Nintendad

[Review] Pikuniku – Nintendo Switch

Reviewed by minusthebrant

  • Developer: Devolver Digital
  • Publisher: Devolver Digital
  • Release Date: 24/1/2019
  • Price: £11.39 /$12.99

Intro

Sometimes you just need a lighthearted adventure game to take your mind off what’s happening in the world, and thankfully I had the privilege of playing developer Devolver Digital’s strange, but clever and enjoyable title Pikuniku.

Pikuniku features a truly delightful story where you take on the role of, what the locals call, a mythical beast with them running at the sheer and terrible sight of you. The world is currently under the influence of a tyrannical and seemingly very generous leader who lavishes coins upon the people in exchange for their crops, goods, and occasionally citizens. The cutscenes are excellently handled with the right levels of humor, strangeness, and truth, but still told through a very familiar tale as I could see how this deals with our consumerist society and how we can miss the the best and necessary things in life.

Dialogue options can be selected at times and give the illusion that you have some choice and say with how Pikuniku proceeds. You do at least feel that you have placed your own stamp on what happens in the world. Throughout your experience you will feel yourself rising up against these evil powers with the help of some friends. From a community of gorilla leaves, to actual animals, the cast is eclectic and provide a rich backdrop for wanting to continue the adventure.

When not advancing in the story, you will find a few smaller side-quests and they are usually given out when you leave the beaten path, such as when you find a secret passage underground. Many of these quests are based around humor and I find at times that many of these indie titles go too far with the self-referential humor, but Pikuniku’s writing was some of the best I had seen. There are jokes for any demographic and age group if you have the knowledge and capacity to understand them. More often than not they don’t detract from the serious undertones of the whole experience.

This is an exploration based puzzle platformer that also has some Metroidvania elements, like backtracking and unlocking new skills to progress. You control the best, who is not very scary at all, but who does have a very unique set of skills. He can jump, kick, and roll, and what makes these movements special are that they are controlled perfectly. The physics based nature of the areas you traverse means rolling down a hill feels exciting and kicking an object to get it where you need it to be is satisfyingly accurate.

Much of Pikuniku involves platforming, but you will use very strange methods to get to certain sections. You might have to enrage someone in order to attack you for getting to higher platforms. You will find objects along the way which go into your inventory and these items are accessible by the ZL and ZR triggers. It’s a very simple system that works well and makes freeing up your hands for the platforming much easier. Everything I liked about the controls involved how tight they felt and how silky smooth the game runs.

Occasionally through your travels, some delightful and quirky mini-games are interwoven into the story requiring you to overcome a challenge that will most likely leave a huge grin on your face. One side quest in particular has you perform a dance-off, similar to anything from Parappa the Rapper, and another has you searching for a key buried in a riverbed by playing a retro arcade game. While the gameplay might seem off-the-wall, you are rarely put into a situation without the tools you need to overcome.

The manner in which you gain these abilities involves some Metroidvania elements. At certain points you will gain a new hat, or other facially decorative accessory, and these can be selected and worn at your leisure. Some hats allow you to reach previous areas you may have not been able to reach before. These little challenges are reinforced by the reliance on physical puzzles that get progressively harder, but never feel overbearing.

Pikuniku’s art style uses simplistic vector-based models with a flat and charming 2D aesthetic lavished in color. I really appreciated an enjoyed the art style and felt it was a breath of fresh air from the over saturation of 2D pixel-art games. The simplistic, yet wonderfully detailed visuals make it stand out with attention to details, with even with the smallest touches shining through when you interact with certain objects. So much creativity went into the visuals and it really makes this an appealing game to play right away. Character design is also well done, with an array of unusual folks to interact with along your journey.

There is a very unique take on audio with Pikuniku and while it might not be fore everyone, I found that it was immediately charming and represented the world amazingly well. It sounds like a series of abstract sounds strung together on layers to create a final piece. As the game progressed the music got better overall wit standout moments being the boss fights or moments of action. Sound effects fit the visuals perfectly with strange sounds to indicate character speech and this also went well with the overall zaniness of the title.

Conclusion

Overall, Pikuniku is both entirely strange and instantly familiar. I oftentimes would laugh out loud at many of the silly moments and spent most of my playtime with a giant grin on my face. Whether enjoyed alone, with kids or friends, it caters remarkably well to about everyone. Pikuniku comes highly recommended with a story that isn’t the longest, but with a ton of hidden collectables, areas, and trophies to find, there is plenty of value and fun to be had here.

Gameplay 4/5
Graphics 4/5
Sound 4/5
Value for money 3/5

Verdict
A delightful journey through a colorful world with solid gameplay throughout.
4/5

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