Pikmin 4 review: Pikture perfect

With the fourth entry in this charming series, is Pikmin 4 as delightful for old hands and newcomers alike?

Image via Nintendo

I came into Pikmin 4 in a pretty hectic part of my season. Somewhere between reviews of the tough-as-nails Double Dragon Gaiden, trying to make progress on both Final Fantasy 16 and Remnant 2, and sorting out a move of residence, I didn’t know Pikmin 4 was exactly what I needed to blow off steam and just feel good. I’m not well-versed in the series, but Pikmin 4 guided me along where it needed to, set me on a charming and engaging adventure, and even outright spooked me at times. The whole thing was a bright and interesting expedition that’s sure to delight series veterans and newcomers alike.

Rescue the rescuers

Pikmin 4 is kind of an odd duck in Pikmin canon. Spoilers for the first game, but it seems to rely on an ending where the original playable character, Captain Olimar, crash-landed on the Earth-like planet PNF-404 and discovered the plant-like helper creatures (the titular Pikmin), but couldn’t gather the parts of his ship he needed to get back off the planet and go home. Instead, he remained stranded, sending out an SOS with his voyage logs that prompted a group known as the Rescue Corps to deploy and save him. Unfortunately, the Rescue Corps’ ship malfunctioned and crashed on PNF-404 as well.

That leaves you, a new recruit of the Rescue Corps, to head for PNF-404 and not only save the now-scattered Rescue Corps team, but also accomplish their original mission of saving Captain Olimar. I didn’t have to do much outside research to get into Pikmin 4. The game does a wonderful job of explaining itself, catching you up to current events by spreading out the information to spots where it just makes sense to tell you about it. I never felt bombarded or overwhelmed by the game’s tips or reminders. The only thing I’d critique is that when there’s a video tip showing you a mechanic, Pikmin 4 doesn’t let you skip or fast-forward through the tip until you’ve seen at least one full loop of the demonstration.

Pikmin 4 Blossoming Arcadia biome
Source: Nintendo

The environments of PNF-404 in Pikmin 4 are just plain awesome. Throughout the game, you unlock a variety of massive biomes in which to search for missing crewmembers, castaways, and Olimar, and each is filled to the brim with creatures to contend with, obstacles to overcome, shortcuts to unlock, and treasures to discover. You have to make good use of your time because each day only has limited time for you to explore before you must retreat back to base. Leave any Pikmin out of your retreat and they’ll get munched by creatures, making those last minutes of wrapping up pretty intense. Moreover, Pikmin 4 seems to take many of the best elements from previous games and refine them here. For instance, Pikmin 2’s cave levels return, allowing players to go underground and take on maze-like challenges that usually result in saving a castaway, getting lots of treasure, gathering new Pikmin, and discovering bizarre new creatures.

Pikmin 4 does a lot to set itself apart, too. Notably, one of the plot points of the game is that castaways sometimes come in contact with a planetary infection that causes leaves to sprout all over their face and body. This leads to the player having to engage in special caves that lead to “Dandori Battles” and “Dandori Challenges” with the infected individuals. In both instances, you are presented with unique maps and must make use of only the resources afforded to you to gather as much treasure, creatures, and resources as fast as you can. There’s even bronze-to-platinum rankings and rewards for doing well, so there’s reason to go back and figure out how to ace them if you want to.

Pikmin 4 Glow Pikmin
Source: Nintendo

At some point, you’ll need to collect a special resource that can only be gained at night, and this results in a sort of tower defense section of the game in the new Night Expeditions. You are to protect glowing mounds that produce the resource from aggressive nearby creatures with the help of new Glow Pikmin. Unlike other Pikmin, these guys are resistant to nearly everything besides being squished or eaten, with the caveat that they can’t be used in broad daylight. That said, doing well, defeating creatures, and surviving night expeditions rewards you with Glow Pikmin seeds that you can then use in caves. For every task you get in Pikmin 4, the process is usually fun to figure out, and the rewards are often exciting and useful.

