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Pikmin 3 review

Excellent
AT A GLANCE
  • Beautiful, naturalistic graphics
  • New emphasis on day-to-day survival
  • Curling up with Gamepad-only mode
  • Losing Pikmin that couldn’t keep up
  • The near-constant sound of the whistle
  • Messy final level and boss fight

Incredibly, it's been nine years since Nintendo has released a proper new Pikmin game. Much has changed--for instance, this review was conducted using a digitally downloaded version of Pikmin 3. But thankfully Pikmin hasn't changed all that much. It’s just gotten better.

At its core, the base gameplay remains unchanged. You still command an army of cute little brightly coloured plant/animal hybrids as you attempt to complete your scientific mission--in this case harvesting fruit seeds from the planet’s surface in order to propagate new food supplies back on your home planet of Koppai. This fruit collection mechanic replaces the spaceship parts-seeking of the original and makes for an impeccable solution to the problem of how to re-create the urgency of the first Pikmin game without giving the game an overt and arbitrary time limit. Why? Because fruit is not only your goal, but also your team’s sole source of sustenance.

"The result is an extremely rewarding progression system."

The result is an extremely rewarding progression system, providing exciting loot hauls while satisfying a deep-seated human instinct to stockpile food. As if to cement the feeling that this is actually a game about human(oid)s rather than Pikmin, it’s less ‘survival of the fittest’ and more ‘survival of the cleverest’ as you must tackle each new situation with brains if you want your team to survive.

And that team is now bigger. Aside from your Pikmin army, you now have three crew members at your disposal, or at least you do once you’ve reunited them all. Each member can command Pikmin or his/her teammates; they can also be separated from the group and sent off in different directions. This allows you to be in three places at once, which, while not necessary for the most part, allows for additional nuances in your strategies and provides welcome new avenues for puzzle design and solutions that elevate this game above the familiar Pikmin gameplay.

The new Pikmin types (rock and flying) prove particularly useful in battle, packing the strongest punch and devastating airbourne targets respectively. Despite having five Pikmin types at your disposal in the main game, each one’s worth and purpose is always clear and you’re always able to quickly cycle through to the type you want to deploy, making for challenging yet controllable encounters with enemies.

That said, all the different Pikmin types will inevitably end up getting stuck on scenery at some point, meaning you’ll have to go back and collect the stragglers before sun-down. It’s unbearably sad to see the ones you couldn’t save miss the ride up into the safety of orbit, but the satisfaction that comes from another successful day with zero sundown casualties makes up for the occasional feeling of stomach churning guilt.

"Pikmin 3 is a masterclass in level design."

There are only four main levels, which sounds tiny, but each has been designed with such cunning, they continue to offer up fresh experiences over the course of the 20-hour main game. Revisiting areas as you acquire new Pikmin types yields new routes and areas, each with ever-more challenging puzzles. The last few fruits are devilishly hard to reach, but the feeling of accomplishment when you do is boldly satisfying.

Breaking up the standard fruit-seeking gameplay are several huge boss fights. These are showpiece events, each offering something to impress on a technical level (the sand pit is particularly brilliant, at one point looking exactly like the Great Pit of Carkoon from Star Wars) and acting as a milestone in your mission. Once the game’s over, they can be tackled in time attack, which adds necessary post-story value to the game.

Almost every element of the game is polished to a sheen. Only the final, fifth area falls short of being wholly convincing, as it abandons the collection mechanic and attempts to elevate the game into a nightmarish pursuit/escape scenario. It all degenerates into a rather messy battle as the screen fills with a mish-mash of Pikmin and special effects, which is a pity. The addition of another regular area in its place would have been a more satisfying conclusion to the game.

"The post-game content is good--great even. But it can’t fill the void left by knowing you’ve finished the story."

For a game that was originally intended to be released on Wii, Pikmin 3 fits Wii U very well. Wii Remote pointing has its advantages (like being faster and not requiring Alph, Brittany, or Charlie to take a few steps in the direction you want to point), but being able to access the touch screen map via GamePad to freeze the action at any time and scan the environment is probably more useful to have in your hands overall.

