Move over Pokemon Go, it's all about Pikmin Bloom now. The game is a pedometer meets Tamagotchi meets gardening app for your iPhone or Android phone, and it's a collaboration between Niantic - the maker of the wildly successful Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite - and Nintendo. Your new Pikmin pals will live on your phone and go with you everywhere, planting flowers in your neighborhood. Even better, all you really have to do to look after them is take a leisurely stroll. If you're one of the Pikmin faithful, rest easy in the knowledge that Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto was involved in the project, and from what I've seen so far, it understands the charm of its subject matter better than most phone spin-offs.
"For both me and everyone at Niantic, helping this app take shape has been a new experience and lots of fun," said Miyamoto.
"All over our world, there are unusual creatures called pikmin, and they are invisible to the naked eye. But they're all around you! And now, using Pikmin Bloom and your smartphone, you'll be able to find them all over. Pikmin are mysterious plantlike creatures, and each one can grow a flower that blooms from its head. With Pikmin Bloom, you can discover new pikmin simply by going somewhere new.
"When you blow your whistle and give them instructions, your pikmin will gather in big groups to gather and carry items for you. So, be sure to bring your pikmin with you whenever you travel a long way from home! Wherever you go, you can take pictures with your pikmin and save your memories with them like you would in a journal. With that, my hope is that everyone will be able to create lasting memories together with pikmin."
Like Pokemon Go, Pikmon Bloom shows you a rough map of your local area, but here dotted with seedlings, fruit, and large flower buds. The seedlings can be planted in your pikmin backpack where they'll grow as you walk, before transforming into new members for your pikmin army. The fruit becomes nectar that you can feed to your pikmin to make the flowers on their heads bloom, which you can then pick the petals from. Those petals act as a boost so that you'll plant more flowers on the map as you walk across it, leaving your own trail of flora between bodegas, bars, and dentist appointments. Different nectar means different colored petals, and you can work together with other players.
As well as being able to plant flowers to make the world prettier for everyone playing, there will be other opportunities to work together like Challenges, where you can break down barriers with the help of other players to get special rewards.
"The fact that you're planting flowers together in the shared state in the shared world is really sort of the fundamental multiplayer feature, and that you're really everybody's transforming the world into this more colorful world filled with flowers together," explained John Hanke, CEO and founder of Niantic.
But there are other specific things like planting in groups where you're actually walking, and you can invite another person to play and your avatars actually show up together in the game, you know, in a very concrete way. And then also there's a whenever you're blooming the giant flowers, you plant flowers around them in order to do that. And that's, it doesn't have to be multiplayer, but it's asynchronous optional multiplayer. So if people collaborate to do that, it happens faster. So it's sort of there and kind of subtly encouraging people to play together but not required."
Playing an early version, there weren't any other players in my neighborhood to form a gardening alliance with, so I only got to experience it as a single-player game. I love the attention to detail, like being able to name all my Pikmin - I'm particularly attached to Logan, Shiv, and Roman - and that the game gives me a Mii avatar that trots around its map. Feeding my pikmin nectar is endlessly entertaining (though they do get full eventually) and at the end of the day the game lets me know how far I've walked, my flower planting stats, and even - if you give the app access to your photo library - asks me if I want to pick a photo I've snapped that day as a mini journal entry, and then gets me to rate my mood.
One of the cuter functions is the use of augmented reality tech so you can snap your growing family of pikmin in real-world settings. As the app rolls out you can expect to see social media flooded with friends showing off their pikmin platoons. Truly, dick pics may never be the same again.
If the idea of any app that tracks your movements makes you nervous, Pikmin Bloom does try to address that, making the flower trails something that other players can see, but not connect to you specifically.
"By default, it is visible to everybody. And the reason why we decided to do that was that we really wanted this collaborative factor into the Pikmin Bloom game where everybody is working together to plant flowers across the world, and collaborating to make these grow these big beautiful flowers," said Katayama.
"And we try to do this in a very subtle way though, like even if you don't see people, you can see trails of flowers and things that people have left behind that leaves traces of and feelings of the presence of others, but not necessarily see who has made them or any way to trace back to the actual person."
The app launches in Australia and Singapore on October 27, and more countries will be added soon. (Update: It's now live in US app stores.) I've had it on my iPhone 13 Pro for a few days now, and while I never got into Pokemon Go mania, my pikmin have definitely made my walks through Brooklyn a whole lot cuter.
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