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Pikmin is one of those odd little series that I can't really imagine thriving in the same way outside of Nintendo's unique ecosystem - one that has earned a fourth entry despite never really breaking out of the cult bracket.

Still, Nintendo has proven time and again that niche genres and properties can still offer up exciting games, and that's a pattern that continues with Pikmin 4, a charming adventure through and through.

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Pikmin 4

Pikmin 4 is a lovely slice of zen management, giving you a frantic gang of little guys to corral and a host of morish hubs to explore while you do so. Its extra modes are welcome, even if none of it feels radically new.

  • Lovely looks
  • Charming additional Pikmin
  • A bigger sense of scale
  • Pretty familiar
  • Dandori battles are merely ok

See the world from below

Pikmin 4 doesn't stray far from the template set up by its previous three games - opening with the crash-landing of a rescue mission, you find yourself stranded on a strange (but very familiar) planet and need to hunt down survivors and, eventually, the near-mythical Captain Olimar.

This time around you get to customise your spacefarer with some limited options, hair colour being the most obvious given the game's normal camera options, giving you a nice sense of agency starting out.

You'll soon find some crewmembers to help you set up a base camp and start repairing your systems and steadily widening the range of your search to uncover more areas and find more characters.

Of course, it isn't long before Pikmin reintroduces its titular little creatures, handy and obedient critters that you can direct around the world as you move through it, ordering them to clear obstacles, fight enemies and return valuable treasures to your spaceship for processing.

There's a totally charming tone to all of this - family-friendly and self-aware enough to poke fun at its own tropes and conveniences, with dialogue that's just light enough to let you speed through it without any guilt.

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I wouldn't say anyone is coming to the latest Pikmin game with their biggest hope being the continuation of its actually somewhat complex story, but there are still some fun little twists to uncover.

In particular, the presence of seemingly mutated leaf-versions of spacefarers is a conundrum that comes to take on real importance to the plot, albeit without exactly turning it into the most compelling story you'll find.

Like herding cats

At its heart, the story isn't really the crux of Pikmin 4 - it's all about that gameplay, and things feel really good on that front. This is a game about crowd management, as you collect and then direct a host of little Pikmin around.

You do this in a few different settings. Big open hub areas let you explore, fight monsters and uncover shortcuts and new entryways to the second type of level.

Pikmin 4 1

These caves are accessed through pipes and present far more linear puzzles that have you getting from A to B, and often introduce new mechanics or teach you how to use a new type of Pikmin.

Finally, a new mode called Dandori Battle lets you take on another Pikmin master in a timed battle to most efficiently use your crew to harvest items in a shared arena.

These three modes are basically the whole of Pikmin 4 (and the last opens up a multiplayer side to the game), and they lend an impressively varied set of pacing.

Pikmin 4 2

Hub areas and caves let you explore at your own pace, taking on opponents when you feel you're ready and exploring every nook and cranny. Dandori fights, meanwhile, are much more hectic and require a lot more reaction and planning on the fly, which switches things up.

At the core of all this are the Pikmin themselves, colour-coded according to the range of powers they offer, each with a sort of rock-paper-scissors set of strengths and weaknesses to exploit.

You might need Ice Pikmin to freeze a small lake, Yellow Pikmin to disable an electrified gate, Blue Pikmin to fight a waterborne enemy or any number of other options, and figuring out the right allocation of options to take out with you is a fun challenge (although it's a shame that caves basically tell you what you'll need as you enter, removing that sense of puzzle-solving).

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A new addition to the mix is your faithful hound Oatchi, who offers quicker movement when you ride him and can be upgraded to offer the strength of many Pikmin in one, along with combat advantages and more, to the point where he can actually become pretty overpowered.

Combat is familiar to series fans, with the same game of timing and positioning that sees you waiting for an opportunity to charge your opponent or chuck all your Pikmin at its weak spot. It's not complex stuff but is frantic fun.


All of this action, some of it slower-paced and some that moves more quickly, takes place in a really quite impressively nice-looking world on Switch that effectively takes familiar environments and shrinks you down into them.

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Whether it's a back garden or a lounge, there's a nice attention to detail that sees props look appropriate and charming, with items strewn around that you can use as pathways, but also treasures that you transport back to your ship offering lovely vignettes.

These items are well-known to the player, but the spacefarers' assumptions and wrongheaded deductions about them continually bring a chuckle thanks to canny blurbs.

The Pikmin themselves are as characterful and expressive as ever, all with subtle different silhouettes so you can tell them apart even ignoring their obvious pigment differences, and the new additions are no different.

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We particularly love the night-time firefly-like Pikmin that help you explore in the dark - a new feature for the series that isn't that revolutionary but does offer a little more challenge and some neat twists.

Hubs look more sinister and threatening in the dark, but they're ultimately nothing to be too scared of. Boss fights are occasional and good fun, with some nice attacks to memorise quickly as the battle starts so that you can nail your timing for an Oatchie rush and Pikmin charge.


Pikmin 4 is a welcome continuation of a series that deserves its place in Nintendo's lineup and brings accomplished (if subtle) modernisations of its gameplay loop.

With fewer restrictions and more modes than ever, there's plenty to sink your teeth into, and that core facet of its gameplay, directing and controlling a charming motley crew of critters, is still as fun as it's ever been.