July 31, 2023

Tiny Heroes, Gigantic Fun - Pikmin 4: (Switch) Review

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Tiny Heroes, Gigantic Fun - Pikmin 4: (Switch) Review

By Joel | July 31, 2023
Tiny Heroes, Gigantic Fun

To wander through the vast, verdant worlds of Nintendo’s latest achievement, Pikmin 4, is akin to visiting an alternate universe where the minutiae of life explode into grandiose adventures, and where your greatest allies stand but a few centimeters tall.

Nintendo, in its most idiosyncratic approach, has taken what others might cast aside as mere garden pests and transformed them into the heroes of a game that feels like a miniature epic. Like an ant peering up at a blade of grass, it is a world at once familiar yet uncannily majestic, and it is the most triumphant game in the series.

A Mesmerizing World Awaits - Pikmin 4: (Switch) Review

Shrink, Strategize, Succeed

At the game's core, Pikmin 4 remains true to its roots: a real-time strategy game that charmingly invokes a sense of curiosity, exploration, and a dash of Darwinian survival. Players are cast as an intergalactic explorer stranded on an alien planet, who must enlist the help of the titular Pikmin - diminutive, colorful creatures that are equal parts garden gnome and ant.

You start as a stranger in this odd, beautiful world, but before long, you'll find yourself adeptly commanding hordes of these plucky Pikmin, solving environmental puzzles, battling exotic fauna, and scavenging for ship parts to make your way back home.

What sets the game apart, however, is its sense of scale and ambition. The landscape is richly rendered with a level of detail that instills a childlike wonder. You'll watch sunsets over landscapes of fallen autumn leaves the size of islands, cross bodies of water trapped in bottle caps, and ascend towering anthills that reach into the clouds. And the Pikmin themselves, once a largely homogeneous mass, now boast distinct, lovable personalities that are as endearing as they are functional.

A Mesmerizing World Awaits - Pikmin 4: (Switch) Review

Switch Goes Green

Yet, Pikmin 4 isn’t without its thorns. The real-time element can lead to moments of stress rather than strategic enjoyment. The passing day, represented by a sundial ticking away at the screen's edge, is sometimes a cruel taskmaster. And the game’s AI, while generally impressive, can occasionally lead your troops into undue disaster, an issue that's as frustrating as it is heart-wrenching. Still, I wish there was a way that Pikmins can automatically come back to you without having the need to call them.

Nonetheless, the title is a testament to the game's immersive world and engaging mechanics that these missteps rarely feel more than minor irritations. From the moment you pluck your first Pikmin from the ground to the final spaceship part returning to its rightful place, Pikmin 4 invites you to lose yourself in a universe that's simultaneously whimsical, challenging, and truly unique.

I suppose, however, that in the world of gaming, there are titles that you play, and then there are those that you experience and this one falls squarely into the latter category, immersing players in a storybook world that challenges as much as it enchants. It is at once a lovingly crafted continuation of a cherished series, and a leap forward that pushes the boundaries of what we can expect from a real-time strategy game.

A Mesmerizing World Awaits - Pikmin 4: (Switch) Review

Tiny Treasures

Nintendo has sown the seeds of the Pikmin series with meticulous care, and in Pikmin 4, we see the fruit of their labor: a game that is truly larger than the sum of its tiny parts. It reminds us that the world beneath our feet, when viewed from a different perspective, can transform intself into an epic adventure.

If it's true that art reflects life, then Pikmin 4 is not just a game, but a philosophic musing on our place in the universe. It’s a reminder to cherish the beauty of the small and the mundane, and a testament to the power of cooperation, perseverance, and curiosity. Despite a few stumbles, Pikmin 4 achieves a remarkable feat in creating a world teeming with wonder and adventure on a miniature scale.

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