Shigeru Miyamoto's seminal side project is rosy as ever. Find out if it'll be worth your while saving those little dudes once again.
Everyone should play more bad games. Really. A bad game reminds us how superb a game like Pikmin 2 is - and the fact that I play mostly good games means I completely bypass recognising the great things about many of Nintendo's firstparty games, that we often take for granted. Bug-free, stable framerate, no loading time what-so-ever, and of course, a game experience that can keep your interest from start to end.
So it comes to the review, and I have to sit down and have a think about what I thought of the game. The answer is always "meh" or some other emotionless bored grunt ("buh" "snah" and "pfff" are good suggestions). That's why from this day forward I promise to play more sub-rate videogames. Yep, [snip! - ed] can expect plenty of business from me in the future.
So, what's this new Pikmin game then? Well, like the first you use your army of plant/ant hybrid creatures to do your bidding, crushing walls, building bridges and defeating many a foe. The story goes like this: Olimar (or 'Orima' as he's known in Japan and should've been named everywhere else) has returned to his home planet only to discover that the company he works for is in considerable debt, so at the risk of being made redundant Olimar decides to return to the Pikmin planet to use his little friends to salvage various valuables such as diamonds the size of small stadiums and giant love testers. But this time you're not alone! Olimar has brought his good friend Louie along with him and you can use the Y button to switch between both Olimar and Louie (and another character later in the game) to multi-task even more efficiently than in the first game. However, I only found the second character useful for leaving next to the onions to bring you reinforcements if needed.
I'm sure you've all seen the new white and purple Pikmin a thousand times before in screenshots and renders, so I won't bore you with a fancy introduction. Instead I'll get straight down to the meat: both the white and purple Pikmin can only be attained by throwing normal red, yellow or blue Pikmin into special flowers, either a purple one giving purple Pikmin or a white on giving yes, you guessed it: white Pikmin. These flowers only give a maximum of 5 of these Pikmin before disappearing so you'll find it hard to mass up any considerable number of them. The white Pikmin are fast, invulnerable to poison and will poison enemies when eaten. Purple Pikmin are strong fighters, can stun enemies when thrown on top of them, are slow and can pick up things with the power of ten Pikmin. Yellow Pikmin have received a well needed tool around, they're now invulnerable to electricity and thus can knock down electric fences and attack electric enemies, however their ability to pick up rock bombs seems to have been completely removed. Alot of work has been put into giving the Pikmin personality, I really love these little guys. Watching them drown as always, is painful. They now sing and chant together when you're winning and they cry and moan when left alone or after taking a heavy loss of Pikmin.
The setup is almost the same as the first game: there are four areas each with seven valuables hidden in them for you to collect, but this time there are also three or four "dungeons" hidden in each area. The dungeons are basically randomly generated challenge mode levels, you find an entrance to the dungeon in the main area (a hole in the ground) and before entering you will be told which types of Pikmin you will need to complete the dungeon. Each dungeon has anything from 3 to 15 floors and can easily take well over an hour to finish. You can only use the Pikmin you take with you, there's a part of your spaceship down there with you so you can return the valuables you find but returning enemies will only give you cash. To clear a floor you need to collect all the valuables on the floor (usually about 2 or 3 on each floor) and once your gauge meter is turned off to let you know that there are no valuables left to collect you go to the geezer and get shot up to the next floor. All of the boss enemies are found in dungeons and you can only find purple and white Pikmin flowers in dungeons.
Each valuable gives you anything from 30 to 140 credits in money, valuables are hidden just like the ship parts in the previous game and you need to use your Pikmin to take them back to your spaceship to collect the cash. Once you gain access to white Pikmin a small gauge meter appears on the bottom right of your screen which will appear hot or cold when you're close to a valuable, you can use this to find valuables under ground which white Pikmin can dig up. The meter also beeps when you're near a valuable, this can be useful for accidentally stumbling onto them but it gets a bit annoying when your meter is beeping again and again because you're near the world's largest orange that your Pikmin have been busy carrying for 2 minutes. On the map screen there's also a index of all the valuables and enemies you've found, where you can watch them as if in a zoo and read information about them.
