When it was first announced that Hey! Pikmin would be a drastic departure from the Pikmin series’ regular, 3D puzzle-strategy gameplay, many fans felt some trepidation over how it would turn out. I can confidently assure you there’s nothing to worry about here; though different from the previous instalments’ gameplay style, Hey Pikmin manages to develop and bring its own unique character to the Pikmin franchise. If you’ve never played a Pikmin game before, don’t stress: The plot is straightforward and simple enough for even newcomers to enjoy the premise, and being a spin-off, the game itself is fairly standalone.
Hey Pikmin begins with Captain Olimar finding himself yet again stuck on a foreign planet with the goal of collecting Sparklium to enable his trip back home. He quickly finds out he’s not alone, as he discovers familiar-looking Pikmin and other not-so-friendly creatures. Olimar is able to use his whistle to collect the Pikmin, who have different passive abilities depending on their colour, then throw them onto platforms and enemies to solve puzzles. This control set up felt a bit awkward (you move Olimar with the circle pad whilst controlling Pikmin with the touch screen) but it was easy to get used to once I started playing through more of the levels.
The majority of the game’s puzzles don’t require an enormous amount of thought thanks to the game’s gradual difficulty curve; generally,. Most of the puzzles are a combination of throwing Pikmin onto platforms to collect an item or turn a switch, using the whistle at the right time to ensure your Pikmin’s safety, manoeuvring around elemental hazards, and using Olimar’s jetpack to scale small ledges. These puzzles won’t prove drastically challenging once you’ve grasped the basics, but the combination of these mechanics can make the levels significantly more challenging if you’re going for full completion.
Each level has three collection objectives to fully clear it: Finishing the level, finding all three key objects, and not losing a single Pikmin. I only had one gripe with this aspect of the game: If you’re aiming to complete every map objective, it can get frustrating having to restart after losing a single Pikmin accidentally. Otherwise, the difficulty curve is smooth, and it’s very easy to understand and grasp the mechanics. The Pikmin that you collect at the end of each level then get moved into Pikmin Park, where you can set different types of Pikmin to overcome map challenges and win you more Sparklium and treasure. Although you unfortunately can’t do a lot with Pikmin Park, it’s mesmerising to watch the cute little guys picking grass blades or running in circles.
My favourite thing about the game, much to my surprise, was the soundtrack. Each level and overworld has a theme that fits the ‘alien world’ theme to a T, with a mixture of active and more ambient tracks that are all relaxing (except for the boss themes). It’s definitely a game to play with the volume up, just so you can get the full ‘eerie but somehow peaceful foreign planet’ experience. The log of items you’ve collected and seen is also surprisingly fascinating, with Olimar’s curious and amusing commentary on Earth’s household items contributing to the game’s universe lore.
Hey Pikmin is a solidly enjoyable game that’s very cute and satisfying to play. Though I didn’t find any significant gameplay flaws, the game itself isn’t hugely innovative or fresh like its predecessors; it provides fun puzzles and collection goals, but that’s about as far as the gameplay goes. If you’re a fan of the Pikmin series or you enjoy 2D puzzle platformers that aren’t too strenuous, I think you’ll definitely get some good play time out of Hey Pikmin for 3DS, even if you’ve never played a Pikmin game before; and if you are a fan of the series, this little gem will satisfy your need for Pikmin action until we see the eventual release of Pikmin 4.