One of the most prominent apps on my phone is a simple to-do list app. I have a handful of recurring tasks every month or year, along with whatever I jot down as a reminder. It took me more than 20 hours with Pikmin 4 before I identified that the sensation it evoked was the same as that of completing my to-do list. Pikmin 4 is a game, sure, but it’s also a sort of low-impact activity that gives you the same satisfaction of checking off a list of small, relatively simple tasks. That makes it pleasant to play, but that quality also makes it feel discordant when it briefly adds elements that provide a mild but noticeable degree of pressure–elements that make it more traditionally “game-like.” On the whole, I think I prefer Pikmin the activity to Pikmin the game.
Pikmin 4 is meant to be a welcoming entry point for first-timers. The effort to bring you into the world of Pikmin begins very literally, with a character creator that allows you to make your own Rescue Crew member. The tools weren’t robust enough to make a facsimile of me–very few beard options, for one thing–but I made a cute little man who I was proud of and wanted to see go on an adventure regardless. With my stubby adventurer fully formed, I was ready to explore the world of Pikmin.
For the uninitiated, that world is basically a suburban Earth-like backyard. While the diminutive characters never acknowledge it, it’s very clear from your surroundings that you’ve crash landed in a garden. Your surroundings might be checkered with gardening tools or mounds of dirt left by whoever occupied the home. There’s a playful sense of scale to the setting that recontextualizes common household objects as massive obstacles or helpful bridges. Sometimes, you fall into a steady rhythm of puzzle-solving and completely forget the nature of your surroundings, until you suddenly pull back and realize there was a giant metal pail or bag of sod just next to where you’ve been excavating.
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