Hands on: Pikmin 3 review

For whatever reason we've got the 90s advert for Penguin chocolate bars running through our heads. "P-p-p-pick up a Pikmin," we think to ourselves - mental Freudian slip in full effect - as we pluck flower-topped, carrot-like characters out of the ground in Pikmin 3. Must be the lack of sleep sending us doolally after playing hour upon hour of different games at this year's E3 gaming expo in Los Angeles, California.

The premise is this: Planet Koppai is having a "food drought", so when three spacemen inhabitants crash-land on planet Pikmin the abundance of giant fruit is a sight for sore eyes. But the fruit is giant - or they are small - so they call upon the Pikmin creatures to help retrieve their fruity food stuffs and save their home planet from starvation.

A strategy game made in the way that only Nintendo knows how, Pikmin 3 for the Wii U is unlike anything else at this year's E3. In fact it's quite unlike pretty much anything else full stop, bar previous Pikmin titles. And that means it's bonkers crazy - not just our minds then - but still full of brilliance just as its previous titles.

Others will call it out on boredom rather than brilliance, however. Nintendo has a whole catalogue of gaming gems under its belt. Pikmin, to some, is up there among the classics and to see it rebooted in high def for the Wii U is exciting. Whereas others will already be yawning to jaw dislocating proportions.

 

The valuable fruits you gather to take back to your ship often look good enough to eat. Golden cherries, red apples, viscerally orange satsumas - you name it. But whether incapable or just plain lazy, your alien spacemen utilise the power of the Pikmin - using an irksome whistle, no less - to do their bidding. It sounds kind of cruel, doesn't it? But it's not - the game is about as light and fluffy as they come. The miniature Pikmin look all cutesy, full of expression for such simple sprites.

Collecting fruit sounds easy, but there are all manner of obstacles to consider. Ladybugs and other creepy crawly nasties will get in your way and devour your Pikmin unless you set the little chaps in on the attack.

Other dynamics such as flying Pikmin can only be used to raise bamboo bridges, while red Pikmin are fireproof and, therefore, the only ones who can extinguish fire-producing enemies, and there are plenty of other varieties - including rock Pikmin - to encounter as the game progresses.

 

Combine all these elements and you'll be building bridges, keeping enemies at bay (or trying to), knocking down sandcastle walls and carting fruit around like unusual-looking ants in no time. As it's all against the clock too, there's added tension.

Pikmin 3 is a strategy and management game and you'll soon realise if you're any good at juggling tasks. You'll also quickly realise that it doesn't feel much different from its Gamecube predecessor, Pikmin 2. It's still immersive if you hand it the time of day and enjoy this kind of point-and-click gameplay.

We find it refreshing, even if it's not the killer Mario title that the Wii U probably needed to get on to the shelves for 2013, but it won't be the summer title for everyone. You can decide for yourself as Pikmin 3 launches for Wii U on 26 July this year.