The main story mode is already an essential purchase, but there are two other modes to try once you’ve exhausted it. The first is mission mode, which gives you a set time limit in which to find enough fruit or kill enough enemies to win a medal. It’s addictive, certainly, especially with the ‘gold’ rating requiring ludicrously high scores, but does undo much of the naturalistic mood built up so beautifully by the main game. The second is a full-on 2-player versus. ‘Bingo Battle’ sees you and a friend collecting fruit to tick off corresponding icons on a bingo card in an attempt to complete a line first. The split-screen is wonderfully smooth and there are plenty of levels to try, making this a surprisingly worthy and fun multiplayer mode. All of this post-game content is good--great even. But it can’t fill the void left by knowing you’ve finished the story.

Pikmin 3 is a game about nature, just as it always has been. But on Wii U it’s so believable it often feels like you’re sitting in a real garden, playing with ants and beetles in dappled sunlight. Despite the macabre undertones of the cruelty of nature, the game is charming, funny, and utterly captivating. It is without doubt yet another Miyamoto masterpiece, and one that the Wii U desperately needs.

More Info

Release date: Aug 04 2013 - Wii U (US)
Jul 26 2013 - Wii U (UK)
Available Platforms: Wii U
Genre: Strategy
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Nintendo
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+

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42 comments

  • watevermanimlost - August 6, 2013 5:19 p.m.

    I Thoroughly enjoyed this game but I was a little off-put by the final level. I really want this game to be the rebranding of the series since Miyamoto said 3 was what 1 was suppose to be. I also want a chance to play some bingo.... soon.... soon...
  • n00b - July 25, 2013 6:34 p.m.

    every time a gamesradar article uses the word brilliant i check to see if its a uk writer
  • GR_JustinTowell - July 26, 2013 2:05 a.m.

    Don't people in the US use that word?
  • CorridorsofTime - July 26, 2013 9:10 a.m.

    In a different way. In the US it's mostly reserved for calling somebody, or an idea very intelligent.
  • GR_JustinTowell - July 26, 2013 9:12 a.m.

    Oh really? Interesting. We use it as in 'this game's awesomeness shines with the brilliance of a thousand suns'. It is, therefore, brilliant.
  • kaleb-mayhew - August 8, 2013 7:26 p.m.

    when i read the hound of the baskervilles some of the language a bit confusing.
  • ncurry2 - July 24, 2013 6:52 p.m.

    Quick question, does the game support a Wii classic controller? I'm not going to use it for this game but I'm considering getting a gamecube controller adapter that allows gamecube games to be plugged into wii remotes and read as a classic controller. I want to know if Nintendo is still supporting the Wii classic controller for Wii U games with the upcoming release of Mario Kart and Smash Brothers. And great review Justin!
  • GR_JustinTowell - December 7, 2013 11:15 a.m.

    I'm very sorry I missed your comment. I don't get notified about every comment so have to see it on the actual page and just happened upon it now. Glad you liked the review! But no, I don't believe it does support the Wii Classic Controller. New Wii U Pro Controller apparently, if that helps. Probably a bit late now! Cheers.
  • CitizenWolfie - July 24, 2013 4:50 a.m.

    I'm kinda tempted by this but I just have one question: I bought the original Pikmin back on the Gamecube and while I enjoyed it, I just couldn't truly get into it and I can't even remember if I finished it or not. When the sequel came out I couldn't really be bothered to buy it. So my question is; is Pikmin 3 worth buying if you were just neutral on the series before? As I said, I'm tempted but I can't help think my 10-20 hours would be better spent playing through Luigi's Mansion, DKC Returns and Fire Emblem on my 3DS.
  • GR_JustinTowell - July 26, 2013 12:24 a.m.

    Yes it is! Pikmin 1 never really grabbed me either. But this... well, it's superb :)
  • BackwaterRifle - July 23, 2013 8:57 p.m.

    By far one of my favorite games was pikmin 2, and one of my favorite gaming memories was when I beat the first one completely in 19 days.
  • talleyXIV - July 23, 2013 9:13 a.m.

