6.9.04

Pikmin 2

OK, I was wrong. Pikmin 2 is great and is what the first game should have been. All that was wrong about the rushed, incomplete original is fixed in a beautiful, decadently polished experience.

The thirty day time limit of the first game is gone; take your time exploring the worlds and collecting treasure. Once you get the original three Pikmin types, the game opens up to be a refreshingly non-linear experience. Go anywhere, do what you want to do, just get enough money to pay off Olimar's company debt.

To replace the tension lost by removing the time limit, the overworlds in Pikmin now have a few dungeon entrances tucked throughout them. Only the Pikmin in your current group can be brought into the dungeon and you have to play it smart because you can't grow new Pikmin underground.

The dungeon floors, in a surprisingly turn, are laid out randomly. Most of the time a floor contains a landmark puzzle or enemy encounter, but the position and order of the elements change each time you re-enter or restart the level. Theoretically this could be less enjoyable than the lavishly architected overworld areas, but these are dungeon crawls right of Diablo or Nethack in the best way. Dungeons are about combat, about turning the tables on some subterrainan predators and making it to the next level while suffering the fewest losses possible. The creatures in the original were a blast to fight, and with nearly three times as many critters as the original, these battling underground romps make the most out of Nintendo's insanely great creature design.

The two new Pikmin provide new delicious decisions. My favorite are the slight White Pikmin that are immune to poison, and also nefariously poisonous to consume. If a predator just happens to munch down on one or two, the predator can die outright. White Pikmin are difficult to acquire and are also essential in finding hidden treasure, so the choice to sacrifice a few to win a battle that could potentially cost you many more is the type of meaty game element the original lacked.

Olimar is not alone on this journey; the Louie joins him as a second Pikmin commander. Having two commanders gives the player the ability to multitask. Instead of having to babysit the Pikmin while they're knocking down a wall, building a bridge, or carrying something back to base, you can split off with the other commander to explore or work on another task. Splitting up is only required for a handful of puzzles, but it can drastically reduce the amount of time spent waiting.

The greatness of Nintendo's latest doesn't overwhelm you; comes from the consistent delivery of happy surprises, through the new crazy enemies, creative new uses for old Pikmin, and clever puzzles that continually keep the player's interest high throughout the experience. Pikmin 2 shows that, despite all reports, Nintendo's charming, imaginitive brilliance still lives.

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