Pikmin 2 is many things. It is a strategy game in which you form an army of living, walking flowers. It is a game in which bottle caps and cheap toys are elevated to the status of great treasures. And it is a game that underscores the importance of business insurance.
Developed and published by: Nintendo
Genre: Real-time strategy
For ages: All
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Release Date: June 10, 2012
The Story: A Search for Valuable Trash
Captain Olimar, the space-exploring protagonist of the original Pikmin game, returns to his home planet only to discover that stolen cargo has bankrupted the company he works for. While it’s never discussed in the game, it would appear that the company, Hocotate Freight, did not believe in insurance.
Fortunately for Hocotate, the trinkets that Olimar collected on the mysterious planet of the first game turn out to be fabulously valuable, and Olimar heads back to gather more stuff and get the company back in the black.
The Gameplay: An Army of Flowers Explore a Backyard
As in the first game, Pikmin 2 takes place in a world that looks like the colorful but disorderly backyard of a giant, filled with giant flowers and large, peculiar bugs and casually littered with the gigantic bottle openers and man-sized marbles that Olimar must collect. You still control tiny flower creatures called pikmin that you can order to attack bugs, breach barriers and collect valuable debris, which is often hidden behind a gate, buried underground or lodged inside a particularly large and savage insect.
Pikmin are fragile. They can drown in shallow pools of water, be fried by electrically-charged insects or choke in bogs of poison gas. But pikmin are also color coded, with their color indicating some particular skill, like the ability to walk through fire or swim. Most colored pikmin can be easily grown, but a couple can only be created through the use of rare flowers that can change a pikmin’s color.
All of this is just a lot of fun. While the game could probably best be described as a real-time strategy game, it is nothing like most real time strategy games. It isn’t really much like other games either; Pikmin was the first game anything like Pikmin, and there are only a handful of Pikmin-like games in this world. It is the sort of engaging and unique experience we game critics always hope for but rarely get.
Olimar can only explore the planet in the daytime; when evening comes he must get back in his space ship; any pikmin left wild in the wilderness will be dead by morning.
The Difference: Caves, No Time Limit
The original GameCube Pikmin 2 made a few minor tweaks to its predecessor’s formula: Olimar was joined by a crew member so you could have two groups of pikmin working in different areas at once, a couple of new pikmin types were added, players were no longer required to rush through the game in order to beat a 30-day limit, and underground.
The most interesting change was the addition of multi-leveled underground caverns. Once you go under the earth you must continue down until you reach a final dungeon that contains an exit and a boss monster. While you can constantly grow new pikmin on the surface, in the caves you have to make do with those you bring in with you (100 at most), and after battling past each dungeon’s monsters and hazards, you might find yourself facing that final creature with only a dozen soldiers left
The Wii port of Pikmin 2 uses the same control scheme as the port of the first game. It’s a good system. Calling the pikmin is easily done, although those that don’t have line of site on Olimar will often just stand there until you go get them, which is a little tiresome.
The Verdict: One of the Most Interesting and Unusual Strategy Games Ever
If you’ve never played a Pikmin game you should certainly give Pikmin 2 a try. If you have played a Pikmin game, you probably went ahead and played the other one as well and are now eagerly awaiting Pikmin 3, which comes out for the Wii U this winter. One suspects Pikmin 2 has come out in North America now (three years after being released to the rest of the world) to stir up a little enthusiasm here for the coming game. Nintendo hopes Pikmin 3 will sell well, otherwise they will have to make up their own losses with marbles and bottle caps.