If you take gameplay from Lemmings and any decent Dune 2-clone, mix it with elements from UFO/X-Com and Katamari Damacy, wrap it up in graphics inspired by animated Eastern-European kids TV from the 80s (last seen in Samorost) and add a touch of Miyamoto & Co., you get Pikmin - one of Nintendo�s few gos at the Real Time Strategy genre for their GameCube.
And, miraculously enough, it works brilliantly!
Tomorrow it�s two years and four months since Pikmin 2 was released here in the old world. It�s name has turned up here and there in articles and best-of-lists I�ve read, but I�ve never tried it until I started looking for 80mms to feed my Wii with. Not Pikmin 1 either, for that matter. My loss.
I won�t dwell on all the details of the gameplay (the official review here at Eurogamer does that for us�) but rather go through one and one �borrowed� element and you�ll see what I mean in the intro.
The game claims to be a RTS. Fair enough. You command squads of �soldiers�, the Pikmins, of various build and colour. For example you have your basic red ones with pointy noses that can stand fire and you have yellow ones with elfish ears that can stand lightning-bolts and electric shock in general and can be thrown further than others. These ones you can for example transform into dark purple fat ones that are 10 times stronger and 10 times heavier than normal ones or small white ones with red eyes that can support poisonous gases and such. This makes red Pikmins good to use against fire breathing slug-like creatures, whereas the white ones are the only one who can open doors where red goo/gas is filtering through. Another RTS-element is the idea of experience amongst the soldiers in a troop. On top of a Pikmins head you can see how experienced he (,she or it?) is. A leaf symbolizes a n00b, a bud a bit more experienced one and then the best ones a full flower.
The puzzle-elements are way more present here than in �normal� RTSs. You encounter problems like paper bags or weighted scales and other landscape features that needs to be overcome to progress. Like Lemmings you�re in control of a hoard of very dumb creatures that you wan to have surviving. The fact that your squad can only consist of 100 Pikmins at any time also adds to the puzzly feel of the game; you have to choose your soldiers, or rather the distribution of colours in your squad, carefully. Especially when exploring underground caves where you can�t replenish your troops. And oftentimes you need a certain number of Pikmins of a certain colour to get a object home to your space ship. Because that is what the game is all about. Getting stuff and junk back to your spaceship so that your boss back home can pay off his debts or so that you can convert it into more new Pikmins. The fact that you�re constantly collecting, categorizing and naming things like old Game&Watches, matchboxes, TV-antennas or crayons makes one think of Katamari Damacy� From UFO they have borrowed the nice touch that from time to time you stumble upon things that your spaceship analyses and makes some sort of weapon or Pikmin-enhancer for you.
The graphical presentation of the game is also very very nice. It reminds me of animated series from Czechoslovakia that NRK (Norwegian public TV) used to show at us when we were kids. Only less brown, black and white. More Nintendo. Quirky and full of charm.
Let�s hope the Pikmins will return soon for the Wii (and/or the DS)!
9 / 10