Pikmin 4 Demo Impressions: Satisfyingly Streamlined

Pikmin 4
Image Credit: Nintendo

Nintendo recently released a demo for Pikmin 4. After 22 years and multiple sequels, is it fun to manipulate many plant creatures?

Yes. There’s no denying that Pikmin 4 in 2023 is as fun as the GameCube original from 2001. However, several changes have been added to the latest sequel; some curtail the sometimes challenging gameplay.

Once again, Captain Olimar is in trouble, and the Rescue Team sent to find him, of course, has crashlanded. You’d think a species that has mastered intergalactic travel would know how to land a spaceship.

Thankfully, the sole remaining recruit is a little better at navigating outer space and re-entry. That’s you.

Pikmin 4 starts with a simplified retelling of Captain Olimar’s story and an equally simplified tutorial. Seasoned and newcomers will learn how to round up Pikmin, battle hostile creatures, and make the best use of Oatchi the pup.

Afterward, we’re given a chance to create our personalized recruit and learn that our mission is to find the scattered rescue team and turn sparkly objects into energy. Nearly any sizeable inanimate object can be transformed into our damaged ship’s power source. However, that’s not where the changes end.

Rather than using localized objects to create bridges or ladders, we have to rely on piles of resources that must be carried into the ship before use. These resources serve multiple purposes. On top of creating clay that acts as building blocks for bridge-building, the gem-like object also acts as a form of currency. We’ll talk about the currency that can be used to purchase items more in a bit.

Pikmin 4 handles mostly the same as previous titles but without (thankfully) waggle controls. Although, the control scheme has evolved a bit from Pikmin 3. Most of these relate to the inclusion of Oatchi. The inventory menu allows us to switch between Pikmin types, Oatchi, and

While Oatchi starts as a relatively basic tool, he quickly becomes one of Pikmin 4’s greatest assets. This helpful pooch can carry our recruit and a load of Pikmin at the same time. Oatchi can swim, meaning you can carry all types of Pikmin across bodies of water with no issue.

Additionally, Oatchi’s charge attack can be used to unload an entire platoon of Pikmin on an enemy in one shot rather than spamming the throw button. However, Oatchi also has a health meter, and if it is depleted in battle, the pupper is rushed back to your campsite until he’s healed or the following day.

Thankfully, the research shop allows us to buy healing items to keep our best friend up and running throughout the day. That’s not all, though.

Oatchi can learn new tricks and buffs at base camp. Considering Oatchi is your main ally if all of the Pikmin have been lost in a battle, it’s a good idea to spend the dog’s Pup Drive points as soon as you get them.

During the first few days that make up the demo, you’ll encounter the typical assortment of Pikmin: red and yellow. Ice Pikmin are introduced very early on, but not the blues. Although these tiny creatures act almost the same since the original GameCube release, they’re a bit smarter about following you now. It’s not a significant update, but I didn’t lose random Pikmin behind a random rock or sharp corner like in previous games.

Pikmin 4 feels far more accessible than the previous games. While the resource and time management stuff is still there, the new Pikmin and Oatchi make the daily tasks less daunting. This may detract fans of the first two games, but it’s a massive boon for the more casual player.

Examples of the generous gameplay include things we mentioned before, like Oatchi carrying us across the water to ice and Pikmin being able to freeze bodies of water temporarily. Also, we can move landing sites to multiple areas on the same map once particular creatures are disposed of.

Although resource management may have been altered due to the new character, time management is still the biggest challenge. Kind of.

Daylight moves as fast as usual; however, the sun’s rotation affects not all your time spent exploring the world. When you explore underground areas, time moves at a fraction of its normal speed. Well, normal by Pikmin standards anyway.

After our first encounter with the underground world, we’re told that time slows to 1/6th the usual rate, but I believe it stops altogether. While exploring the underground world on Day 2, I took a break from Pikmin 4 but didn’t pause the game. Around an hour later, I jumped back on, and upon going back to the surface, no time had passed.

However, on Day 3, I spent a long time in a multi-level underground area and found that close to an in-game hour had passed. Maybe the first time is a freebie?

Another new addition to gameplay is a mode made for both single and multiplayer. Dandori Battles have you race to collect resources while another player (or NPC) does the same. Players can gather items nearby, take the bolder route, and steal them from the opposing side.

The demo does not allow us to try out Dandori Battles against live players, but you get a shot at it in the single-player game. If you’re observant, you’ll see a team member atop the highest point in the first solo area you explore after finding the ship. Building a bridge to this spot will take some resources, but you can quickly reach it within the first two days.

Before you can rescue the new crew member, he is whisked away underground by a caveman-looking fellow with an uncanny resemblance to Captain Olimar. By following the rascal, you’ll initiate a Dandori Battle. If you win, you’ll get the crew member back.

It’s not clear if these battles will be mostly optional throughout the rest of the game. For those who like the straightforward task of retrieval and exploration, the Dandori sections could be an unwanted interruption. We’ll have to wait for the full game to come out to see if this new gameplay mode is necessary to complete the single-player game.

Overall, Pikmin 4’s demo hit all of the expected hallmarks of the franchise while also giving newbies a substantial helping hand with Oatchi. If you level up the pup enough, he can carry most items requiring several Pikmin. If you like the challenge of relying only on your flowery buddies, send Oatchi off to battle some giant monster and let him sit out the rest of the day while you go about an average round.

Fans of the series will get what they need out of the latest title, except the Dandori Battles. However, hardcore players may be disappointed by how much handholding the game is willing to do.

Pikmin 4 will arrive on July 21st. It will be $59.99 on launch. Those who buy the game via the eShop will receive 10% in Gold Points.

[Source: Nintendo]
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Mike Phalin

Longtime problematic entertainment journalist. The former workhorse for Dread Central, ScienceFiction.com, and Fanbolt.

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