Thursday, January 16, 2020

My unasked-for review of Hey! Pikmin: I liked it, I really liked it!

I bought Hey! Pikmin a couple of years ago when retailers were selling copies at a fraction of their original asking price.

It's been sitting in a drawer ever since it arrived on my doorstep, though, because the negative word of mouth that surrounds this side-scrolling Pikmin spinoff convinced me it was a dud.

What prompted me to slip my Hey! Pikmin cart into my flame-red 3DS at long last? This recent write-up played a role, naturally, but so did my desire to play a DS or 3DS game that wasn't an RPG.

Hey! Pikmin fit that bill as well as any other game in my collection, so I started my way through it late last week. Five days and just about 13 hours later, I was done with it--final boss, credit roll, and all.

Although this post's headline should make it pretty clear how I feel about the time I spent with Hey! Pikmin, I'm guessing most of you would like to know a little more about those feelings than just, "I loved it!"

For those folks, here are some of the positives--and negatives!--that stuck out at me while I traipsed my way through Hey! Pikmin.

Hey! Pikmin pros

It looks great--Visually, Hey! Pikmin reminds me of Yoshi's New Island. Which makes a lot of sense, as developer Arzest made both of these 3DS games. Don't fret if you despise New Island's aesthetics. Not only are the graphics in Hey! Pikmin more consistent than those of its Yoshi-starring counterpart, but they're more consistently pretty, too.

The puzzle-centric gameplay is refreshingly unique--At times, Hey! Pikmin feels like it began life as a Kirby or Yoshi game. An example: you use the Pikmin you collect here to defeat enemies and solve puzzles, much like you use eggs to complete those same actions in your average Yoshi title. Overall, though, Hey! Pikmin's gameplay differs just enough from that of the aforementioned counterparts to feel unique. There's no real "platforming"--or even jumping--in this spinoff, for starters. Also, the pace is a lot slower and more deliberate than it is in most Yoshi and Kirby games. And then there are the eponymous, carrot-like creatures, which, as you might expect, provide their own twist to this well-worn genre.

It's almost blissfully short--When I was younger, Hey! Pikmin's brevity would've caused me to blow a gasket. These days, short games thrill me. I no longer have the time or attention span to play more than a couple of super-long games each year. So, Hey! Pikmin was perfect for me in that regard.

Another way it was perfect for me: it didn't overstay its welcome. You might be thinking, "Of course it didn't, you only played it for 13 hours!" My response is that if Hey! Pikmin had included one more sector (world), even one more boss, it would've actively annoyed me. In other words, it basically ended right around when I thought it should. How many times does that happen with modern games?

Also, it's perfect for short bursts of play--If you, too, prefer games that allow you to plug away at them a little bit at a time, you should track down a copy of Hey! Pikmin pronto. Assuming you're still in the mood for 3DS titles, of course. Most Hey! Pikmin stages can be finished in just a few minutes. And most sectors can be finished in an hour or so. It all makes for a pretty wonderful situation if you don't have a ton of free time and you're not a huge fan of games that take months to complete.

I'm pretty sure I'll replay it sooner rather than later--And that's not something I say about a lot of games these days. So why am I saying it here? Because I'm already looking forward to experiencing certain Hey! Pikmin levels a second or even third time, that's why. I'm especially looking forward to revisiting the frosty stages of the "Snowfall Field" sector--like the one that tasks you with controlling Olimar and his pluckable, pint-sized crew while sliding down a mountain atop a bottle cap.

Hey! Pikmin cons

It chugs a bit on an OG 3DS--It's possible Hey! Pikmin is like Poochy and Yoshi's Woolly World and performs better when played on a New 3DS. My only experience with the former title to date, though, is on an OG 3DS. And when played on an OG 3DS, Hey! Pikmin's frame rate struggles a bit on several stages. I'd even go so far as to say it struggles mightily on a few. That's never really bothered me, strangely enough, but I know it bugs others, so I thought I'd point it out here.

It's pretty easy--You know how in most Kirby and Yoshi games, the real challenge comes from nabbing all the collectibles in a stage or finishing a level without taking a hit? Well, the same is true of Hey! Pikmin. If you hate that sort of thing, you'll probably hate this side-scroller, too.

Too few stages force you to use multiple kinds of Pikmin--Considering Hey! Pikmin features five different Pikmin types, you might think it would be chock-full of levels requiring you to use all, or at least several, of them. Nope. The majority only let you use one or two. Just a handful let you use three, and I can't think of a single one that lets you use all five. A missed opportunity, if you ask me.

A number of stages are locked behind Amiibos--Of all the negatives I'm highlighting here, this one irritates me the most. Actually, it's the only one that irritates me, period. Thankfully, most--all?--of the Hey! Pikmin levels that are locked behind Amiibos seem to be of the "secret spot" variety. Meaning they're single-screened, puzzle-centric stages rather than full-fledged ones. Still, it's beyond annoying that you need to own Amiibos to access them.

See also: 'Five Nintendo 3DS games I want to play in 2020'

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