What has Shigeru Miyamoto been up to lately? Apparently the answer to that question is gardening and the Interactive Arts and Science's Hall of Fame inductee's newest project, PIKMIN, proves it.
You are Captain Olimar, a vertically challenged space captain who is just minding his own business in his spaceship. But you end up crashing on a strange world, and thirty pieces of your ship have been scattered about an area of the planet. Unfortunately, the pieces to your ship are bigger than you, and the local bug life thinks you're about as intimidating as your typical gaming journalist is to Mike Tyson. To make things worse, Olimar only has a thirty-day supply of his own air!
What's a space alien to do? Well, given the superior brain and psychic powers of Olimar, he discovers that a small race of plant-insects (similar to ants) called Pikmin will help him out. He begins early on by having the Pikmin get food and take it back to the hive to create more. When food arrives more Pikmin are seeded into the ground. You can pull these guys from the ground immediately, but if you do, they aren't fully matured and can't run as fast as Olimar. However, if you let them have time to grow to maturity they can keep up with the good captain. Soon you'll have different types of Pikmin including the yellow bombers and the blue bridge-builders. As you command your little army you'll come across big bugs, treacherous obstacles and, of course, the all-important pieces of the ship.
What makes Pikmin so fun is that you are seeing the world from new eyes, and exploring large beautiful environments. There are rocks, plants and bugs to find, and you'll find yourself quickly moving through the terrain while the sun is still up. It's almost a shame you can't have a little time just to roam around and play with your Pikmin, but once the game gets rolling it's all about business or you'll never find all the parts to your ship in time.
It's really a basic real-time strategy game at heart. Olimar can throw the Pikmin (and they usually know what you want them to do if they're thrown in the area of something important) and can also command them to gather as well as position themselves around him. The controls are really simple but allow you to effectively command the Pikmin to push boxes, gather food, or kill bugs.
While PIKMIN does bring some very simple character design and animation to the table, it also brings some of the most incredible environmental graphics ever to grace a videogame. From the beautiful water to the textures of the ground and plant life, PIKMIN is incredibly detailed. With the exception of a spaceman and a bunch of bright-yellow ants following him, it looks as real as it gets.
There isn't too much to discuss on the sound side. There's nice background music and some little sound effects thrown in. But there is nothing mind-boggling or terrible.
PIKMIN is a fantastic title that can be enjoyed by any gamer. It's enjoyable, it's simple, and most importantly it's fun.
ESBR Rating: Everyone
Developer: Nintendo (Shigeru Miyamoto)
Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Fun Factor: A
Reviewer's Wild Card: A+