Review by midwinter
"Pikmin Say: Equal Pay! Pikmin Say..."
Next time you think you're getting the raw end of the stick at work, I beg you to spare a thought for Nintendo's often abused Pikmin. For these charmingly innocent do' ers of good are the poster children of workplace abuse. All day every day they toil the back breaking labors of life without even the smallest of compensations. Pulling the long hours from dawn to dusk, they shake it hard for the Man while dodging the constant dangers that lurk around every corner. Dying in their thousands, their working conditions are a reminder to all that the gears of the post modern capitalist world are oiled with the blood of the down trodden working caste. It's this very spirit of capitalist oppression that has driven Nintendo to pull their earthly minions of labor out of retirement and work them to the bone once more. And if that sounds a little too harsh then remember this... the financial security of a once prosperous intergalactic delivery company is at stake! Olimar! Louie! You know what needs to be done! Return to that vaguely familiar little blue planet and scrounge us up some treasure... hurry now! chop! chop!
You can't make an omelet without slaughtering a few thousand innocents!
Hard times have finally hit the once successful Hokotate Intergalactic Delivery company. In the wake of junior employee Louie's run in with a giant Space Rabbit, the liquidators have bankrupted the company and sold off all it's assets. It's fortunate for all concerned then that missing in action delivery pilot and ace employee, Captain Olimar, has chosen this exact moment to come roaring back into town. Fresh off of his previous misfortunes, Olimar has unwittingly returned just in the nick of time with something of a miracle in tow. For unbeknownst to him, the "junk" that he collected while salvaging parts for his spaceship appears to have actually been worth something! And better yet, there's a whole planet nearby that's literally overflowing with this "treasure"! It's with Hokotate's future at stake that Olimar, now joined by the disgraced Louie, sets out to return to the Pikmin homeworld in order to earn the 10,000 pocos needed to save his company. The problem is however, Olimar & co are all of 5cms in height... what could they possibly hope to achieve?
It's at this point that players are thusly introduced to the Pikmin. Small in both statue and mental capacity, Pikmin make up for their obvious short comings by displaying a level of endurance that would shame even a Soviet-era work horse. And work them you will as scattered across a series of 4 beautifully rendered though danger packed 3d environments is the treasure that you so earnestly seek. Swarming attacking beasts like pack ants, Pikmin find their strength in numbers and are capable of almost anything when working as a group. Be it bringing down a mammoth animal or simply carrying its brutalized corpse back to an onion so that new Pikmin can be bred, no challenge is too big for these wee ones to carry out. Combine this with the fact that they'll also blindly obey any one with even an ounce of authority and you'll soon see that maybe these Pikmin could actually do all the work for you. Players need only flash their cursors over the desired group, blow their whistle and point the Pikmin in the right direction and voila! Instant results. And with up to 100 obedient followers to control at anyone time, there's almost always someone willing to lend a helping hand. Hooray for expendable free labor!
As limitless and cheap as Pikmin workers are however, it won't do players any good to just throw them randomly at any old problem and expect them to get the job done. If you're going to stand a chance of successfully acquiring all the treasure, then you're going to have to manage your resources... eerr people carefully. While returning red, blue and yellow Pikmin have evolved new skills and abilities, mother nature has kindly worked her magic in the name of commerce and has provided two new mutations that perfectly meet Olimar's needs. Though the white Pikmin stands at half the size of its brothers, it just so happens to be surprisingly light of foot and immune to all forms of poison. Furthermore, it's poisoned blood makes it the perfect meal for some of the more monstrous of beasts. Drop one white Pikmin down an open oesophagus and it's good night Irene. Hows that for a bitter pill to swallow?! Of course let's not forget the purple Pikmin whose weight and strength make them the perfect choice for heavy labor and combat duties. Certainly, there's now a Pikmin to suit every occasion...
Five different types of Pikmin, combat, level exploration and resource harvesting... oh my, I think I'm having time management issues! While there's certainly a lot to keep an eye on, players will no doubt be happy to learn that both the controls and the camera have been designed with ease of use and functionality in mind. The third person perspective is fully adjustable on the fly while the relatively simple button layout gives players a surprising amount flexibility when moving their charges around. As the game progresses and the pace begins to quicken, players may find themselves working against the clock in order to open up that next new area or unearth the latest treasure before the sun sets. When this happens however there is no need to panic, for ye have an ace up your sleeve! At any given time, players may switch between the two main characters, Olimar and Louie, thereby effectively doubling the amount of work being done. Just because one is over seeing the construction of a bridge doesn't mean that the other can lay about and do nothing. Though this duel character system works incredibly well, it will inevitably double the number of Pikmin fatalities. Say what you will, but they will have at least died for a good cause... carry on then chaps!
