Pikmin came onto the scene during a time when RTS (Real Time Strategy) games were at a high in their popularity. Practically everyone I knew was playing Age of Empires, WarCraft, or StarCraft. Pikmin seemed to break all the rules. It was cute and full of charm; it wasn’t war based. Though there was combat, it wasn’t centered around it. Featuring a cute alien just trying to fix his ship and his best way of doing that were these adorable and colorful little plant-like critters collecting stuff and bringing it back to his ship. Pikmin was a huge hit and went on to become a staple Nintendo property earning a spot alongside, Mario, Link, Samus, and Kirby. Recently Hey! Pikmin came to the 3DS, making quite a few adjustments to better fit the 3DS and on-the-go play. Does Hey! Pikmin maintain the qualities that have made the Pikmin games so endearing?
Unlike the previous games, Hey! Pikmin is a puzzle platformer instead of a puzzle RTS, moving to a 2D side-scrolling format while keeping the Pikmin minion mechanics. Like the other games, the goal is to collect all the things! Captain Olimar has once again crashed his ship. Each level has three treasures to find and a bunch of what is called Sparklium. The primary task of the game it to collect a total 30,000 Sparklium in order to repair Olimar’s ship. This cannot be done alone, however, and in steps the Pikmin, waiting to quite literally be tossed at every problem. Collecting items, smashing crystals, attacking enemies, completing electrical circuits, all of these things are done by throwing the adorable Pikmin at them. To toss a Pikmin, simply tap on the bottom screen with the stylus where you’d like to throw them. After each level the Pikmin that survived are added to the Pikmin Park where they can be set to task at clearing grass, fire, water, electric bushes (?), and crystal looking for more Sparklium.
It’s notable that Hey! Pikmin does not take advantage of the 3D capabilities of the 3DS. Primarily taking place on the lower screen that doesn’t have that feature and coming out alongside the New 2DS XL is likely the reason. Being strictly a 2D experience, everything on screen is distinct from each other. That remarkable Pikmin charm wasn’t lost in the change to a 2D platformer. Olimar looks like himself and all the Pikmin are there in their cuteness. It is hard not to feel terrible when one is killed as they cry out and their little ghost floats upwards. The signature enemies are here too, and though they lack some of the detail they had in the console games, Hey! Pikmin preserves their intensity and the little bit of fear they invoke when they appear on screen. It’s safe to say that the Pikmin experience stays intact.
Hey! Pikmin controls easy enough. Circlepad controls Olimar and tapping on the screen throws Pikmin. A map of the level being currently played can also be pulled up. The game offers a bit of a challenge for those looking to perfect every level, which involves collecting all the treasure without losing a single Pikmin. Outside of that it though, it isn’t too difficult. One aspect lost in Hey! Pikmin is the time limit day system. There isn’t any urgency to accomplish tasks in a certain amount of time. It’s possible that this particular aspect may not have worked well with that change of genre, but it’s hard not to wonder.
One aspect I did not like about the game was how redundant it can be. After finishing a level there is a notification of an exclamation mark next to the Pikmin Park icon. The game ignores that this is there and declares in full text everytime something new develops at the Pikmin Park, making the exclamation point useless. The game also features a gallery/journal that documents all the various enemies, treasures, and Pikmin that are encountered. If not checked often enough, the game will put up a “notification” to check it, despite that it too already has an exclamation mark.
Sound design in Hey! Pikmin is strong in its sound effects. All the little Pikmin sounds, critters, and such is all there and adds to this colorful world. It is, however, lacking a memorable soundtrack. Unlike many Nintendo titles where music is standout and adds to the feel of the world/level/situation being played, it’s difficult to recall really any music being present in Hey! Pikmin.
Hey! Pikmin offers the Pikmin experience with enough changes to make it work on the 3DS and retains enough to keep it Pikmin. Though lacking in soundtrack and challenge, along with persistent “notifications”, it still maintains the charm that comes with the Pikmin series. It’s a fun twist on both Pikmin and 2D platformers. Though not as strong as the main entries of the series, Hey! Pikmin is worthy of the Pikmin name.
For more information about Hey! Pikmin, check out the official Nintendo listing.