Pikmin 4 Review: A New High for These Flowery Friends

More adorable than ever.

To say the Pikmin franchise helped shape my gaming preferences today isn’t an understatement. One of my earliest memories is of getting the original Pikmin with a silver GameCube for Christmas in 2001. I spent every day for the rest of the following month playing with my dad. I instantly became hooked on the time-centered, puzzle-focused gameplay. Scavenging for parts in Pikmin while racing against the clock is a core memory for me.

Since then, I’ve loved the series, but no entry was able to hit the same sweet spot for me like the original did. That changed with the fourth entry. Pikmin 4 expands upon the strengths of previous entries and creates the best all-around experience in the franchise. More detailed and intuitive puzzles, a wide array of locales, and the most comprehensive catalog of activities make for an unforgettable entry for Pikmin. Pikmin 4 is a new high for Nintendo’s plant-based epic.

Related: Final Fantasy XVI Review: The Final Fantasy for a New Era

Growing Home Again

Pikmin 4 all gear upgrades
Image via Nintendo

Pikmin 4, like all other entries in the franchise, sees a set of explorers stranded on a mysterious planet. This time, it’s the Rescue Squad, a group of explorers tasked with finding the universe’s most unfortunate spacefarer, Captain Olimar. On their way down to recover the famous Pikmin plucker, the Rescue Squad crash-lands. This leaves only a few select members and a humble base of operations in this alien world. Now, it’s up to players to create their explorer, track down the rest of the Rescue Squad, and recover Olimar as soon as possible.

Pikmin 4 where to find olimar
Screenshot via Nintendo

Even though this is the fourth time we’re seeing a protagonist crash-landing on Earth, the story in Pikmin 4 is serviceable enough to get the pieces in place for this title’s grand adventure.

Gather rare treasures on the planet’s surface, convert them into Sparklium, and unlock new maps and locations. Rinse and repeat to continue your journey, all while returning to the ship before sunset. It’s a simple premise, but it’s one that always holds your focus.

Oatchi, Me, and Pikmin Aplenty

Pikmin 4 reviews blue yellow purple red pikmin
Image via Nintendo

Pikmin 4’s world is vast, with half a dozen spacious maps for players to explore. Thanks to the power of Unreal Engine 4, Pikmin 4 boasts gorgeous visuals that are a true treat. During my trips to the surface, I often stopped to admire the landscape, shocked the Switch could handle this level of detail. Not only is each venue beautiful, but each comes with challenges to overcome and collectibles to acquire. You’re not alone in this journey, as the planet’s native helpers, the Pikmin, make the world’s trials doable.

Pikmin 4 offers the widest variety of Pikmin types in the franchise’s history, with clever applications and robust puzzles centered around them.

Pikmin 4 types
Image via Nintendo

Each Pikmin can do something the other types can’t. Red Pikmin are fire-resistant and the strongest fighter. Yellow Pikmin fly the farthest when thrown and conduct electricity. Blue Pikmin swim while others drown. Flying Pikmin take to the sky and carry items across caverns and crevices. Rock Pikmin crush brittle materials like glass. White Pikmin produce a poison that kills any creature that eats them. Purple Pikmin are heavier and stronger than others, dealing more damage when thrown and boasting the power of ten regular foot soldiers. Lastly, the newest ally, Ice Pikmin, can freeze enemies or water sources.

When a new Pikmin type joins the party, you’ll likely have a puzzle explaining how they work, but each type’s clever application continues throughout the game. You have several ways to tackle obstacles and problems along your path, thanks to the diversity of your squad.

Having a party with many options also means these open maps are replayable. Trying to grab something submerged in water in the early game? Come back later after you’ve added the Blue Pikmin to your team and have them swim down to fish it out. Are you having trouble tearing down a hard glass wall? Add some Rock Pikmin to your party and ram through a few hours later.

Pikmin 4 How to find the rock onion
Screenshot by Tai Hofmann

Pikmin 4 offers the widest variety of Pikmin types in the franchise’s history, with clever applications and strong puzzles centered around them.

However, the most significant change to gameplay in Pikmin 4 is the Rescue Pup, Oatchi. This adorable and loyal companion adds new options for players when exploring. This little guy acts as another party member who can carry you and your Pikmin around the map. Additionally, this adorable dog can be controlled independently to cover more ground. Have him corral Pikmin towards one objective while you whittle away at another.

Pikmin 4 oatchi
Image via Nintendo

Whether he’s leveling a series of pots blocking the path, hopping over ledges and carrying items, or battling enemies alongside the Pikmin, Oatchi changes how I play Pikmin in the best way possible. I can’t imagine going back to the series before this ally.

Video Game Underground

Pikmin 4 underground caverns
Image via Nintendo

While surface gameplay is expansive and inviting, it’s not the only option for players in Pikmin 4. Underground caverns make a return in Pikmin 4 as well. As someone who didn’t enjoy the cave system in Pikmin 2, I can confidently say that these are a huge step up. The underground caverns in Pikmin 4 are an excellent change of pace from surface-level gameplay, even though some of that content can drag on a bit too long.

The underground caverns in Pikmin 4 are an excellent change of pace from surface-level gameplay, even though some can drag on for a bit too long.

The big issue I had with caverns in Pikmin 2 is that they essentially boiled down to dozens of rooms filled with hordes of annoying enemies to fight. It felt tacked on and far removed from the strategic and puzzle-centric style of the original game. Thankfully, that isn’t the case in Pikmin 4, which sees puzzles integrated into the underground passages, sprinkling enemies in as an accent to those puzzles.

