Pikmin 4 Preview by DigitallyDownloaded.net

Hands-on with Pikmin 4: It’s Pikmin. It’s good!

Four time is... still charming.

7 mins read

Pikmin is delightful. It’s not Nintendo’s biggest property, but it is one of its most whimsical, and from what I’ve played of Pikmin 4 so far (which is admittedly not that much… it has been a busy week), this new one has lost none of the loving craft that Nintendo’s development team has put into the series over the years.

Related reading: Catch up with Pikmin before this game releases with Pikmin 3 Deluxe on Nintendo Switch. Our review.

Everything you love about Pikmin is immediately there. You play as an intergalactic rescue team member, tasked with tracking down the series’ iconic hero, Captain Olimar. For the first time, you can actually make this character for yourself, though sadly the character builder is too limited to be a great feature. But nonetheless, your little created hero’s spaceship crashes on the planet where Olimar is stranded, and their team is scattered. So you’re tasked with tracking them all down, while also following Olimar’s footsteps, and collecting the resources to repair the ship and finally escape the planet.

The world is, once again, an oversized representation of a real-world garden, suggesting that your heroes and the Pikmin are all ant-sized. This is real Honey I Shrunk The Kids territory, and Nintendo loves playing with this. One of the first “shiny treasures” that you’ll find – the resources to repair the spaceship – is a “giant” Game Boy Advance SP. And as a delightful extra touch, as you get the loot back to the spaceship an “AI” will name it all for your bite-sized aliens, and the names it gives the stuff is hilariously inaccurate.

Pikmin 4 Preview 1

And then, of course, there are the Pikmin themselves. Pikmin can be commanded to fight enemies and haul loot back to the spaceship, and they are adorable. You’ll start off with the generalist red Pikmin, but it won’t take you long to unlock specialist Pikmin that can help you navigate obstacles like water, electricity, and enemies with particular strengths and weaknesses.

Finally, just like the Pikmin games of yesteryear, the world you have to explore is a giant puzzle. There will be bridges to improve, treasures located just out of reach, and walls to break through. You’ve free to explore and experiment, but there is a strict time limit for each “day”, and as evening sets in you will want to return to base (at least, in the early stages of the game), because things become very dangerous at night. Anything left to be done will need to wait for the next day.

The exception to this rule is the “dungeons,” which you’ll come across as you explore. Holes in the ground lead to networks of tunnels and caves and are critical to progress (you’ll find the people you need to rescue down there and so on). Underground you’ll have a self-contained little area to navigate and, typically, more powerful and frequent enemies to deal with. Time effectively stops while you’re underground, though, giving you plenty of time to explore and probe. I’ve never been overly fond of the way Pikmin forces a rhythm on you with those time limits, so I really enjoy these underground levels for largely liberating me of that.

Pikmin 4 Preview 2

Now, with all of the above said, it is apparently possible to stay out after nightfall and continue to explore. There is even a new type of Pikmin that will provide illumination and protect you from those increased threats at night. I have yet to experience this for myself, but if it’s handled well that could add a nice risk/reward quality to the game and also ease back on time management stress. A new Pikmin that I have been able to play with is an ice Pikmin, whose ability is to freeze water. It’s not the most exciting addition to the Pikmin roster, perhaps, but it does open up the opportunity for Nintendo to throw some new-look puzzles at players.

My only concern at this stage is whether Pikmin 4 is just a little too familiar, with the way that it is only slightly adding to the same narrative concept, general setting, aesthetics, characters, and gameplay structures. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” is perfectly valid, of course, but it’s also possible for things to stagnate. While I do love Pikmin I am, at this early stage, hoping Nintendo has some more ambitious surprises in store that will delight me beyond being able to freeze water. There is a dog-like companion animal too, but at this stage, as cute as he is, he just adds a couple of extra abilities that make him behave like a “super Pikmin”, rather than anything truly transformative to the experience. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt, and even if that isn’t to be I’m still having a wonderful time playing it. The quality is exactly as you would expect. I merely highlight this concern as a potential downer on an otherwise excellent comfort food experience.

Pikmin has always been something of a release schedule filler for Nintendo, and given that it’s coming just a few weeks after Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom it’s hard to imagine that Nintendo was looking at Pikmin 4 as anything other than that this time either. That doesn’t mean it won’t be worthwhile though. Good-natured whimsy is always valuable.

Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

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