Pikmin 4 Review: Small Package, Big Fun


Pikmin 4

By: Jason Siu


8 min read

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Pikmin 4 is a fantastic, laid-back game everyone should experience

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Quick Verdict

Pikmin 4 might come from one of Nintendo’s lesser-known franchises, but it’s a delightful gem that deserves more attention. This title proves that Nintendo’s first-party games remain unmatched in their pure pursuit of fun, standing tall in an industry often overshadowed by profit-driven strategies. As a newcomer to the Pikmin series, Pikmin 4 not only captured my interest for over 30 hours but has also inspired me to revisit its predecessors, including Pikmin 3 and the recently released remastered versions of the first two games.

If you’re hesitant about diving into Pikmin 4 without prior experience of the series, don’t be. Pikmin 4 serves as an ideal entry point for newcomers. The game does a brilliant job easing you into its mechanics, and before you know it, you’ll be a Pikmin expert.


Pikmin 4 Review Gallery

I have to admit, before Pikmin 4, I’ve never spent any real time in a Pikmin game. I never played the first two, and while I did purchase the third one on the Wii U, I don’t recall playing it for more than an hour or two. But after downloading and trying the Pikmin 4 demo, I was sold. There was just something about the game that was so charming, and after a month of heavy releases that included Diablo IV and Final Fantasy XVI, I needed something on the lighter side and Pikmin 4 was exactly that.

The first thing I noticed about Pikmin is that it has to be one of the best looking games on the Switch. Surprisingly, especially in handheld mode, you’ll forget you’re playing a game on a six-year-old console. Much of this is attributed to Unreal Engine 4, which Nintendo opted to use for Pikmin 4 and it pays off. Each map is filled with unique little details that bring the world to life, while the colors are rich and vibrant. Unfortunately, all of that comes at a cost. Pikmin 4’s load times are quite lengthy and that’s when you’ll remember you’re playing a Switch game.

Overall, however, Pikmin 4 runs very smoothly on the Switch. You’ll notice minimal frame rate drops here and there, but it’s not common enough to ruin your experience. The game is technically very impressive on the Switch and shows Nintendo’s developers have really mastered the console — just in time for its replacement to arrive.

Pik of the Litter

Pikmin 4 Review Gallery

While I haven’t extensively played any of the previous Pikmin entries, I know Oatchi is a new addition to the franchise. Not only does he make the game more accessible, but I do believe his abilities opened up more possibilities when it came to designing the game’s puzzles. As you progress throughout the game, performing the numerous tasks it gives you, you’ll unlock upgrades for Oatchi to aid you on your mission to rescue Olimar. But the biggest benefit of Oatchi is his ability to sniff out your objectives. The commands you can issue to Oatchi ensure you’re never stuck for very long in the game, but you can also choose to never use them if you want to figure everything out your own way.

I tried to imagine what the Pikmin experience would be like without Oatchi — I’ll get a better understanding of that when I go back to play the first three games in the franchise — and I believe it’s pretty restrictive. While there are different colored Pikmin that are used in different scenarios, their overall design is constrained. By giving Oatchi additional abilities, it adds a compelling layer of strategy to the game you wouldn’t expect. During my playthrough, I sometimes forgot I could swap places with Oatchi, and some of the puzzles were solved by doing exactly that. It also helps that in true Nintendo fashion, he’s super adorable.

If you’re like me and new to the series, you need to also understand what the Pikmin do to fully appreciate the addition of Oatchi in Pikmin 4. This game introduces two new Pikmin types to the series, Ice and Glow, and each type of Pikmin has its own specialty. For example, Ice Pikmin can freeze the water, assuming you have enough of them, so that you and your Pikmin can safely travel across. Meanwhile, Blue Pikmin can safely go underwater to retrieve treasures and do combat. When you’re exploring the overworld, you’re allowed to bring three types of Pikmin with you, along with Oatchi. Going underground however, there are less restrictions and you can even go over the Pikmin cap that you have.

Pik Up the Pace

Pikmin 4 Review Gallery

The biggest issue I had with Pikmin 4 was its slow start. I understand that the game is designed for newcomers to the series, but the amount of dialogue and explanation is excessive, even for a Nintendo game. The story isn’t all that compelling to begin with, and some of the dialogue adds no value to the overall experience. Combined that with lengthy load times, and the initial experience could be frustrating. Fortunately, you can experience all that in the demo to decide whether or not you’ll like the game.

Once the game lets you run wild to explore, however, is when things get fun. The core gameplay loop of Pikmin is relatively basic, and can be described as a very simplified real-time strategy game. While you move around the screen, your Pikmin and Oatchi follow you and you can issue out commands to them. You can either throw a single Pikmin, or ask them to charge, which forces all Pikmin of that type to run towards whatever object you have targeted. Those tools are all that you need to explore, complete puzzles, and defeat enemies as you grow your Pikmin army one onion or flarlic at a time.

