Pikmin 4 preview - A promising start

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A red Pikmin in a sandy field.

I've been cautiously optimistic about Pikmin 4 ahead of its release. Having never touched Nintendo's light RTS series outside of Niantic's Pikmin Bloom, I knew it was time I gave the core series a proper shot.

Having now spent a few hours with Pikmin 4 so far, exploring the first two open areas it offers to players, I'm incredibly excited to see more.

Things start off quite hand-holdy, with the game guiding you through the minutiae of controlling these dinky little critters very closely, but once the gameplay loop comes to rely solely on your own organisation and planning skills, it becomes incredibly rewarding.

A group of Pikmin looking up at a monster.
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Planting the seed

The first two areas in Pikmin 4, dubbed Sun-Speckled Terrace and Blossoming Arcadia, are exactly what you'd expect. Like the classic movie Honey, I Shrunk The Kids or Obsidian’s Grounded, these worlds revolve around the idea of making conventionally small things enormous, giving the game a very interesting perspective. Sure, it's nothing we haven't seen in previous Pikmin games, but this fourth entry seems like the most refined iteration of that formula so far.

I instantly felt like a tiny fish in a huge pond once my customisable player character, which I very uncreatively named after myself, was given free reign to explore, collect Pikmin, and harvest treasure. I don't want to go too deeply into the plot set-up here, but there's a more character-driven story than you might expect at play in Pikmin 4. It's not ground-breaking, if what I've experienced in the first few hours mirrors what transpires during the rest of the game, but there's enough depth to the characters to get you hooked.

That said, out of all of the personalities the game has to offer, it's the eponymous Pikmin that make the most significant impression. Despite none of these pepper-looking plantlings ever uttering a word, it's impossible not to become emotionally bound to each one. Blowing your whistle to get them in formation, before dishing out tasks ranging from building bridges to harvesting felled enemies, is a really satisfying gameplay loop.

I'm averse to using the phrase 'cosy game', but there's definitely something cathartic about knowing which tasks you need to complete during each day - yes, the day-night cycle is back - and slowly plodding through these relatively menial activities in order to achieve a greater goal. Sometimes it was slightly aggrieving to be torn away from my current task due to the sun going down, as the early game heavily encourages you to evacuate as soon as the clock times out. When you're moments from getting Sparklium from a newly collected treasure, but end up having the opportunity wrenched away from you, leaving you to wait until the next day, it can be a pain.

However, the only real pain I had within the first few hours of Pikmin 4 is just how hand-holdy it is. Of course, this is a game that skews towards a younger audience, likely acting as many gamers' first RTS experience. The drawback is that the early acts are utterly brimming with dialogue, exposition, and mandatory explanations of mechanics, all coming at you thick and fast. As a newcomer, I was grateful for this help to begin with, but once you start getting a hang of things and feel ready to take the wheel without guidance, the last thing you want is to be constrained by lengthy dialogue scenes.


Though, none of that was frustrating enough to dim the excitement I felt when starting each new in-game day in Pikmin 4. I can't wait to return to venturing across these open areas, exploring which items have been super-sized to accentuate the scale, and delegate tasks to my tiny Pikmin friends until the end-of-day bell tolls.

Heading into the rest of the game, I'm definitely a Pikmin convert, and Pikmin 4 may be the best way to explore the series yet.

For more articles like this, take a look at our Features and Pikmin page.