Review by THOTH

Reviewed: 09/20/04

Ultra bitter sweet

I never played Pikmin, mainly because I had heard about the time limit and quite frankly time limits rub me the wrong way. Because of that, I was glad to hear that Pikmin 2 removed that issue entirely…so I decided to buy it.

Right away I was happy with it. The controls were intelligent, and the premises was interesting: You control both Captain Olimar and Louie -two intergalactic exporters- traveling to an uncharted planet to find treasures in order to pay of their company’s looming debt. This unnamed planet is home of unique plant monsters called Pikmin that desperately need a leader to unify them. Using these obedient creatures Olimar and Louie take on this uncharted planet to find treasures of familiar variety. (One of the treasures is a giant Duracell battery… yes Nintendo has entered a new realm of advertisement) Through out the whole game the sense of humor is ever prevalent and ever strange. I honestly can’t say the comedy is at all like any video game I’ve played before…I was surprised to find my self laughing on more than one occasion. It’s just so absurd at times.

However as I progressed through the game, it became more and more of a chore to play. The way the game is set up is very exhausting as the game’s difficulty increases, and you often find things are far more frustrating than what they should have been. I’ll highlight more of this in the normal review part bellow.

Game play: 7/10

Pikmin 2 revolves around an army of plant monsters that you guide in order to do your bidding. You can have 100 of them in the field at once, and they have only several tasks that they automatically do if you send them in the general triggering area. They will attack a monster, bring some thing back to your space ship, or bring some thing to the pods that generate more Pikmin to “reproduce”. It’s a simple system that really works well, although some times its frustrating when you want to have them attack a creature but instead they try to pick up some thing to carry it back to the ship.

It’s also key that there are a total of five different colored Pikmin, each with their own special ability. Red ones are the standard ones with higher fighting ability than yellow, blue or white and hold immunity to fire. Yellow ones are immune to electricity and can be thrown higher than any other Pikmin. Blue have the unique ability to tolerate water, and can also help rescue drowning Pikmin of other colors. As you progress through the game, many of your Pikmin will die horrible terrible deaths. Fortunately it doesn’t take long to “grow” new ones. Simply have them kill a monster and bring its corpse to the “onion” (or Pikmin Spawner) to pop out a bunch of new ones of that “onion’s” color. Also some plants will give you special growing chemicals to pump out even more Pikmin… Once they are planted they will sprout, where you can either wait until they grow a flower or for the impatient just pluck them out of the ground. (Flower ones are better than leaf ones)

Added to the mix in Pikmin 2 are the advanced Pikmin, purple and white. These are special very rare Pikmin that can only be received by converting normal colored ones in a cave area. Purple is fat and strong, having the strength 10 times more than any single Pikmin in fighting and carrying things… and when thrown can stun monsters from their sheer weight. The glaring weakness to these guys is their speed…they always seem to fall behind, and the ones that can’t move quickly are often the first to die when making rushed escapes.

White Pikmin are albino themed, with beady red eyes and pale skin. They are by nature poisonous, so are immune to poison and when eaten they will make monsters sick (Of course some monsters kill Pikmin by other methods aside from eating) These are essentially kamikaze Pikmin, and just to make them a little more useful they are just as much faster in running than normal Pikmin as the purple is slower. However, despite people’s natural desire to sacrifice these little buggers …they serve a very useful function and at least a couple should always be left alive. Aside from being immune to a rather common obstacle, they also have the ability to find buried treasure and start digging it up. Because of that, its wise to always keep at least one at all times…

You control only Captain Olimar or Louie, while they have the ability to direct what Pikmin do. By nature Pikmin will always follow whoever their leader is, and by throwing them near a creature or item etc they will automatically start doing whatever should be done in that scenario. Also by using the c-stick you can send your entire army into the front instead of rapidly throwing one at a time.

Naturally Pikmin get separated or confused (Being such easily misguided lemmings) so by the mere push of the button you can use your “whistle” to call them within a circle that depends on how long you hold the button. This is the most simple set up possible, but at times it can be hard to call just ONE Pikmin, or only Pikmin of a certain color.

But the controls are tight and function. When you start playing they feel really limited, but as you progress you realize they give you every thing you’d need, while leaving room for a lot of variables.

Regarding game play, the most frustrating thing for me was how easy these little guys die. Every single freaking monster that’s larger than your leader can kill tons of your precious Pikmin, and when you're in a cave (you are unable to make more because the “onions” need sunlight…) this can be really agitating. Fortunately the option is present to save before each floor, but still it’s really enraging to start a stage having a monster right behind you that’s firing a canon at your Pikmin killing off several right from the start. The bosses are some times insane, it makes you feel angry sending your Pikmin to battle, only to have the boss start rolling over and literally able to kill every single Pikmin you have in one attack. It’s very strategic, if you like games like Chess it may be your cup of tea.

This wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for the fact that there are tons of caves in the game, in fact the vast majority of Pikmin 2 is either in a cave, or trying to find an entrance to one. (Mainly because the important treasures are in them, the hub worlds don’t have any where near the amount of prizes) Naturally its less stressful playing outside, but then you have another issue… time limit. Yes, there are time limits in this game…your Pikmin simply cannot be out at night, and you never feel like there is enough time in the day to get every thing you want done. You may have unlimited days, but still its just irritating. So it’s like the lesser of two evils: The caves, where your Pikmin are in set amounts and monsters kill them like they were hot cakes, or outside where your rushed as all get out and don’t find a lot of valuable stuff.

