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Detective Pikachu Returns review – elementary, my dear Wattrel

The electric mouse stars in Detective Pikachu Returns - a lackluster sequel with a very young audience in mind, providing an easy crime-solving spree.

Detective Pikachu Returns review - Pikachu with foam on his face

Our Verdict

Detective Pikachu Returns brings you back to Ryme City to solve crimes once again. While there's a cute story and some light-hearted fun, the visual quality and price of the game let it down.

Do you have your deerstalker hat and a cup of coffee ready? If not, go grab them, and then settle into our Detective Pikachu Returns review, where we take a look at the Switch’s follow-up and experience a new adventure with the electric mouse himself.

Detective Pikachu Returns is a direct sequel to 2018’s Detective Pikachu on 3DS, following Pikachu and his partner Tim Goodman once again as they continue to search for Tim’s missing father across Ryme City.

If, like me, you’re yet to play the first game, then don’t worry – there’s a handy recap of the story up to this point, including a nod to the movie which solidifies Tim and Pikachu’s almost celebrity status in the Poké-world.

You’re then straight into the action as you come across a Pidove that won’t wake up, leading into a short quest that introduces the mechanics of the game. You must question bystanders, those involved with the case, and their partner Pokémon, then collate your evidence and deduce what really happened by using your handy notebook filled with testimonies and alibis.

Detective Pikachu Returns review - Pikachu and Tim staring at an Exeggutor

From here, you embark on the big case plaguing Ryme City – a fancy jewel is missing and you must find it. Along the way, though, you can help with ‘local concerns’ that the townfolk may have, though these require minimal extra effort as you stumble on the answers as you walk along.

It‘s really nice seeing Pokémon integrated into everyday life, and what that might look like if they were real – there’s a Hariyama and Poliwrath getting into a fistfight in an alley and a load of Whimsicott flying around and leaving cotton stuck to everything.

There’s a lot of walking and talking here – in fact, that’s most of the game. Retracing your steps and investigating points of interest, then talking to anyone and everyone. I know this game is for a young audience – younger than most other Pokémon games, by the feel of things – but Detective Pikachu Returns’ hand-holding is like a vice grip that won’t let up. Granted I’m not privy to the data of who does play Pokémon games nowadays, but it seems that a lot of players are teens and adults, so it’s a shame that Detective Pikachu kind of alienates them with its simplicity.

Detective Pikachu Returns review - Pikachu riding on a Growlithe's back through a park

It’s a bit too simple, perhaps even for younger players (but I’m not five years old, so what do I know). You walk into a completely messed up room and Tim is like, “Hmm, perhaps something happened here”… no kidding, Sherlock. Despite that, though, I did find myself getting into it as I started to treat the game as a silly romp through a world inhabited by Pokémon that offers something different from the mainline games.

At one point you take over as Pikachu and must ride a Growlithe around following a scent trail. If you ask me, the whole game should have been like this, as it’s actually really nice running around talking Pokémon-to-Pokémon and giving some screentime to them instead of boring old humans.

Now, let’s look at the quality of the game from an objective perspective, shall we? While little Tim may have had a bit of a glow-up since the DS days, that’s about where the graphical improvements end. This could easily be a mobile game, in fact, Pokémon Unite looks better in a lot of ways. The character models in Detective Pikachu Returns are relatively clean and have great designs, but unfortunately, when they start talking, they look very hammy. This isn’t helped by some pretty cheesy voice acting for some characters like Sanjeev and Detective Holiday.

Detective Pikachu Returns review - A sad. textureless Pawniard stood in front of a broken rock

Overall, it just looks a little cheap. Everything is very smooth. Too smooth. Pikachu looks like he’s made of rubber, and at one point a Pawniard appears that has approximately zero textures on it. It, at some points, looks like a knockoff game you’d find on PC.

The jump from DS to Switch has clearly been very hard for Game Freak and I’m not sure why I keep having remotely high expectations for the developer’s output after the lackluster story in Sword and Shield, then the questionable graphics in Legends: Arceus, and the unforgivable performance issues in Scarlet and Violet – that still haven’t got a proper fix, as evident in our Teal Mask DLC review.

Am I going too hard on a kid’s game? Maybe, but when Game Freak is such a huge company, I can’t understand why we keep getting titles that require just a little (or a lottle) more love before their release. It just feels like the company doesn’t care anymore and as a long-time fan since the early 90’s, it makes me sad. Sorry, I woke up feeling salty after remembering how bad Pawniard especially looks in this game.

Detective Pikachu Returns review - Pikachu standing on a fountain with two Magikarp in the air

Detective Pikachu Returns is silly and easy fun, but if the appearance of games matters to you, this isn’t a worthwhile use of your money. This game retails for $49.99/£39.99, and personally, I don’t feel this is worth it at all.

If you want to get into some slightly better Pokémon games, then nab the latest Pokémon Go codes and Pokémon Unite codes to try out some new fighters and get some berries.