This review is old. I still feel the same way about the game, though.
When Pikmin 3 was announced at this year’s E3 show I felt a mixed set of emotions. On one hand, I was thrilled – we haven’t seen a new Pikmin game in years, after all, and the new trailer looks all shiny and awesome! – and on the other hand, I felt guilty. You see, I’ve been harbouring a dirty great secret these past eight years.
I never completed Pikmin 2.
The original Pikmin was, and still is, one of my favourite games ever; but its sequel failed to hold my attention or draw my enthusiasm when I was but a wee gamer.
“But wait…!” I exclaimed to myself, wildly. “I’m far older and wiser now than I once was. I shall play the game properly, at long last, and I shall finally understand why everybody rates it above the original!”
So with that settled I dug out my copy of Pikmin 2 and set to work, a childish grin on my face.
Sadly, however, I did not enjoy the experience. Through this review I’m going to explain my two main issues with the game, and my aim is that you will understand my confusion on the subject of how it has become so much more popular than its predecessor.
My first problem with the game: the story is depressing. And not in a touching kind of way, but in a ‘I’m so unmotivated that I think I’m genuinely sad’ kind of way.
See, in the first game you crash land on an alien planet, you’re totally on your own, your rocket ship is scattered in pieces across the continent and your life support system will only keep you alive for thirty days. If you don’t collect the necessary pieces of your ship in that time then you will die, and that’s that. In the second game, however, your company has gone bankrupt and you must head back to the previously mentioned alien planet, with your co-worker and your new talking rocket ship in tow, to collect pieces of valuable treasure so that you can work off some kind of debt. And this time around your life support will last forever.
So we have one game where you’re racing against time to locate and piece together the chunks of your ship before the poisonous atmosphere kills you, and another where you have as much time as you like to explore the planet and collect…treasure. One game where the only speech comes from your lonely character who logs a diary every night, and another where your talking rocket ship blabbers on at you all day.
My point here is that the first game not only motivated me to continue, and to work my damn hardest to save my character from very possible doom, but it had an isolating, yet beautifully captivating atmosphere. The second game didn’t really motivate me to do anything – which is weird, because usually I’m totally up for a good treasure hunt. I just couldn’t get behind this one.
My second problem with the game: some of the level design was depressing. And not in an arty or atmospheric kind of way, but in a ‘I’m so bored that I think I’m going to cry’ kind of way.
In the first game there were only five areas to explore; but each one was a vast, rewarding area, and there was purpose to every piece of it. Exploring made you feel like a genuinely stranded explorer: confused and lost, afraid of roaming monsters, curious about every corner and dazed by the unlikely beauty of everything. In the second game, whilst there are equally huge, beautifully designed main areas to explore, your time exploring them is constantly interrupted by excursions into cavernous sub levels that you find dotted about each level.
You see, you spend a piece of your day walking around a wide, open area, painted with trees and lakes and all kinds of weird and wonderful beauties on every side, just trying to enjoy the scenery as you go about on your quest, but because the majority of worthwhile treasure resides in these cramped up, underground sub levels, there is often no reason to hang around above ground for very long. That gets old. Fast.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The basic game mechanics are just as good as they were in the first game. A couple of small features are even solid improvements. Moreover, the puzzling and management is as good as ever. But huge chunks of the game are so bland and dim that it outweighs many of these positives.
All in all, I just can’t recommend this game over the original. The game design is frustratingly dull and the premise is uninspiring.
Still, my voice is but a whisper in a gale, for the majority of gamers do seem to rate this game highly. And that’s fair enough. The game works. Parts of it are fun. It looks really nice. So get it, why not, and if you like it then you’ll be joining hundreds of thousands of others who feel the same way. If you don’t like it, though, come back here and agree with me so that I can feel less lonely.