Like the caves in Pikmin 2, there are treasures hidden within the underground. Lost explorers, treasure, and Pikmin only available there (until the endgame) like Purple and White, so there are plenty of reasons to want to explore the tunnels below. Pair that with the fact that time passes slower when underneath the surface, and you’ve got a series of tasks that interweave with the content above ground almost flawlessly.

The biggest issue with caves in Pikmin 4 doesn’t appear until the late game when dungeons eventually overstay their welcome. The game’s final cave has 20 tunnels, and while you can save and pull out every five levels, it didn’t kill the monotony of the experience as it went on.

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts

Apart from the underground in Pikmin 4, there’s one critical new excursion players can participate in: Night Expeditions.

Pikmin 4 Glow Pikmin
Image via Nintendo

Here, players head to the surface after dark and harness the power of Glow Pikmin to defend Lumiknolls with Glow Sap to create resources to heal wounded explorers. Use these luminescent allies to gather star pieces and stockpile resources.

It’s not all smooth sailing, though, as more powerful versions of the game’s monsters attack at night. If they tear the Lumiknolls apart, you’ll fail the mission and not collect any Glow Sap.

Pikmin 4 night expedition
Screenshot via Nintendo

These missions are tense horde modes that meld gathering resources with tower defense, and it’s one of the most fun parts of the game. Night Expeditions offer some of Pikmin 4’s most tense and exciting encounters, especially at higher difficulty levels.

Despite the challenge, I found Night Expeditions Pikmin 4’s many offerings among the most refreshing. Getting Glow Pikmin as a reward to use in caves was also an excellent bonus that incentivized better play. The more points you earn at night, the more Glow Seed you get to use in the underground.

Pikmin 4 night expeditions attack lumiknolls
Image via Nintendo

Night Expeditions offer some of Pikmin 4’s most tense and exciting encounters, especially at higher difficulty levels.

More challenging Night Expeditions can grant additional rewards but come at the cost of more harrowing enemy encounters. Towards the end of the game, the toughest Night Expeditions had me running between several Lumiknolls. Each saw hordes of enemies descend upon the base, and I even failed the final encounters multiple times.

Blossoming Side Content

Pikmin 4 dandori challenges
Image via Nintendo

Outside of the main objective of saving Olimar and collecting resources, there are additional activities to enjoy in this iteration of Pikmin. Side content in Pikmin 4 is handled splendidly, with various options and activities, each offering worthwhile rewards.

Side content in Pikmin 4 is handled splendidly, with a wide array of options and activities, each offering worthwhile rewards.

Pikmin 4 dandori trial
Image via Nintendo

Players can partake in Dandori Battles, a competition that has you race against an AI to see who can gather resources with a limited number of Pikmin faster. Dandori Challenges also tasked players with collecting resources on a time crunch to see how many points they could get.

Side content often offers substantial rewards. Onions serve as collectibles this time, and grabbing them increases the number of Pikmin you can summon at once. Finding colored Onions lets players spawn more Pikmin of that type worldwide. The game even offers a final dungeon after players beat the game, where a few special onions can be found.

However, my favorite piece of side content in Pikmin 4 is the Olimar flashback, where players replay Olimar’s iconic journey to gather all the parts of his ship in 15 days within the game’s new maps. Only having Red, Blue, and Yellow Pikmin for this journey is a nice touch that brings me back to the original title while adding enough new to feel like a fresh challenge.

Not All Green Pastures

While Pikmin 4 gets a lot right, a few mistakes keep it from being one of the Switch’s best titles. Outrageous load times and lack of innovation with bosses are glaring issues that hold Pikmin 4 back and hamper the experience.

Outrageous load times and lack of innovation with bosses are glaring issues that hold Pikmin 4 back and hamper the experience.

Swapping from maps in Pikmin 4 can take up to three minutes, and that’s with a console I bought just months ago. That lagging load cycle is consistent in most game areas, whether its in the caves, trips to home base, or flying out to a Dandori Battle.

Pikmin 4 bug boss battle
Image via Nintendo

The biggest drawback of Pikmin 4 is, without question, its lack of attention to its bosses. I lost count of how often I fought the same foes at the end of a dungeon or encounter. We’re talking about fighting the same bosses thrice during the main game.

It got to the point where I’d roll my eyes when I saw the bosses reappear in new venues. It’s a shame because the few bosses that get attention to detail, the final boss included, are well done. Even those grow old, though, as they get reused to the point that they stop feeling special. The same Terminator-looking water bug I thought was incredible the first time I fought it still haunts my dreams after trip three. From now on, Pikmin must take more time to make worthwhile bosses.

Verdict

Pikmin 4 is a delightful continuation of Nintendo’s adorable strategy franchise. An expansive set of maps to explore with well-thought-out puzzles above and below ground make for an incredible adventure with your little pluckable allies. Apart from a few monotonous dungeons and a lack of boss variety, Pikmin 4 substantially improves upon the standards set by previous entries and sets a new standard for the series.

Press SPACE to jump review 8

Great

ProsCons
Brilliantly designed environments and venues Repetitive Boss Battles and Dungeons
Fun and intuitive puzzlesAbnormal load times.
Impressive visuals and graphicsOnly three Pikmin types are allowed at a time in the field.
Side content is impressive and engrossing.
Night expeditions are a great addition

To see what each score on our site means, check out the Press SPACE to Jump Review Scale!

For more game reviews on Nintendo titles, stay tuned to Press SPACE to Jump!

share this article
Tai Hofmann
Tai Hofmann

Writing Lead and Editor for Press SPACE to Jump. My first memory is forcing my parents to play 50-round games of Mario Party on the N64. Now I love games on all platforms and hone in on new releases. Some of my favorite titles include Cuphead, Final Fantasy XIV, God of War, Persona 5, and Super Smash Bros.

Articles: 582