    Hey Justin, great review but I have a question. I've seen where people are griping about the playtime and saying it lasts around 10 hours, but from others I heard this is false and that is if you pretty much run through the game. What do you think about the playtime? You said somewhere up above that it was 18 hours or so for you, so was this particular reviewer not being fair in his assessment of the playtime especially since there is a lot of replay value? I still am picking this up day one ASAP, so excited.
  • GR_JustinTowell - July 23, 2013 1:03 p.m.

    Perhaps they rushed through and didn't collect all the fruit? I found all the fruits then did the last level to finish the game. My total playtime at that point was 20 hours according to the Wii U Activity app. I then played the side modes, but the main game is some 20 hours long if you're going through it for the first time and get all the fruits. 20 brilliant hours.
  • talleyXIV - July 23, 2013 4:43 p.m.

    Yeah from what I heard from other people who already have the game, collecting all the fruit should give you considerably more gameplay and that 10 hours had to be the bare minimum. A bit upset that the game's score suffered because that particular reviewer decided that beating the game as quick as possible counted as how long it is. Thanks a lot for the response and your fair review! At least you gave everything a chance and completed everything before judging it.
  • garnsr - July 22, 2013 8:55 p.m.

    I've been thinking about the Nintendo question lately, and I realised I don't really have that much affection for Nintendo, I just liked the games that were on their systems in the 8 and 16 bit eras. I see that there is a quality to Nintendo games, but it's not really a quality I feel connected to these days. Pikmin seems like a style from yesteryear, like all first-party Nintendo games, and it 's not something I feel connected to. It feels like Nintendo should go to the PC, where they could keep making their lower-tech games and not fight against the other systems that are pushing technology, and it'd fit in better with their style, I think.
  • shawksta - July 23, 2013 10:15 a.m.

    Pikmin is STILL unique in its style, being the only one in its kind. You cant just outright call a genre and style you dont seem fit from "Yesteryear" but hey thats your opinion.
  • BladedFalcon - July 23, 2013 3:05 p.m.

    Well, if the core gameplay has remained almost identical to the first one, we're than talking about a pretty much decade old core, regardless of genre or other games. So old IS definitely a valid adjective. Whether that's good or bad though, that just really depends on your taste, really. It's true that I don't really know many games like Pikmin, so at least no one can say it's over-saturating or beating a dead horse XD Specially, because, I mean, I'm a sucker for metroidvania games, no matter how "more of the same" they are. So as long as you're not bloating the market, niches like that are fine by me.
  • garnsr - July 23, 2013 9:04 p.m.

    That's my feeling. The few Nintendo games that I pick up every few years seem to be pretty much the same as they have been for a few generations, at least. It's nice to go back to something familiar every now and then, I also love Metroidvania games, and I've played all the Yakuza games, which don't change that much, and are also Japanese, which is part of the Nintendo issue, too. Some styles of not changing are nice, but Nintendo's style doesn't seem to be for me anymore.
  • BladedFalcon - July 24, 2013 9:11 a.m.

    I get what you're feeling. I mean, I think part of why Nintendo manages to consistently get away with it, it's because almost always they do put a good amount of effort into their games. They always have top notch presentation, and never really feel half assed. But yes, at the end of the day, the core experience of their franchises almost always remain unchanged, and if you're not hooked by that core, you are pretty safe if you don't play nay future installments. Which is what has made it very simple for me to simply pass up the 2 latest Nintendo consoles, and so far it's a decision I don't really regret in the slightest. As wonderful as I'm sure Mario Galaxy, skyward sword, and punch out were, and how great tropical freeze will be. I already know what to expect from all of those titles, and i know what I'm missing, so I can totally live with that.
  • Vonter - August 7, 2013 3:34 p.m.

    Tastes change over time and some are harder to take away. I think is there is a healthy relationship between owning a NIntendo console and another one. Nintendo focuses overall in gameplay there isn't need for story (in terms of what is expected). But there is so much as one can go without substance in that sense. Games for PS3 and 360 most blockbusters play like interactive movies, which IMO the best ones are those who tell story through gameplay. In my case I also don't demand lot's of challenge I mainly play in normal because I assume is what the developers think it represents their product.

Showing 1-20 of 42 comments

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