Tuesday, September 7, 2004
A few years ago, the ever-intelligent gaming genius Shigeru Miyamoto wanted to create something fresh. This new idea couldn't revolve around jumping plumber, renaissance-ish elf or even futuristic racing cars; he'd already developed those Nintendo trademarks. So what did he come up with? A strategy game based on his garden.
Yep, that real idea led to the development of Pikmin, a critically acclaimed puzzle strategy title in which we commanded little flower alien looking things (called flora) to work together in different ways to solve puzzles and beat down big nasty bugs and vermin. Now we have the follow-up and it improves on everything that could be perceived as a fault in its predecessor.
Pikmin 2 has our favorite Captain Olimar rounding up the Pikmin again. This time, he doesn't need to locate the parts of his ship, but rather travel to mysterious planets to find valuable artifacts to sell and get his boss out of debt. This time around Olimar has a companion, Louie, to help him corral the Pikmin even though he doesn't seem to have all his marbles.
As before, you have to control your yellow, blue and red Pikmin, all of which have special powers. Blues work well in water, red with fire and the yellow ones can handle high voltage. The red ones are still the best attackers, too. New to the fold are purple and white Pikmin. The white ones are physically weak but are poisonous and resistant to poison. Not only that but they can find tons of hidden items that you can't see. The purple Pikmin are the Ah-nolds of the group, sporting the strength of ten Pikmin per one purple guy. You can also use Louie as a second leader to help you multitask, which breaks new gameplay elements wide open. For instance, both Olimar and Louie can find berries to make potions with. These potions can give your Pikmin extra abilities to further your tasks.
Pikmin is definitely not meant for the lazy. Anyone wanting to rush through this game is going to have a frustrating time. If you don't manage your Pikmin correctly and don't take the time to calculate a plan, however simple it may seem, you will lose a boatload of your Pikmin in the blink of an eye. Understanding each type of Pikmin is imperative to succeed. But don't fear, the time limit that didn't let you truly soak in every inch of the levels in Pikmin 1 is gone. Take your time. The levels are bigger and exploring every inch never fails to be rewarding.
There are even underground caves you can find for some side-quests. The change of scenery is awesome but you are limited to the types of Pikmin you currently have. Many of these underground levels have certain elements that only one or two types of Pikmin can handle, so make your decisions accordingly.
All of the enemies and obstacles are fun, hilarious and sometimes disturbing. The personality exuded by the massive amounts of enemies in the game is quite an achievement. Pikmin 2's beauty is definitely in its subtlety, although the shell is also gorgeous.
As said before, Pikmin 2 is a much longer single-player experience. But you can even go through the campaign with a friend in a split-screen cooperative mode. Constant planning and communication with a friend to solve Pikmin-types of puzzles proves to be almost more fun than the solid single-player mode. There is even a smart marble-stealing battle mode to lengthen your Pikmin time.
The graphics are bright, cheery but sometimes a little darker than the first game. The art direction is definitely unique and quite a breath of fresh air. The psycho-gardening game never fails to impress visually. The music and sound effects contain a lot of muted warbling and bubbly noises. Aside from the voices of the different Pikmin, the sound is nothing epic or extravagant and immediately ignorable. That's not a bad thing but it doesn't really beg for acclaim.
Pikmin 2 is a true sequel in every way. It actually surprised me with how much smoother it played than its predecessor. Not only that, but the few new gameplay elements add exponentially to the experience.
First Play: A
Last Play: A
Overall: 95% A