I would also like to clarify that I try to avoid having any Pikmin die at all cost, so it makes me angrier when the game plays cheap tricks on you than most. For people that don’t care it won’t be that big of a deal having a frog pop out of know where and jump on and flatten 15 Pikmin, or trying to get your Pikmin to cross a bridge only to have 20 dumb ones walk right off the edge and start drowning, or having a spider bomb pop up from no where and blow up 50 or so on and so on. Okay yeah I understand, its all about caution… but the game at times has the same feel to it that a survival horror would. “OMG…every thing that moves can KILL ME INSTAINTLY!!!” Its kinda like that, only Olimar and Louie usually aren’t at risk… but once all your Pikmin die it’s game over.

Another issue I had with game play is the overall goal of the game. You just find treasure, bring it to the ship and bam…the end. Once you pay off the debt of your company you keep playing for more treasure. Sure it’s fun to find the weird stuff, and the games descriptions of both creatures and treasures are often really amusing…but still, its just like this endless collection, and you have to make endless sacrifices in order to get the stuff. Its just tiring. Granted there is a sub mission after you pay off the debt, but it really isn’t that interesting.

Time wise, it took me roughly 12 hours to pay off the debt. You get some neat bonus functions after you reach that, including access to the final fourth stage that is really a puzzel to navigate. After that, you can get as much from the game as you want… it’s a good milestone to finish for some people, and for others a great way for the game to "Just begin". Paying of the debt will only get you a fracture of the sheer amount of treasures, so collectors will really enjoy extending beyond and getting the big bucks. I could see the main game taking over 30 hours if you really wanted to get 100%.

Added to that you can also play challenge mode. Challenge mode is where you get a set amount of Pikmin in a set stage and you try to get to the end within time limit and not let any Pikmin die. I haven’t spent a lot of time on it, but I can really tell you… Pikmin fans will absolutely adore this challenge, and there is a reward for doing it perfectly… and man, there are tons of challenge stages. Excellent plus on Nintendo's part.

Another extra is multiplayer mode. I haven’t spent ANY time on that, but it’s basically either challenge mode co-operative or a “capture the flag” type battle. I don’t think this is the best multiplayer game, because it’s not easy to learn the controls and I think there are better multiplayer games… but still, you can’t go wrong by having the option.

If you’re just playing single player, and if this is your kind of game you’re looking at 60+ hours of game play. That’s with challenge mode, mind you.

All in all, the game play was promising but let me down. The control works, the concepts are creative but the very few limitations imposed are suffocating.

Graphics: 10/10

The graphics are really impressive to me. Not so much in terms of raw processing power of detail, but more at how much can go on the screen at once with out even a bit of slow down. You can control up to 100 carrot monsters, all fully animated and each one with seemingly different personality. It’s just entertaining watching these guys do any thing… often they bring to mind ants, as they all work as a unit and are very collectivistic.

The environments are nice when outside, looking natural and at times photo realistic. Caves are often bland and boring, but still the fluid animation gives this game an instant 10. Also the monsters you face are just brilliant, some of them are so bizarre and colorful that it’s hard to take them seriously… others can invoke a very real sense of disgust, while others can be startlingly creepy.

Story line: 10/10

Unique, and interesting. Not much else to say, you’d really have to see it to understand. Like said earlier, your company is bankrupt and it’s your job to save them. I had read the story before I played it, and honestly it didn’t do the presentation of it justice, so I’m not going into much detail. Its creative, fun and colorful so it earns a 10.

Also it may sound geeky, but there is sort of a philosophy to Pikmin 2 that struck me as interesting. It deals with strength in numbers, the cycles of life and death, the harshness of survival in nature and just the overall endeavor of being the bottom of the food chain (Of course, that’s with out having a leader…with the leader they approach the top rather easily) also it seems to poke fun at civilization, with junk to us being priceless treasures to aliens and just how separate nature seems from a world over run by logic, intelligence and overall separation from instincts and survival…also I think its supposed to seem really twisted that you are sending these creatures to fight and die for money. Pikmin 1 fans complain about it, but to me…it’s almost like making a statement.

Of course as a philosophy student, I look into things probably more than I should.

Overall: 7/10
Pikmin 2 is a good game, I enjoyed it a lot until the challenge increased and the game became a chore. I really suggest renting this before buying it…especially because I don’t think it’s worth 50$... and some people will be turned off by the way it operates. If you absolutely love it, and thrive on more challenges and more things to do… renting it won’t leave a dent in the game for ya. If you just like it, and paying off the debt is enough renting would be perfect for you. If you decide that the game doesn’t set right, renting is great because you won’t spend more than 10$ on it. Also people that disliked Pikmin 1 probably won’t change their mind (from what I understand of the original, like I said I haven’t played it yet) because there are still time limits.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret buying it because it is a fun thinking game and I needed some strategy in my collection. I just wish I had waited until the price went down some. My score seems really critical, and doesn't add up considering the 10s... but to me 5 is average and bellow that is an abomination and above that is worth buying and 7 is what seems right. I'm really sorry if I've offended any one, because I know there are alot of fans but it's just the way I feel.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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