I discovered Pikmin many, many moons ago on a fateful day in CeX when the mushroomy-bulborb cover of Pikmin 1 on GameCube caught my eye. Since then, I’ve been a staunch fan of the pick ‘em and plant ‘em series, have been impatiently waiting for Pikmin 4 for literally years at this point, and, spoilers for the review, I’m absolutely not disappointed.
I’ve played Pikmin 3, Hey Pikmin, Bloom, and Pikmin 1 (not Pikmin 2 yet due to it costing an arm and a leg up until recently), these experiences have been slightly forgotten by the test of time, but Pikmin 4 is like meeting an old friend where you immediately fall back into step. While it’s reminiscent of the older games, there are plenty of newfangled gameplay features in Pikmin 4 to make it even bigger and better.
If you’re new to the Pikmin franchise and thinking about picking this one up, you can absolutely do so. You don’t need to have played any previous titles to get into this one, as it’s a great starting point, re-entry, or continuation no matter how much of a fan you are.
Let me give you a quick intro (or refresher) to the Pikminverse. In Pikmin 4, you’re a newly recruited cadet that’s tasked with helping rescue the Rescue Corps, ironically, as they’ve crash landed on a mysterious planet after tracking a distress call. This planet is littered with other castaways picking up the same signals, so be nice and pick them up too. After arriving, you dust yourself off and wander around until you find some strange, colorful things growing out of the ground. These are the Pikmin.
As an intrepid explorer, you pluck them out of the ground, and the little guys follow you, so you assume they want to help. You can send them off to pick things up and carry them back to your base, break down obstacles, and much more. Over time, you amass more and more in different colors and types that can help solve many problems that arise as you work to fix your busted spacecraft.
Pikmin 4, though, has another integral friend that follows you – Oatchi, the rescue pup! He’s the best addition to the game and he’s adorable. He can carry you and all of your Pikmin safely around the map, push things, bash things, and collect things. Just, please, promise to equip him with armor as soon as you can or else he’ll take damage and we’ll all be sad.
Armor? Yes – as you collect resources, you can exchange them for very helpful pieces of equipment in the new hub area around the Rescue Corps’ ship. There are items that stop you from getting blown away, burnt, and electrocuted to name a few. Plus plenty of safety equipment for Oatchi. This hub area also fills out pretty quickly as you rescue other cadets. The castaways lost on the planet often have extra missions to give you, information to give, or can change your appearance and name whenever you feel like a redo.
Now that you’re caught up on the basics, let’s descend to the surface and see what’s going on. There’s so much to do in Pikmin 4, so I’ll start at the beginning. Mission number one: you need to find plenty of items to fix and refuel the ship, along with gathering enough Pikmin to help you out properly. This fuel comes in the shape of Sparklium, derived from treasures you find like fruits, playing cards, and a strange square-shaped gaming device from years ago (it’s a Game Boy Advance). Hunt down these treasures and throw your Pikmin at them to get them transported back to the ship.
You may also notice some odd, drain-pipe-shaped tunnels dotted around during your discoveries – don’t be afraid to investigate these, as plenty of treasures and castaways reside within. Plus, these caverns tend to house new species of Pikmin for you to pluck, like the hardy gray Pikmin and water-resistant blues.
This leads to my next point – there are new Pikmin types! On top of returning red, yellow, blue, purple, gray, and white – there are now icy Pikmin and ghostly glow Pikmin. The ice guys are incredibly helpful as they can freeze enemies and water, allowing easier defeats and safe passage. As for the glow Pikmin – they’re only found in the new nighttime battles.
Yes, you read that right – night exploration is now a thing in Pikmin. These separate missions put you and Oatchi in a dark and scary nocturnal version of the levels you traverse in the day, where glow Pikmin come to your aid. What do you get for these night-time expeditions? Well, a cure for the poor leaf-laden castaways, of course.
Sadly, some of the lost souls on this planet succumbed to a leafy disease, covering them in an almost fur-like substance and addling their brains, so that they become obsessed with something called ‘Dandori’. You need to use a cure derived from glow Pikmin in order to cure them and restore their humanity.
But what is Dandori? It’s an incredibly fun new type of resource-management-themed battle. You enter a stage with only a few Pikmin and face off against enemies while collecting treasures within a limited time. Some of these battles are against another Dandori-er, or on your own. This type of battle is a new addition to Pikmin 4 and brings a fresh new way to strategize with your army of Pikmin.
There’s another new addition that I need to mention – the ability to reverse time. This is literally just reloading a previous save but integrated into the game so you don’t feel like you’re cheating. There are options for when to go back to or to restart a stage, and the game shows you which Pikmin and treasures you have at each time to help you pick which to load. This function is an absolute savior so I can undo any haunting moments when a load of my red Pikmin drowns, or half my group got steamrolled by a hefty enemy. No more heart-wrenching losses here!
Friends, Pikmin 4 has so much content and so much to do, it’s hard to squeeze it all into one review – hence why I’ve picked out some of my favorite things to rave about. There’s plenty of space to explore including different areas like a back garden and a beach, each filled with ‘dungeon’ puzzles, enemies to quash, and Sparklium to grab, along with some environmental threats like giant sprinklers and a working tide system at the aforementioned beach.
There’s nothing especially hard, though some levels can give you a bit of a challenge. This definitely aligns with Pikmin 4 being both a beginner and returning player’s game. Further difficulty levels unlock for certain things as you progress to give you and your Pikmin a run for your money, too.
Don’t worry about any performance issues here, the team behind the game clearly put a lot of love (and time) into Pikmin 4, and it looks fantastic on the Switch. Even better than some other recent first-party releases like a certain Legend of a Princess. I encountered no glitches, or crashes (aside from our spaceship), and nothing to even point out in a negative light. I just love Pikmin and am so glad to be amongst the little leafy friends once again, even if I’m still struggling to accept they don’t mind being literally thrown around all these years later.
Pikmin 4 is an absolute delight. Not that I expected any different, of course – but you never know after such a long development time especially when the first iteration was allegedly scrapped and restarted. There’s plenty here for old fans and new, with hours upon hours of content whether you’re a casual player or someone going for 100% completion. This game is just lovely and I’ve got no criticisms or complaints at all, despite trying to think of some for parity’s sake. Is this the best Pikmin game so far? I’d say so. Now, excuse me as I work towards a 100% completion rate.
After what seems like forever, we’ve finally got Pikmin 4 and it does not disappoint. Head into the undergrowth armed with a planty platoon and your trusty dog Oatchi to uncover mystery and treasures in a delightful adventure.