Developers: Nintendo EAD
Plot: When the planet Koppai exhausts its food supply, three explorers head to a nearby planet, in search of supplies, where they encounter the enigmatic alien race, the Pikmin.
So after spending far too long playing games where I smash zombies’ skulls in and take out swarms of Locust at a time, I decided to lighten up my gaming experience with some more child-friendly adventures. Even if the search took me all the way to Nintendo.
Pikmin 3 sees you play three explorers, Alph, Charlie and Brittany, who crash-land on the planet of PNF-404. Separated and stranded, they end up recruiting a strange alien called the Pikmin. They come to grips with this bizarre alien species, finding different variations of the creature. They seem friendly, eager to help even, and the three of them use the Pikmin to find food for their home planet, reunite with their crew and repair their damaged vessel to get back to the planet Koppai. At the same time, the Pikmin use their new friends to protect them from a planet full of nocturnal predators that make short work of the defenceless wildlife.
The gameplay is very interesting and, although I am a stranger to the Pikmin franchise or Nintendo altogether, original. You are given 12 gaming hours before sunset to complete as much of the map as you can, before retreating back to your vessel. In those hours, you must complete all of the objectives given to you, as well as exploring new areas and discovered items that could make the rest of the levels much easier. However, the catch is that each day you must dip into your food supply, meaning that on top of all of your missions, you must find time to harvest fruit from the planet. If you run out of rations, then you presumably starve to death on a remote planet. A friendly tip: it might be worth wasting a day on an old, easier level harvesting as much fruit as you can, before moving to a less bountiful stage of the game.
On top of that, your Pikmin have a severe reliance on you. At first, the arrogance of Pikmin 3 annoyed me. Your characters come to the planet with the sole reason of draining its supplies, because they couldn’t manage their own. They find a local species and use them as pets (or slaves, even), domesticated with the blow of a whistle, to help them achieve their goals. It seemed like there was some political undertones there, but the slavery is never depicted as a negative thing. However, the dependence the Pikmin have on you becomes quite a disorientating narrative device. Your Pikmin are free to roam the map, yet when night falls, if they are not in a safe zone or with one of the playable characters, then they are killed by the predators around them. There is an upsetting cut-scene when a Pikmin gets left behind, where the stragglers try to catch up to you, but you heartlessly abandon them. As you watch the ones you failed to protect get eaten, it can be quite an emotional moment.
This is a game that requires you to think. The Pikmin have so many different forms and talents that it is hard to remember them all. You are never sure if the obstacle facing you is for later on in the game or if you have the correct tool in your inventory already. Sure, it might not seem too taxing when summarised, but with the time limit forced upon the day, your brain will make rash decisions and often this leads to the death of several of your Pikmin. Children will come here for the fun characters and bright colours, but adults will find some satisfaction in the puzzles.
Sometimes this game comes across as a little messy. By the time you have an army of 100 Pikmin, the screen is full of the little critters and sometimes it is visually overwhelming. They stand in the way of clues and sometimes are so distracting you miss important things. The deadliest enemies are not the big monsters, but the little monster that slips inside your ranks. Disguised by the mass of Pikmin, they usually kill a good load, before you even realise you are being attacked. It is a humiliating way to lose that perfect streak you have been building up until now. On top of that, it is a very short game. You could even argue that it isn’t really worth the price. Sure, you can try and get all of the hidden bonuses and beat your score, but there is very little incentive to. The game comes to a rapid end and you are kind of left there, not fully satisfied with the experience.
Final Verdict: Albeit short, Pikmin 3 is a wonderfully inventive universe with an unique gaming style. Great for both kids and adults.