Even still, the wholesale slaughter of innocents doesn't really get underway until players move the action underground. Upon taking the plunge down an ant hill, players are expected to unearth a certain number of treasures while fending off the mandatory beasts with only a limited number of Pikmin to call upon. Watch your Pikmin carefully people, there are no re-enforcements down here! Though initially quite easy, the challenge presented is slowly increased over time as the level design eventually takes a surprising right angle turn and almost veers off into puzzle territory. Not only does all this dungeon crawling keep the game fresh, but it also effectively doubles the amount of time Pikmin2 will stay loaded in your Gamecube. While the many repeated backdrops suggest that this could have been a budget friendly way with which to extend the game's lifespan, Nintendo have none-the-less worked their magic by imbuing such an apparent after-thought with a vibrancy and energy all of its very own. With its huge end of dungeon bosses and randomly generated entrance/exit points, players are sure to enjoy their time spent here deep underground... even if their Pikmin do not.
The time will come however when players have dug up every last treasure, explored every possible dungeon and will have tired of subjecting their Pikmin to the horrors of being at the bottom of the food chain. When this happens, it finally comes time to cast an eye over the multiplayer game. In what is perhaps the most surprising move in their long history of surprising moves, Nintendo have applied the classic Pikmin formula to what is essentially a variation of the age old capture the flag theme. Animals are slaughtered and fed to the onions to breed new Pikmin who can then be used on either offense or defense. While unearthing and holding four yellow marbles will result in a win, the more ambitious of players can go straight for the throat and attempt to capture their opponents color coded marble. Instant victory, yes! Who's my vaguely unpleasant female friend now? The fun and excitement this game mode delivers is truly first class and is simply put, the text book definition of a bonus. Mark my words, this is simple yet competitive gaming at its very best...
Not only does Pikmin2 play incredibly well, but it also manages to look great while doing so. From the lovingly crafted water effects to the outstanding environments that are each based upon a particular season, everything literally oozes sex appeal. And by that I mean it's graphical beauty and charm is in no way threatening to members of the opposite sex. Watch on as your lady friends weep with an uncontrollable motherly instinct while at the same time feeding their beloved Pikmin into mother nature's great meat grinder of life. So endearing are Nintendo's Pikmin in design and behavior that at times it genuinely brings a tear to the eye to see them get hurt. Their random child like chants fill the audioscape as once intimidating beasts are overcome by fierce purple assaults. Such charm, such animal ferocity! The music compliments all this perfectly by weaving together an outstanding mix of laid back summer afternoon style ditties and more dramatic high tension musical pieces. If the essence of style and class were blended with the all intoxicating cuteness of a Japanese junior high school girl it would probably have a hard time looking and sounding as good as this.
Killing in the name of...
Throughout the 20 odd hours I spent wrapped up in Pikmin2's warm embrace, I found myself constantly surprised at what Nintendo had managed to achieve. For no matter where I looked, something new stuck it's head out of the wood work and frantically waved me down. Two characters, two new Pikmin mutations, new underground stages that double the game's challenge, a new multiplayer mode and all the unlockable extras that players could possibly toss a Pikmin at... and heck, I haven't even found time to mention the two new berry flavored power-ups either! Bah gaw'd it's all good! *coughs* Pikmin2 is such a completely balanced package that in the end only one question remains to be answered... so where do we all go from here? Surely any further additions to the series will only serve to make things more complicated than they really need to be. Why would Nintendo want to mess with such perfection? As it stands for now however, Pikmin2 is one of the first true contenders for the title of 2004's Gamecube game of the year. And though they may still be in dire need of a good union, you can be sure that's one title our hard working heroes won't let go of without a fight. Check it out!
* The fantastic blend of resource management, exploration and combat is highly addictive
* Purple and white Pikmin are excellent additions to the line-up
* The 30 day time limit has been removed thereby giving the game a much more relaxed atmosphere
* Players now have two characters to control at the one time
* New underground areas keep the action fresh and challenging
* The level design is consistently excellent
* Some of the new bosses are truly awe inspiring in their size
* Capture the marble multiplayer mode plays like a dream
* Four seasons, four stages, and each is as beautiful and varied as the next
* With 201 treasures to unearth, players will find that Pikmin2 is a game with meat on its bones
* It's a fact, chicks love Pikmin
* Oh the Pikmanity... can it possibly get any better than this?!
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 05/09/04
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