Deja vu. It's Pikmin 2. This is not only a sequel with only a few minor adjustments to make it an improvement over its predecessor, it's also the second Pikmin game to move to the Wii from the GameCube under the New Play Control! brand. We reviewed Pikmin for the Wii back in February and just as reviewers were praising the small differences between Pikmin and Pikmin 2 on the GameCube, so must we now report its success.
Honestly, there's not too much to say about Pikmin 2 that wasn't said about Pikmin. The way it controls is identical, the game's basic premise is largely the same, and there hasn't been massive leaps forward in either graphical or technical prowess. But for anyone who enjoyed the original, it is a new adventure, and there is plenty more gametime packaged up awaiting discovery by eager fans.
I am delighted to have had the chance to play Pikmin 2 on the Wii. I never got a chance to enjoy the GC version, and naturally, I had no idea what I was missing. These games were excellent choices for re-release, and we should all be thankful they made the cut.
If you're of sharp eye and a keen researcher, you might notice that the scores are exactly the same as the Pikmin review, except for one measly gameplay point, and the difficulty hasn't changed either. The learning curve has been dropped by 5 minutes, even though at first it seems like it's going to be hard to get into (more on that below). Pikmin 2 will be easier if you played the orginal, but the New Play Control! does take some getting used to.
So where's the story at? Sorry, GameCube fans, you might like to skip to the end, because - how many times can I say it? – I am really about to re-invent the PowerGlove here. Olimar returns from his sojourn on the Pikmin planet only to find his employer, Hocotate Freight is in financial peril. All of the company's assets have been sold following the robbery of co-worker Louie's cargo of pikpik carrots by a malevolent space bunny. It's put them deep in the red, and boss man doesn't quite know how he's going to get himself out of the mess. Through a series of fortunate (and convenient) happenings, however, a discovery is made about the garbage Olimar has brought back with him as souvineers – bottle caps, crushed cans and other detritus is worth a great deal of Pokos (local currency) here on the home planet. The ship's computer analyses the rubbish and when it transpires that it's worth a bomb, the boss decides Olimar and Louie need to go back and start finding a whole lot more of it, to pay down the company's debt.
Returning to the world of the Pikmin, Olimar and Louie set out to gather up as much 'treasure' as possible. At first, Louie gets separated from Olimar right before they crash-land, and the initial gameplay centres around you finding your way back to him. Here, there's a bit of a refresher on how to use the new control system to work your Pikmin friends, and you're given a small squad to work with after saving them from one of the planet's many beasties.
I actually thought this tutorial could have been a bit tighter and more helpful. Some fans may be coming to Pikmin 2 having skipped over the first one, perhaps remembering from the days of the GameCube that the sequel, however marginal, is better than the original. I got the feeling that the developers really expected gamers to already be familiar with New Play Control! which is overly presumptuous. The little snippets of info you need to really get going in the game come too slowly and some are even slightly vague. Later, however, this picks up. Soon the help comes from a number of sources, and the game doesn't let you flounder around long before the ship's computer tells you that you're lost and points you in the right direction.
You'll use Pikmin in the same way as you have before. The main differences are that this time you have an additonal leader to call on, switching between Louie and Olimar using the – button. There are also two new Pikmin to discover and whip into line – purple, the Sumo of Pikmin, and white, poisonous. Each of these have their own part to play and can be discovered if you're willing to hurl a couple of your red buddies into the right flowers. They won't be coming back, but you will be rewarded with a few new friends.
Each time you come across a piece of treasure, the trick is throw your Pikmin into retrieving it and bringing them back to your ship. While on the planet's surface, you're given about 15 minutes real time to explore, collect Pikmin, find treasure and complete tasks. At the end of that 15 mins, which makes up one game day, you have to leave the planet, ensuring you don't leave your Pikmin behind. Do so, and they will be consumed by maurauding monsters.
While there is a 15 minute time limit in a game day, unlike Pikmin the Elder, there is no day-limit. When Pikmin 2 was released originally, this was the main point of difference that the journos were harping on. This no limit exploration is quite a big deal, and allows you to enjoy the game at a much more leisurely pace. While you might argue some of the challenge is gone, Pikmin 2 makes up for it with the addition of at least one stand out new feature.
Underground, there's no flow of time at all. In Pikmin, Olimar was confined to the surface of the Pikmin planet. In number 2, you and your crew are able to get subterranean. Undergound are a number of new areas to explore, and in the first one, an 'exploration kit' which you collect pieces for as the game progresses. Your exploration kit, controlled by the ship's computer (who acts as a kind of remote help tool) will help you get the most from your treasure hunts below sea-level. You can spend as much time as you like down here, and your 15 minute game day won't resume countdown until you resurface, using a handily placed geyser.
Pikmin 2, like Pikmin, and like so many games produced by the Big N, is full of little surprises and quirky additions that will make even the most hardened of gamers crack a grin. While cutesy, it's enormous fun to play and while so very close to the orginal, packs enough of a punch to get you involved. Owning both is perfectly acceptable and you might even find that completing number 2 is enough to make you want to go back and play the first all over.
I learned my lesson the first time, and turned down the music before I started playing. Sadly, this is one area in which Pikmin 2 mimics its older brother faithfully. The graphics are a joy, if nothing jawdropping, and the artistic merit of the game even extends to the instruction booklet – look out for the fantastic clay modelled scenes inside.
Happily, I'll recommend this game to all fans of the franchise, and to those who have yet to discover it. I can only hope plenty more classics of yore make the inter-generational