This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Pikmin 3.
All right, full disclosure, I picked up Pik-pin-- I mean I picked up Mik-pin-- I acquired Pikmin 3 a couple of weeks back but sort of left it on one side for a while because it looked a little bit twee, and a little bit a Wii U game. Nothing personal, it's just whenever the prospect of doing another Wii U comes up, the inevitable hardware issues loom overhead like the legs of the Colossus of Rhodes, its shitty battery life dangling awkwardly in the breeze.
But nothing else is out till Friday so I was stuck with it. "Don't be sad", said Pikmin 3, tweely, "we can have just as much fun with unjustifiable murder as those grown-up games." And you know what? It was right. It's like the fucking trenches at the Somme in there, except the Allied soldiers are physically thrown at the German war machine by their commanders and every German casualty gets dragged into the Allied trenches to have their flesh minced up and converted into rations. That'll teach me to pre-judge, thanks Pikmin 3, you fucking monster! And thank you Wii U-- Oh your battery died.
Pikmin was the last entirely new IP created by Shigeru Miyamoto. What was that? Wii Sports and Wii Fit? Oh sorry, Pikmin was the last entirely new IP created by Shigeru Miyamoto that I give a shit about. As is fairly well known, Miyamoto takes inspiration for his game ideas from aspects of his day-to-day life, and I think Pikmin came from a summer job he once had throwing unwanted family pets into a canal.
Three astronauts land on an unknown planet and a spaceship fault leaves them temporarily unable to return home. See, it's different to the first Pikmin, 'cause there's three of them. Upon landing, they are immediately approached by a race of strange plant-like beings who willingly gather around the alien astronauts, because having never seen them they have no reason to fear them, basically doing what the dodos did when hungry foreign sailors first arrived on their islands, and it basically works out as well now as it did then. The astronauts are unwilling to do their own manual labor, perhaps so as to not ruin their nails for an upcoming photoshoot with "What Genocide?" magazine and must employ the Pikmin as combination pack mules and ballistic missiles, to collect supplies, explore the planet and cannibalize all the less friendly locals.
Despite my fondness for the GameCube, I never played the original Pikmin 'cause it looked a bit "baby's first real-time strategy", and I group real-time strategy with gynecologists and your human love, they're just not part of my little world. I do however have the understanding that they are more of a PC thing because mouse controls are best for accurately selecting and deploying units, and trying to do that with analog stick cursors is like trying to piss around the toilet seat from a hang glider. But that was until the invention of the Wii U touchscreen controller which can also be used for accurate selecting and placement. Can be, but isn't; so get used to that analog stick cursor that keeps selecting the fucking foreground while my Pikmin are getting ground into pie crust.
Some kind of "every Pikmin within a certain distance come snuggle up to my ample space-going buttocks" ability would have been nice, rather than a selector that you wave about like a broken windscreen wiper. And then if most of your Pikmin get killed and taken away to be sprinkled on someone's jacket potato, rebuilding your forces is so bloody time-consuming, I would just restart the day and take a mulligan now that I knew what to do. And I always think it reflects bad design when you turn to save scumming; you can't blame someone for breaking a window if the only door is in the roof.
After the three main characters reunite, the story blows out its cheeks and goes, "Well, I can't think of anywhere to go from here, let's just bring in characters from the first two Pikmin games apropos of nothing". And all of the sudden, pinpointing the previous Pikmin protagonist is your party of pillocks' primary priority, based on some vague notion he's got the key to your spaceship for some reason. Then in the end, you track him down and find him being held prisoner by some hitherto unknown monster and suddenly nothing is more important than rescuing this guy we've never met, from a monster we've never seen.
Actually, I don't even know if it is the last level, I was so bloody uninvested and the levels so bloody annoying I just stopped playing. You see, rescuing the poor bastard isn't so important that if you haven't rescued him by the end of the in-game day, your guys won't go, "Fuck it let's go to bed, he'll be fine," waving happily to the monster as it drags him back to the sex dungeon for the night. Well there's nothing more important than a good night's sleep, is there. Otherwise you might get crabby and start throwing hundreds of innocent creatures to their deaths.
But in the astronauts' defence, the Pikmin are fucking asking for it. At least dodos might have had some vague understanding that they probably shouldn't hang around people who keep trying to shove chesnut stuffing up their arseholes. Pikmin won't defend themselves unless you specifically thrown them at the enemy, so if you thought you could just leave some as a defensive perimeter against a nearby horde of vicious battle-hungry aphids, then think again, Commander Excellent. They're always falling off ledges you're trying to throw them unto, and you can't throw them unto the ledge if you're right up against the ledge, so you back up a bit from the ledge and then they fucking fall off the ledge you're currently on, don't they?
And you can never get them away from the fucking boss monsters in time to avoid the incredibly slow attacks that they couldn't be telegraphing any harder if they have a set of fucking stop lights lodged in their heads. This might actually be pretty ingenious design, because I would have had more qualms about sending hundreds of these things to their deaths if they had shown any propensity for independent survival whatsoever, or if wrangling them had been less annoying than trying to count ping-pong balls in a hot tub full of sunflower oil.
I do have positive points, it looks pretty. Although frankly that's something we as a species badly need to get over before anyone takes any more photographs of Kate Middleton. I like the mechanic wherein you lose some of your hard-earned juice at the end of each day, adding a tangible urgency to the fruit-collecting aspect and gives me a sense of drive. I got a strange sense of tingly satisfaction each time I saw newly collected juice being poured slowly into storage jars, a mixture of erotic sensuality and a sudden urgent need for a wee. Almost makes it worth it, but in the moment to moment gameplay, it seems you're always doing things the least efficient way possible.
And the only thing the revolutionary Wii U controller offers is that much boasted feature wherein you can switch to playing entirely with the controller if someone wants to use the TV, which I still think is a very defeatist attitude, Nintendo. "Hey! Gaming's out there and mainstream and not stigmatized-- what was that? You want to watch German scat porn? Fair enough, I'll just slink off in shame to the darkness where the nerds belong..."
More of a pick-n-mix man: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
The last time I threw a load of vegetables around I got fired from my job at the coma ward
So is the flower on the head part of the creature or some controlling parasite