Review by bluej33

"Budding Brilliance!"

Have you ever wondered if there's life on other planets? Or maybe there's life on this planet that we haven't yet found? Well, Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's mastermind, certainly thought about such things. Creative man that he is, Miyamoto developed this idea into a game, titled Pikmin, and released in 2001. Thanks to its monumental popularity, it's no surprise that Nintendo released a sequel, Pikmin 2, in summer of 2004.

The story in Pikmin 2 picks up where the original game left off. Olimar, the tiny, large-headed hero of the first game, is the captain of a rocket for a freight shipping company. After crash-landing on Earth, he returns home, only to find his employer, Hocotate Freight, in ruins. In order to save the company and satisfy his superior, he must return to Earth with his forgetful sidekick Louie in order to salvage treasure that will bring Hocotate Freight back from the brink.

Once Olimar lands on Earth, he immediately goes to work in a similar fashion to the first game. Luckily, a number of tiny, flower-like creatures named Pikmin are present and are ready and able to do his bidding. With the help of these, for lack of a better word, workers, Olimar begins searching for treasure on this mysterious planet.

Think controlling an army of little mindless microscopic creatures is difficult? Think again. Thanks to the top-notch controls in Pikmin 2, you'll navigate the game's many menus with ease, and victory on the field will challenge you to think, rather than having you worry about which button to press. Directing your Pikmin and giving them orders is a delightfully simple task, and allows you to have so much more fun with Pikmin 2. The controls are slick and intuitive, and work wonderfully with the game.

Speaking of wonderful, the graphics fall into a similar category. At first glance, Pikmin 2 may not seem like any graphical marvel, because its art style is undeniably unique. Once you've spent some time with the game, however, the subtle art style really starts to rub off on you. Objects and environments in the game aren't entirely realistic, but they are incredibly immersive. In my opinion, Pikmin 2 sports among the best graphics of any GameCube, because they do what graphics are supposed to do: make you forget that you're in your room at 2 in the morning, and trick you into thinking that you're right there with Olimar and Louie, fighting that huge pus-filled beetle that's blocking your way to a priceless battery.

While you only start out the game with a small number of Pikmin at your disposal, your troops will quickly multiply. When you bring items back to your base to have them converted into cash, many items will also create little Pikmin spores. If you wait long enough (though it's not really that long at all), these little seedlings will grow into full-fledged Pikmin, and they'll join your little group.

And trust me, you're going to need as many soldiers as you can muster. I don't know if you know this (you probably don't), but when you're a microscopic little guy in a space suit, everyday objects and creatures seem huge. Planet Earth is ridden with bugs and monsters, and you'll have to rely on your Pikmin to take them out for you.

Don't worry about the cute little guys, though, because they're more than capable of taking care of themselves. There are a number of different types of Pikmin, all with special abilities. Yellow Pikmin can survive electric shocks, while blue ones are safe from drowning and red ones are resistant to fire. Pikmin 2 includes two new types of Pikmin not present in the original game: purple Pikmin, which are insanely strong and heavy, and white Pikmin, which have X-Ray vision and are poisonous to enemies. The wide variety of Pikmin is great, and really encourages you to try out different strategies for fighting enemies and bosses.

It's rough enough making it by on the surface of Earth, but it becomes even more challenging once you venture below ground. There are a number of caves that can be found throughout the game, and this is where the best treasure will be found. Unfortunately, though, it's also where the toughest enemies reside; almost all your boss fights will be underground. The boss fights are a high point in the game; not because of their necessary originality or grand scope, but because they encourage you to be very ingenious. Do you opt to lure the foe out and beat him up with your heavy guns? Or do you sacrifice one of your poisonous Pikmin have your foe kill itself once it gobbles up the poor guy? The numerous options and open-ended fights make every boss a joy to engage.

Another great thing is that game play is very similar, at least in the regard of being open-ended. This may sound weird, but Pikmin 2 reminds me a lot of a Metroid game. You go around, doing what you can. As you make further advances (in the case of the game at hand: finding new colors of Pikmin) new areas are opened up to you. There's never anything you have to do at any given time. Just keep on searching for treasure and chipping away at your huge debt. It's great fun, and it really ensures that you'll never get stuck in the game.

This brings up a mild problem with Pikmin: it's quite easy. Difficulty is the trade-off for the great sandbox-style game. Because you can pretty much do whatever you want, whenever you want, Pikmin 2 can be as easy as you want it to be. Playing the game at your own pace is undeniably fun, but there's no difficulty at all to speak of, which is rather saddening. Still, though, I think it's fun enough to make up for the ease with which it can be played.

A wonderful addition to Pikmin 2 that wasn't present in the original game is that of multiplayer. Now, you and a friend can duke it out head to head; one person plays as Olimar, the other as Louie. There are a number of stages and handicap settings, and then the war begins! Rather than simply beating the poo out of your opponent, the idea of Pikmin 2's multiplayer is to capture marbles. Netting four neutral marbles will crown you the victor. An quicker, though more daring way to achieve victory is to merely steal your foe's marble, but this'll require quite a bit of strategy and planning. And remember, as Confucius said: You cannot move your own marble! The multiplayer does a wonderful job of extending your time with this great game, and gives you the chance to share some of its fun with your friends.

Despite its one minor shortcoming, Pikmin 2 is one of the best games out there for the Nintendo GameCube. It's fun, innovative, and immersive, and reminds you exactly why you love Nintendo so much. Add that fantastic game play mechanic to a 20 dollar price tag, and you've got yourself an instant classic. If you don't own Pikmin 2, go out and get yourself a copy now!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/19/07

Game Release: Pikmin 2 (US, 08/30/04)

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