Pikmin 3 Review

Under Pikmin 3‘s cuddly veneer is a game that is unapologetically hardcore. Standing between your crew and a return trip home is a few key parts to rebuild your ship, the treacherous inhabitants of PNF-404, and the inescapable hand of father time. At first, my poor play and the fear of the consequences that came with that poor play nearly drove me to dropping the game completely. However, after coming to grips with managing my troops and the limited time allotted per day, the stress of survival took a back seat to the joy of exploring this beautiful world with my cute little Pikmin along for the ride.

In this third installment of the franchise, three space travellers from the planet of Koppai are split-up after crash landing on PNF-404. They must find each other on this strange land, then figure out a way to get back home. If you don’t pull it all together by the time you run out of fruit, your crew will die of starvation. Because of these conditions, you’re constantly managing your Pikmin in a way that allows you to make forward progress in the story while collecting enough fruit to not die a horrific death. Thankfully, you can replay any days you like to change trajectory on an otherwise bad situation for your crew.

With this being my first Pikmin game, it took a little while for me to get comfortable with how everything works. You have direct control over one of your human squad members, but your army of Pikmin are AI controlled. When you throw them at specific objects, they’ll know what to do and take it from there. However, you’ll need to regularly call them back once they’ve completed their tasks, as well as ensure that they don’t get killed by enemies or environmental hazards. Once you get a hang of it, it’s a lot of fun to try and manage a number of different Pikmin teams that are doing different things at once to maximize your time, though it’s a bit frustrating at times when your Pikmin get stuck on walls or other objects when they’re trying to return to you. In particular, I really like the boss battles, which also require a great level of dexterity on top of your ability to think tactically.

From what I’ve heard, this is the first game in the series that allows you to switch between multiple squad members. When you’re running at maximum efficiency, you can command three different squad commanders in different parts of the map, each with their own groups of Pikmin doing different things at once. This was admittedly a bit too much for my brain to handle, so I generally kept them all together unless there were specific aspects of levels that forced you to split up your teams. I can imagine how this would add a great level of depth for franchise veterans, though I largely left that alone.

Players can choose to play this either with the Wii U GamePad or the Wii Remote. I spent equal time with both. While I think that the Wii Remote and nunchuck combo is the way to go, the GamePad isn’t without merit. Having the left stick control your character’s movement and the cursor is weird, though you can adapt to it with practice. I also enjoy making great use of the GamePad’s Off-TV Play functionality to play while sitting on the couch with Steff as she’s watching TV.

While this experience may feel largely the same for franchise vets, this is unlike anything else I’ve played before. There’s such a unique blend of exploration, resource management and action that is greatly satisfying to be a part of. By the time this adventure wrapped up, I was kind of hoping it would go on a bit longer to fully satiate my desire for more. Wii U owners in need of something to play should grab this without hesitation.

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