Like many decent sequels, especially when they’re on a Nintendo system, Pikmin 3 is just more Pikmin. The basic experience doesn’t differ from the usual slight cute puzzles, all very Nintendo, all very Wii, all very candy colored and conveniently soluble and cheerfully chirping and rather irresistable, all very Pikmin. But there are four things to recommend Pikmin 3 over the previous Pikmins.
After the jump, think pink
1) The new flying pikmin are a nifty twist for how they break the level design. So much of Pikmin is about getting around walls, under water, or past beasties. The new flying pikmin, pink motes with little fly wings that beat furiously when they lift something, break the basic concept nicely. They don’t come into the game until fairly late, and there are spiderweb walls and other insidious spoilers that constrain them. But it’s a real joy to go back to earlier levels and just send goodies back to your ship as the crow flies. And one of the most gratifying battles in Pikmin 3 is a swarm of pink pikmin dogfighting a swarm of scornets.
2) The challenge of having three astronauts, each capable of leading pikmin, allows some new puzzles beyond the usual matching the right color to the right challenge. These are still mostly simple puzzles, and Nintendo unsurprisingly spares us the potential tedium that could have come with three pikmin generals. There’s none of the expected “okay, so this guy goes here, and now these guys have to run around here so this guy can go here, and now the first guy goes back around here while one of the other guys goes back there…” Instead, the multiple astronauts are mostly useful for setting up simultaneous tasks and quickly switching among them. Brittany will lead a group of flying pikmin to get this fruit, while the Captain stays back at the ship to pluck seedlings and bring necessary reinforcements forward, and Alph focuses on the latest story task at hand. And with an automated waypoint feature, the efficient pikminner will have almost no walking around downtime.
3) The bingo battle is a great head-to-head multiplayer mode. It only works splitscreen and it’s not much of a jump-in-and-play mode. The self-contained timed puzzles are more appropriate for new players faffing about. But if your household has a pair of competent pikminners, bingo battle is a fiercely competitive cutthroat contest of blocking and even direct confrontation during a scavenger hunt for specific doo-dads. The first player to cross off a complete line of items wins. You can even enable a capture the flag instant victory to add more risk for a player straying too far from his base to get that particular item he needs.
4) Finally, it’s a real joy to see a tiny Pikmin world in full HD. You already knew what a quaint world this was, but you had to imagine how good it could look. Now that Pikmin 3’s gloriously Skittles-colored garden world comes to latest-gen life on the Wii U, you don’t have to imagine quite so much. More of the same should always look this good.