I have a confession to make. I drowned some Pikmin. Okay – a lot of Pikmin; about thirty or so. I didn’t mean to. Olimar and the troops just sort of stumbled into some water, and they… they couldn’t swim. I won’t forget the way they sounded as they sunk into that cold pool. It was a lesson in management, a lesson in care and consideration. It was a lesson in looking where the hell I was going. One tap of the old Z button and I could have avoided it all.
Pikmin did quite well in its first showing on the GameCube, claiming some high scores from reviewers (and reviewers always know what they’re talking about). The control system has been overhauled under the New Play Control! brand, that sees a number of games ported to the Wii to take advantage of the console’s unique functionality. Other than that, Pikmin for the Wii is almost identical to the GC version. All that means, though, is that Pikmin-nuts from back in the day (that being 2002-ish, depending on where you were) who played the game extensively, might not find much of worth here. For anyone else, the magic, strategy and vibrancy of Pikmin is as fresh as ever.
You can find out about the guts of Pikmin in any one of a vast number of reviews and walkthroughs. To get too much into the thick of the game’s basics will be walking an extremely well worn path, so watch me work some magic and tell you how it all works in as few words as possible. Play as Olimar, a 4cm tall alien who crashes his ship, scattering the parts all over the world. Olimar discovers small creatures that resemble a brand of carrot from his home planet, dubs them Pikmin, and uses them to help him get home: he discovers he can make them lift and carry things, attack hostile creatures, bust down walls, build bridges and essentially clone themselves. Best of all, he can use them to carry bits of his ship as he explores the world and finds each of the 30 parts. And Olimar must do all this in 30 days.
The 30 day thing (each day works out to twenty minutes real-time) was probably the most hotly criticised part of Pikmin upon its first release, and it was corrected in the sequel – the ingeniously titled Pikmin 2. A kind of inter-console fidelity exists here which means it has been carried over, but having worked with it in both versions it hasn’t ever been that big a deal to me. Basically, get what you need to get done before the sun reaches the end of its meter. If you don’t, any Pikmin that are out and about completing tasks get left behind when you blast off for the night. Return the next day and you’re out a couple of workers, which is a bit of a hassle. As far as I’m concerned, this adds, rather than subtracts from the charm of the game. If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen, etc, etc.
So, how about this New Play Control! then? How does that work? Olimar is controlled using the analogue stick on the Nunchuck, and the cursor used to aim your Pikmin is moved about using the Remote. The A button tosses the poor wee mites, and B calls them to order. Z controls the camera (a useful feature) and using the D pad you can zoom in and out or change perspective. It all adds up to easy as. I’ve not one complaint about how the controls fit together and the shift from GC to Wii is a win as far as this is concerned.
This version of the game allows for widescreen, but if you’re playing it standard the graphics are essentially the same as they were of old. This doesn’t mean they’re no good though: they’ve matured well and they were always impressive. They still look great, with rich colours and nice effects. Pity about the sound, though. The music in Pikmin is woeful, and while the sound effects could be worse, the annoying, ever-present background theme just takes over. It’s a shame there wasn’t more of a balance struck. All of that said, though, I’m not saying much that couldn’t have been observed seven-odd years ago.
So what else is there? You can check the scores to get a good impression of how well Pikmin does in 2009: I can tell you that if you never played this game on the GameCube, now’s your chance to get into it. The control fiddling has worked, so hats off to the new Pikmin team, and I can recommend this one to any Wii owners, of any age. The argument about Nintendo’s pitching ’em young sticks like napalm here, but if you can get over that you’ll find a good bit of fun to be had.