While the beginning of the game is a bit of a slog, Pikmin 4 does a fantastic job easing its way into new mechanics, introducing new Pikmin types, and throwing a variety of different gameplay elements at you as you get more familiar with the system. There are Dandori battles, which are timed battles where you are trying to maximize your efficiency in gaining points, while night time exploration is a bit more like tower defense. Both of these types of events do a great job at breaking up the normal routine, same with the added variety of caves. I did find it frustrating that Dandori battles were split-screen — I never paid attention to what the opponent was doing and would have preferred, at the very least, a toggle to full screen.

Pik-cher a Great Adventure

Pikmin 4 Review Gallery

There was a moment where everything in Pikmin 4 just clicked and the game became oddly addicting. It’s overall a simple-to-play game that doesn’t have overly complex puzzles, but it does just enough to give you that satisfaction of completing something. There are a lot of different tasks you can do in Pikmin 4, and the number of side quests can seemingly be daunting, but it’s not. Basically, you’ll find yourself completing many of the side quests just by playing the game, and you don’t necessarily have to go out of your way to do any of them.

There is a day and night cycle to the game. If you’re exploring the overworld, time will pass normally and you’ll have to wrap up your activities before it becomes night time. The game gives you fair warning, at which point you’ll want to collect all your Pikmin if you have any that are on their own, otherwise you lose them entirely. However, if you’re venturing in a cave, time is less crucial because only one-sixth of the time passes when you’re underground.

The nighttime challenges are separate from the daytime exploration, meaning you have to choose one or the other as your activity for the day. Overall, the time mechanic doesn’t mean much and it don’t affect the overall experience. It’s really just a way to introduce a good stopping point, but it also adds a little bit of a planning mechanic to your play time. Each time you set out to explore, you will probably set yourself a goal. For me, that involved working a particular section of a map, trying to clear it completely before the day was over.

Pik Your Battles Wisely

Pikmin 4 Review Gallery

Pikmin 4 does feature some boss battles, mainly at the end of some of the caves. Some of these are cleverly done and feature a mechanic that you’ll have to understand to conquer the boss. Other bosses are more basic, and just involve flinging all your Pikmin and Oatchi at them. Most of the time however, you’ll need to learn how to strategically call your Pikmin back so they aren’t killed and you’ll have to recognize patterns to determine when you can attack the boss.

Combat does make up a good portion of the game, and you’ll learn which Pikmin are best for each scenario with experience. Red Pikmin are mainly best for attacking, but I found Ice Pikmin to be most useful when it came to normal enemies. Freezing them allowed Oatchi to charge for a fun and entertaining one-two combo. The controls can get a bit frustrating when you’re trying to manage all your Pikmin and recalling them at just the right time. The good news is, if you mess up, you can simply go into the menu and Rewind Time. In fact, the game suggests this to you sometimes if you suffer major losses.

If you start playing Pikmin 4 and find some minor annoyances thinking the game needs some quality of life updates, chances are, they’re in the form of unlocks once they’re available to you. I found very little to complain about when it comes to general gameplay; my only wish was that you could just hold down the A button to release the required number of Pikmin for a particular task, instead of having to toss them one by one. The game, however, does have a bit of a soft stop where it won’t register the button push immediately after you reach the number of Pikmin necessary for whatever you’re trying to do.

You’ve Pik-ked My Interest

Pikmin 4 Review Gallery

In Pikmin 4, your goal is to collect Sparklium to restore the S.S. Shepherd so you can explore all the areas in the game. It’s a very basic goal, but one that is very fulfilling and addicting. Ultimately, Pikmin 4 does what Nintendo does best. It reminds us that games don’t have to be too serious, and its release comes at just the right time after multiple new games that are perhaps too serious. Sometimes, it’s fun to believe that a Game Boy Advance SP can magically become an energy source for a spaceship.

The thing I appreciate most about Pikmin 4 is that it proves Nintendo doesn’t need to chase the next big craze in gaming. The brand continues to create games that prioritize fun, something that surprisingly has gotten lost in the sea of live service and monetization. The content available to you after the credits roll in Pikmin 4 could have easily been paid DLC or part of a season pass, but it wasn’t. Now, Nintendo isn’t entirely innocent when it comes to that, as many of its games do offer paid DLC and season passes, but they tend to ship feature-complete. That’s more than I can say about a lot of modern games.

I truly do hope more people are willing to give the Pikmin franchise a try. I’m certainly glad I did, and now I can’t wait to go back and experience the post-credits content in Pikmin 4 and the previous three games in the series.

Pikmin 4 was released on July 21, 2023. This review is based on a purchased retail copy of the game on Switch. While FullCleared does have affiliate partnerships, they do not influence our editorial content. We may, however, earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.

Pikmin 4 box art

Buy Pikmin 4

Release date: July 21, 2023

Pikmin 4 Review Gallery (minor spoilers!)

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With over 20 years of online publishing experience, Jason Siu is currently the Content Director at VerticalScope and used to spend most of his time writing about cars. His work can be seen on websites such as AutoGuide, EV Pulse, FlatSixes, Tire Authority, and more. As the former co-founder of Tunerzine.com and West Coast Editor of Modified Magazine, he has also authored two books for CarTech Books. In his spare time, he founded FullCleared to indulge in his passion for writing about games. Although Jason is a variety gamer, he generally prefers RPGs.

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