Pikmin 4 review: A delightful starting point for new explorers

Daniel Megarry
A screenshot of Oatchi in Pikmin 4

Pikmin 4 is an incredibly satisfying resource management game cloaked in adorable visuals and a morbid sense of humor. It’s also the perfect opportunity for newcomers to jump into the series for the first time.

10 years after the last proper Pikmin game was released, one of Nintendo’s strangest and most under-appreciated franchises is making a long-awaited comeback.

Rather than shaking things up completely, Nintendo has opted to finetune the existing Pikmin format with great new features, improved visuals, and a scene-stealing Rescue Pup called Oatchi.

Pikmin 4 – Key Details

  • Price: $59.99
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Date: July 21, 2023
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch

Pikmin 4 trailer

Making the most of each day

There are three overarching objectives in Pikmin 4. Repair your spaceship, locate your missing crewmates, and eventually rescue Captain Olimar. That’s right – unlike every other main series Pikmin, you won’t be playing as Olimar this time around. Instead, you’re a rookie member of the Rescue Corps, a team of rescuers who’ve crash-landed on a mysterious planet after responding to Olimar’s distress signals.

It’s a solid setup to introduce (or reintroduce) people to the Pikmin franchise, as there’s a reason for your character to be learning about these tiny creatures and the world around them for the first time. There’s even a cute – albeit fairly basic – character creator to make your own custom hero for that personal touch.

The character creator in Pikmin 4

As someone who’s never connected with a Pikmin game before, it didn’t take long for me to figure out what I was doing and get stuck into the surprisingly satisfying gameplay loop.

Each day you’ll blast off on a short expedition to one of four lovingly-detailed stages, where you’ll have a limited time to do as much exploring as you can. This is where the game’s strategy elements come into play. With so much to discover, where do you spend your resources? It’s far too easy to get distracted by a big pile of gold or a far-off treasure, so planning your day effectively is key to making it back to your ship in one piece.

A screenshot of Pikmin building a bridge

Helping hands

Of course, you’ll have an army of Pikmin to help you. These plant-like beings can be commanded to defeat enemies or transport items back to your ship, but they’re vulnerable and easily distracted. It’s up to you to keep them safe.

There are now nine variations of these cute little creatures to collect, ranging from the classic Red Pikmin to the new Ice Pikmin. Each type has its own quirks and resistances, so this adds a team-building strategy element to each expedition.

The real star of the show in Pikmin 4 is Oatchi, your adorable Rescue Pup companion. He can carry you on his back, swim, smash obstacles, and help you transport objects. As you progress through the game, you’ll be able to upgrade his skills using Pup Drive points. You can even take control of him directly to explore tunnels or solve switch-based puzzles.

Oatchi isn’t just a cute gimmick, he’s an essential part of the experience, so much so that I can’t imagine playing a Pikmin game without him.

Oatchi in Pikmin 4

Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?

While the game’s four stages initially feel quite small in comparison to the open-world games of today, they’re all incredibly dense with a surprising amount of things to discover. I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity, and that’s something that Pikmin 4 absolutely gets right. Whether you’re growing your Pikmin army, plundering underground caves, or collecting treasures like a Game Boy Advance, it’ll take you hours to fully explore every stage.

Like previous Pikmin games, your character is roughly the size of a bug, so everything from the flowers to the gardening tools are oversized and exaggerated. I’ve always thought Pikmin games looked uninspired, but there’ve been some pretty major visual improvements this time around. It’s lovely to look at, with vibrant environments and colors that pop – especially on an OLED Switch screen.

Aside from the layouts and visual differences, each stage has its own mechanics that make them unique. At the beachy Serene Shores, the water level will drop halfway through the day so you can access new areas. Over in Hero’s Hideaway, a green space pup stalks you and your Pikmin unless you temporarily knock him out. Think of Resident Evil’s Mr. X, only cuter and cuddlier.

A SNES controller in Pikmin 4

The Pik of destiny

There’s no limit on how many times you can return to each stage. It makes it easy to take a more relaxed approach if you prefer. There’s also the ability to reverse time, which is primarily used to save Pikmin that have met an untimely end. I confidently told myself that I wouldn’t need to use this, but just a few hours in I’d already caved on that promise after half of my beloved Pikmin were sent flying off the edge of a cliff.

Death plays a big role in Pikmin 4. Despite its cutesy visuals, you’re going to have to get used to the sight and sounds of your Pikmin burning, drowning, or being gobbled up by an angry Bulborb. Watching your army of Pikmin murder a wild creature and then transport it to your ship to be converted to more Pikmin seeds feels a little grim too. All of this is done with a morbid sense of humor though. It’s easily one of my favorite things about the game.

A nighttime expedition in Pikmin 4

Alongside the main campaign, there are also several night expeditions. These turn each stage into a game of base defense, as you fend off waves of enemies who become enraged once the sun sets. Then there are Dandori Battles. These require you to battle against a leafy opponent to see who can collect the most treasure before time is up. That’s not to mention the hefty chunk of post-credits content, including some nice surprises for longtime Pikmin fans.

The Verdict – 5/5

Pikmin 4 is an absolute delight. It’s packed full of humor and charm and never failed to put a smile on my face. Whether you’re a hardened fan or a newcomer to the franchise, there’s plenty to love in this imaginative, morbid, satisfying sequel.

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