mon 10/08/2020

Pikmin 3 | reviews, news & interviews

Pikmin 3

Pikmin 3

Saturated in primary colours, the gardening-influenced strategy series still has a hard edge

'Pikmin 3': Happy visuals, but a darker message and more complex puzzle play lie beneath

This curious strategy series popped out of the head of legendary games-maker Shigeru "Mario, Donkey Kong" Miyamoto when he started gardening. But beneath the verdant landscapes and gigantic primary-coloured fruits there is a darker, richer soil.

In Pikmin 3, three space people arrive on an unspoilt planet, desperately seeking food, their own planet having been strip-mined to starvation. In this new lush land they find an abundence of food, and a curious species - half flower, half ant. The Pikmin are only too happy to help the spacefarers – carrying food, attacking predatory enemies, ferrying building materials around.

Pikmin 3 strategy game series created by Shigeru MiyamotoHere then, is the first shadow in the garden of Eden. The Pikmin, innocent little things, are helping an advanced civilisation that has plundered its own planet and is now plundering the food from under their noses. At the same time, while the spacefarers stand back and command, their legions of Pikmin are literally thrown into battle, dying by the score. Their cute little death throes will send a knife through the heart of even the most callous player.

Pikmin 3's colonial, environmental message is that underneath the pretty colours, nature is still about cold-hearted survival. To win, as the spacefarers, you need fruit. And that means, inevitably, sending Pikmin to their deaths.

From a gameplay perspective, this dissonance works brilliantly – you care about your troops, yet you're still stuck sending them to their doom. This leads to multiple replays of each day's foray to try and mini-max results – more fruit, more tasks completed for fewer Pikmin dead.

Even the planet's day and night cycle, the simple, natural passing of time, becomes imbued with horror. If you leave any of the Pikmin too far away from you or your ship as night falls, the predators in the dark gleefully pick them off. The end of each day passes with a tense rush to round up wayward troops, then take a tally of the fallen.

Pikmin 3 strategy game series created by Shigeru MiyamotoEach day also sees you striving to reach a bit further into your current area. As you strip an area of fruit, you also encounter barriers that need working round or dismantling, requiring you to work through puzzles based on using the right Pikmin types in the right way, at the right time.

Combining charm, emotional connection and good puzzles, Pikmin 3 is largely a delight. But there are ways in which it feels woefully wrongheaded. Navigating the touchscreen map is a pain, as is aiming in general, with the game infuriatingly often expecting you to aim exactly – even when just pointing in roughly the right direction would be enough to clearly indicate what you want to do. In the same vein, some of the puzzles suffer from poor waypointing. And there's little effort to watch how you play and offer appropriate support if you're stuck.

These are flaws, and even serious ones, but they're still not enough to counteract the delightful mix of bright, happy environments and draining dread of battle.

Pikmin 3's colonial, environmental message is that underneath the nice pretty colours, nature is still about survival

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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