This week - in New York City - Nintendo invited us to play Hey! Pikmin, the first title in the series developed outside of Nintendo's internal teams. Hey! Pikmin is being developed by Arzest, the studio behind Yoshi's New Island, which failed to make a big splash with 3DS owners.
Hey! Pikmin takes a totally new approach with the franchise. Rather than a spacious open world for you to explore full of puzzles for you to solve, Hey! Pikmin is much more straightforward and adopts a 2D approach. Levels are side-scrolling, with the Circle Pad being used to move Captain Olimar around the screen. You start the game out with a jetpack and a whistle; the whistle serves the same function it did in the original Pikmin titles, which is to round up your adorable little plant helpers.
The objective also remains the same, which is collecting items to return to your ship to generate fuel for a return trip home. This time around, however, rather than having your Pikmin deliver these items you have a convenient teleporter that will move the item back to the ship for you once your pikmin have lifted it off the ground.
In a way the game feels a bit like Pikmin meets Donkey Kong Country. You move side to side and as you see enemies or obstacles you tap the screen to throw Pikmin at the problem. We were told there would be multiple paths you could follow, though we only had the time to try the game’s opening stages.
Since all non-movement actions are done using the touch screen, such as blowing your whistle by tapping the bottom-right-hand corner or having Pikmin pick up 'Sparklenium' for you by tapping its location on the screen - and seeing a Pikmin launch toward it - 3DS face buttons can used for movement; left-handed players don’t get left out in the cold. Each mission ends with you reaching the goal for that area; it’s a process that will be familiar to those who have played Nintendo’s older games, but would feel foreign to more recent Pikmin fans.
Once you beat a stage you can go to Pikmin Park. In Pikmin Park any Pikmin you bring with you as companions to the end of a stage will hang out, waiting for a command - there are different sections of the park, each containing their own obstacles for you to deploy the little creatures to. We were told the Pikmin will bring back fuel for Olimar’s ship, but were unable to confirm this in the demo we played; in any case the loop of clearing stages, then using accumulated Pikmin in the Park to grab fuel, is starting to become clear.
Visually, Hey! Pikmin looks pretty nice. It’s still neat to see a bunch of pikmin lifting an electric toothbrush like it’s the find of the century. Of the three stages we played each of them seemed a bit on the short side. however, and we weren’t able to get numbers indicating how long a typical playthrough would take, unfortunately. The levels we tried only contained one type of Pikmin at a time, though we’re told that can change as well. We weren’t given any details on how you choose the type of Pikmin you would be using in a particular level, but we’ll keep our eyes open for more details in the coming weeks.
Right now, from what we played, we’re cautiously optimistic about Hey! Pikmin. It looks and plays well, but it could also potentially get tiring quickly. As release gets closer we'll naturally give it the full review treatment, but for now let us know what you think of it in the comments.