HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Nintendo’s Pikmin 3 for Wii U is a well balanced mix of strategy and action. The formula isn’t too different from the previous Gamecube era entries, not counting the motion control aspect of course. This lack of a wild shift in gameplay is for me, a breath of fresh air. I for one like when a series that isn’t over saturated with entries or one that isn’t broken keeps the core game mechanics on cruise control.
In the first Pikmin, players took the role of Captain Olimar. Olimar is a space man who crash lands on a mysterious planet. The planet is also quite dangerous. To help Olimar the player picks up “pikmin”. They are a plant like aliens that come in several different colors. Their colors represented different powers. Players could control and command up to 100 different pikmin. Olimar could use them to grab items to repair his ship, or fight large (and rather goofy) alien creatures. The only catch was players were on a timer each day. In addition players only had 30 days in the game world to escape the planet. Pikmin 2 did away with the 30-day limit which frustrated players (myself included). Pikmin 3 followed suit with the same design.
Pikmin 3, unlike its two predecessors, does not feature Captain Olimar as its protagonist. Instead players control three different characters. Charlie the commander, Alph the engineer, and Brittany the botanist are the stars here. The crew sets out on a mission to find a planet with food. Their own planet of Koppai has exhausted its food supply, forcing our travelers to find food on a distant planet. At the beginning of the adventure our team finds such a planet, but the crew’s ship splits into three parts before entering the planet’s atmosphere. The player must reunite the stranded crew in the early going.
Each day the player must gather fruit to turn into juice. There is a catch however. The characters consume one bottle of juice each day to keep themselves going. There are times when you’ll really struggle to find fruit inside of the 15-minute day if you let your guard down and get distracted by enemies.
Pikmin 3 eases the player into the game, which is helpful for those who aren’t familiar with the series. The pikmin respond to the call of your whistle. Players can use the whistle to direct the pikmin. Once you whistle in a certain area the pikmin in your squad can be thrown towards tasks or sent all at once with a shake of the nunchuck attachment or gamepad. Tasks include tearing down walls, carrying precious fruit, attacking creatures, building bridges, or connecting live wires. The last one is made possible by the game’s yellow pikmin who have an electric ability making them immune to electricity. Red pikmin are fireproof and tend to be your grunts. White pikmin are able to locate treasure underground. Purple pikmin are your tank types. They are heavy and strong. Two new types of pikmin appear in the game. The first is a literal rock pikmin type who can break glass structures. They are also great for combat. The second type is a new flying pikmin. They are perfect for flying over those hard to deal with hazards.
I do want to talk about the control types. One way is with the Wii U Gamepad. I tried using the Gamepad for about an hour and it was very difficult to control the many pikmin during intense fights. Tracking different creatures with the analog stick while they destroy your pikmin army is a pain. The other way is with a Wii Remote and a nunchuk attachment. This is not only better, it is MUCH better. The Wii Remote gives you a much easier way to highlight units and move around the world. I ended up using the Gamepad as a map for navigation instead. I thought it was helpful in this regard. Navigation is a problem at times in the game. I was frustrated to end up at a dead end more than once in the game. Due to the game’s time driven gameplay losing your way can prove to be costly. The AI (Artificial Intelligence) of the pikmin is lacking at times as well. Sometimes they do the exact thing you had hoped for, while other times they drown themselves and you end up shaking your head.
There is a multiplayer component to Pikmin 3. You can play locally with a friend in a fun mode that has the players working together to gather as much fruit as possible or a timed race to defeat as many enemies as possible. Both are fun. I had a blast with a buddy working to divide and conquer. The second mode is a bingo battle. Two players are given cards with the pictures of different in game items. The goal is to retrieve the items in a line (a la bingo!) and bring them to your designated base area. It’s competitive, and fun.
Pikmin 3 does suffer from some occasional control issues but I still really enjoyed it. I do recommend playing the game with the Wii Remote and nunchuk instead of the Gamepad. I found it much more responsive and most importantly, faster. The game is great for kids of all ages and fans of strategy.