The enemy designs are again fantastic. The game has a very silent undertone of how cruel nature can be to ensure survival of the fittest and the enemies really do feel that they have evolved over many centuries to be efficient at killing poor little Pikmin. Many enemies return from the original Pikmin like the Bulborbs, Armored Cannon Beetle and Wollywogs, but in most cases there are now many more variations (especially in the case of the bulborbs) and in some cases they've been made more difficult. The new enemies are really quite inspired, my favorites are the creatures that appear to be flowers with eyes until you approach and a huge creature appears from out of the ground and starts attacking your Pikmin, the flying insect that blasts out sound waves that malfunction your gauge meter and the electric beetles. The game contains a whole load of boss enemies, some of which are very hard. Some return from the previous game like the Emperor Bulblax but most of the bosses are totally new like the huge fat Bulborb that tries to roll on you, and the hands-down best boss in the game: the robotic Beady Long Legs.
This time around the game has been even more geared towards making the individual Pikmin colors more individual and I think adding the electricity invulnerability to yellow Pikmin has done a whole world of good, the best strategy is to take equal number of Pikmin colors to dungeons as they're all accounted for. White and purple Pikmin are special cases, I've only gotten a maximum of 30 of each with the purple Pikmin being killed of first due to there brilliant fighting skills. I think white Pikmin could've been made as common as the other 'normal' types, they're used alot to take down poison walls and poison enemies and I don't see how making them readily available would've unbalanced the game at all.
The challenge mode has been seriously revamped. Instead of playing through the single-player areas you now play through originally created dungeons levels, each level allocates you a certain amount of Pikmin and there seems to be at least 25 challenge levels. You're timed for how long in takes you to collect all of the valuables and finish the floor and then you're ranked based on your performance. You can also play challenge mode in 2-player co-op but you cannot unlock new levels in 2-player mode. It's exactly how you'd imagine it, just normal Pikmin split-screen with two people. Pikmin management can become a real pain with two players though.
2-Player Mode is in there though, and it's pretty good. One person gets red Pikmin, the other gets blue Pikmin (they're just colors though - they haven't got their usual special attributes), you can choose how many Pikmin each player gets (for a total of 100 between you) and then you choose a level and the game begins. Each player has an onion to bring stuff back to, you win the game by either killing your enemy (the spaceman), collecting 4 yellow marbles, or by getting your enemies marble from their onion and taking it to yours capture the flag style. You can attack your enemy with your Pikmin and you can also create ultimate carnage by attacking their Pikmin with yours, but for every Pikmin killed by an enemies Pikmin a Pikmin seed comes out of your onion, so you cant win by simply killing all of your opponents Pikmin, only slow them down a bit. However, any Pikmin killed by creatures will not return and you will lose if all your Pikmin die. There's also cherries littered around the levels, every time you take one back to your onion you get a spin of the slot machine which depending on what you get will give you power-ups, drop various enemies on top of your opponent, level up your Pikmin, drop rocks on top of your enemy etc
My only complaint about the Vs. mode is some of the arenas have far too many yellow marbles, you can collect four of them in 2 minutes easily with another 3 being carried to your onion on top of that.
Let's get down to the moaning. My number one complain about the first game was the longevity, Pikmin 2 is certainly longer but not by much. As I said earlier there's 4 areas to explore and the real meat of the game is in the dungeons, but although this didn't bother me much I seem to find myself wondering if Pikmin has become the ultimate collect-a-thon. Each valuable give you between 30 and 150 credits with the average payout being 100 credits, you need 10,000 credits to repay your debt and I finished the game with well over 15,000 credits. Work it out. However I digress, this was not at all a problem for me but I can certainly see some people being put off by the amount of collecting. The length of the game doesn't feel like a problem at all to be honest, it took me 16 hours to complete, the dungeons take up alot of time and alot of effort has gone into the challenge mode, Vs. Mode and the e-reader functionality.
Pikmin 2 is as you can see, beautiful. The models are definitely benefiting from a polygon-boost and there's some new effects in there like some slight distortion in the water, however the textures are still quite bad. The game looks almost photo realistic when you're zoomed all the way out but again, I think the textures are holding the game back alot visually. The water is also starting to show its age looking more like cling-film than water. God, I remember when I thought the water in Pikmin was absolutely stunning...
Now, sound. The music is very good, very atmospheric, however the main theme is gone which I find a bit disappointing but a lot of the previous game's menu music is re-used which is quite cool. Alot of work has gone into the sound effects, in the lake area you can hear ducks and geese in the distance, there's lots of ambient forest sounds like birds and insects which add a bit of immersion to the game. As mentioned before the Pikmin now sing or cry depending on how well you're doing which is just brilliant.
This is a great sequel and the few shortcomings barely make a scratch on a deeply satisfying overall game.
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Brand new Japanese trailer [480x360, 1600kbps]
In game footage from last year's E3. Blame Nintendo for the music we were forced to add.