterior and this is a game that can mercilessly rip out your still-beating heart from your chest.
While the Pikmin stay adorable throughout, father time cares not for your adventuring ways. Your progress is broken out into days, with each day representing about 15 minutes of real time. This short window is never enough to take care of everything. As such, your time-management skills need to be on point. However, you ultimately can’t plan for the unknown. There was one instance where I split my crew into two, thinking that one of those groups only needed a handful of Pikmin to complete a specific task. One thing led to another, and my small group got decimated by the game’s first boss. On top of tragically losing a bunch of my army, the time I squandered in a hopeless battle caused me to waste a day.
Why is wasting a day such a big deal? Well, in Pikmin 3, your mission can’t last forever. The amount of days you have available is dependent on the amount of fruit you can collect. If you don’t have enough fruit to eat, your campaign will end with your crew starving to death. Since fruit is a finite resource, a poorly-executed approach can lead you to the point of no return where failure is inevitable. For a game as cute as this one, the punishment for incompetence is brutal.
Thankfully, you can go back and replay any day you want to rewrite history. But even then, having to replay a day or multiple days is far harsher than virtually any modern game on the market, where everything is finely-tuned so that you can’t screw up in any meaningful way. Admittedly, playing – and repeatedly sucking at – day 2 of Pikmin 3 stressed me out more than anything I experienced in the last Call of Duty game I played. Very few games let you screw up as badly as this one, which makes the stakes riding on your little Pikmin that much higher.