The Insight: Pikmin 4 Makes An Unexpected Fan Out of Makeda With Many Flavors Of Fun!

By Makeda Byfield

Confession time: I’m usually not a fan of games that are part of a series. That usually stems from the fact that I don’t game enough, and am therefore, am usually unfamiliar with the background and lore. So imagine my surprise when I enjoyed Pikmin 4! The fourth game in the series seemed to have enough callbacks for old players, and exciting adventures and explanations for new players. This, in my opinion, is a sequel done right.

Pikmin 4 opens with the summary “Rescue shipwrecked castaways on an uncharted planet with the help of Pikmin in this epic adventure.” The simple introduction to the game’s premise was deeply appreciated: I had no questions about what I was about to get myself into. And I liked what I saw. Pikmin are a miniature, vegetable-looking species that have saved Captain Olimar and his crew several times before.

I was introduced to them in the opening scene, where we play as Olimar (a series fave) as he’s stranded in a larger-than-life house. Rumor has it the captain has gotten lost several times before (hence, the preface of all four games. (How many times can one man get stranded on an unfamiliar island?!) I’ll admit, the opening gameplay as Olimar caused me to believe that I’d be playing as him for the duration of the game. However, it is soon revealed that we would get to create our own characters to serve as a member of the rescue team – because apparently, the team that was supposed to save Olimar also got shipwrecked! I can’t say that I fully understand the decision to play as Olimar in the beginning, especially since we wouldn’t see him again until the end of the game. It did, however, give me the opportunities to learn how to use all the controls while the stakes were still low.

The “create-your-own-character” feature is a first in the series, leaving old fans thrilled. The character features aren’t too sophisticated; the skin tones and hairstyles are very limited. But the color that you chose for your character’s spacesuit ends up becoming the color of your spaceship and crew’s suits, as well, which is a really adorable touch. My character was decked out in my favorite color- purple – from her hair down to her spacesuit. Plus, there’s so much more to this game than personalizing your character.

There are two modes: story mode, or dandori mode. While I played story mode the entire time, the art of dandori was craftily weaved into the game. Dandori is the ability to organize tasks strategically and work effectively to execute plans. I’ve definitely practiced this art while playing. Having tons of lands in multiple areas to cover before the sun sets means I need to be smart about how I use my time.

Additionally, there are several types of Pikmin (i.e. red for fire, blue for water, yellow for electricity, etc.) that I need to skillfully call on and use to battle creatures that can pop up at every turn. I found the battles more comical than anything. Not being too difficult, the game really just required us to throw the right Pikmin into “battle” at the right time. From there, the Pikmin basically fight for you. The way that opponents in this game “die” after a battle is so funny to me. There’s just little ghosts that appear above the body and then they disappear. It’s not graphic or gory which makes it ok for kids.

In addition to your crew of Pikmin, you also team up with Oatchi, an adorable rescue dog, to roam the earth and rescue “castaways.” At first, one would think this just means your crew and Olimar. But one of this game’s best features is the amount of surprises thrown your way. Not only are we searching for the set amount of missing rescuer crew members – there’s also an unknown amount of civilians who came to the island and got lost, as well!

This is just one example of how Pikmin 4 surprises you with a new type of excitement whenever you think you got used to the process. Another example: Just when I thought I was getting bored, I encountered a kidnapped castaway and had to fight in a dandori battle to get them back. This timed challenge required my team to find and transport more raw material than our opponent while in a confined space. It forced me to be creative about how I was using my Pikmin and Oatchi to get more of the limited materials in the field. It took me three tries to win my first battle and, in the end, I was so proud of myself. The difficulty is not too bad; when I failed to win a challenge, I was actually pumped up to try again. Pikmin’ s talent of weaving enthralling challenges throughout the game prevents things from getting boring or repetitive.

There are also so many other cool features that make gameplay enjoyable. For starters, the rewind option allows you to go back in time (ranging from one minute to the start of the “day”). If I found myself stuck or in trouble because I lost too many Pikmin, this feature allowed me to backtrack and correct my mistakes so I could successfully complete a level. They also keep a running log of all messages between you and other characters – something that helped because I tend to be very forgetful. It was nice to know that I could refer to those notes if I needed to refresh my memory. 

I genuinely don’t have many negative critiques for this game. If I had to choose one, I would say that I wish I could actually train the dog to learn more skills. Currently, I just click “learn skill” and he automatically knows it after that. I would have liked to see some sort of challenge or adventure to make sure our rescue dog is learning skills that will help us in battle.

With all that being said, I still have a lot more left to play. I only found seven out of nine castaways/missing crew members so far and still haven’t found Olimar. That’s less to do with the game being too difficult to get through, and more to do with me being slow to grasp the game. And still, this may be one of the only games I’ve reviewed that I will keep playing after my article is published! (Wylde Flowers is the only other game with I keep going back to.) Pikmin is simply too adorable, too silly, and too fun for me to put down. As summer winds down, I can see myself spending these last few weeks of break escaping away into the whimsical, wonderful world of Pikmin 4.

Senior intern Makeda Byfield is a co-host of the New York Game Awards. The Pikmin 4 graphic is by intern Serenity Cruz.

95% of is created by paid student interns like Makeda and Serenity. A donation to NYVGCC helps support our amazing young writers and artists.

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