Get along, li’l Pikmin

Pikmin 4 pikmin transporting a dragonfruit

Source: Nintendo

Gameplay in Pikmin 4 is similar and also well-refined over previous entries. The Glow Pikmin are a nice addition already, but Pikmin 4 is also chockfull of solid quality-of-life improvements, much of it beginning with your rescue pup, Oatchi. Oatchi is a bipedal dog creature that acts as your helpful partner throughout the game. Oatchi can attack creatures, break walls, dig up secrets, carry objects back to base, and so much more. Almost anything your character can do, Oatchi can also do, and you can even switch between control of your character and Oatchi, making for some very interesting puzzles where the two of you must split up to solve them. The only issue I have is that Oatchi only gets points for upgrade when you save someone, whereas you can find resources nearly everywhere in Pikmin 4, so upgrading Oatchi feels slower in comparison to other progression.

As for the Pikmin themselves, most types return and their functions largely remain similar. Red Pikmin are impervious to fire and are your best fighters against creatures. Yellow Pikmin are resistant to electricity and can be thrown higher than any other type. Blue Pikmin are resistant to water and can collect and carry things through the puddles and lakes you’ll come across. Other Pikmin types return as well and the game makes sure you have plenty of reasons to utilize all of them frequently.

Pikmin 4 Russ's Science Lab
Source: Nintendo

Outside of the Glow Pikmin, Ice Pikmin also join the party. These frosty little beans are great. They can freeze enemies and objects and make it so when your other Pikmin do enough damage, the target shatters (just make sure it’s not something you want to bring back to base). You can also use them to freeze bodies of water solid and turn it into shortcuts for your other, less-water resistant Pikmin. They change up the game just enough to make for a fun and interesting new answer to situations wherever you decide to deploy them. When a big, nasty crab was heckling my pals. I’d cover them in Ice Pikmin to freeze them solid, and then unleash all my other Pikmin to beat the offending creature to bits and pieces. It felt deliciously diabolical.

The Pikmin themselves are usually pretty sensible, but only in a Lemmings kind of way. When set to a task, they will normally take the most direct path available to them to accomplish it. That can be disastrous if you haven’t cleared the route. Suddenly you’ll have five to ten Pikmin marching an apple through a field of hungry creatures ready to pounce. That’s more of a fault of the player than the game, but I also occasionally found their pathing to be lacking. They could get caught up on each other easily when two groups were trying to transport objects in a small space. When setting more than the required Pikmin on an object to carry it faster, they sometimes had trouble finding a spot to help carry and just ran around the object. I even had an occurrence where I whistled for them near a shortcut tunnel and they just kept going back and forth through the shortcut no matter what command I gave.

Pikmin 4 fighting a jellyfish
Source: Nintendo

That said, Pikmin 4 is forgiving and allows you to make up for time or Pikmin lost. The Rewind Time mechanic marks various increments from when you landed in a location that you can go back to at nearly any time. Got in a fight with a new creature and lost 15 Pikmin? Rewind time and go back to right before that unfortunate battle to try new tactics. Pikmin 4 is full of great features like this that let you refine your knowledge and fix mistakes on the fly. The only caveat is that Time Rewind starts when you enter a biome or cave. If you leave for a new area that requires loading, you can’t rewind back to the area before and your choices are locked in.

Pik of the litter

Pikmin 4 Starting a new day
Source: Nintendo

Pikmin 4 almost always had fun surprises in store with me for each day’s adventures. Every biome, cave, and challenge brought about new threats and surprises, and my versatility between my own upgrades and those to Oatchi and our Pikmin made sure we almost always had new and fun ways to approach each situation. Pikmin 4 does a good job of retracing steps in the series, bringing back features that players liked, and making them feel good in the new setting. It also keeps the new adventure compelling with fun objectives and loads of secrets. Oatchi is a clear contender for Shacknews Best Pet of 2023, and Pikmin 4 might just be the best blend of charming and intense that I’ve played all year.

This review is based on a digital Nintendo Switch copy supplied by the publisher. Pikmin 4 is available as of July 21, 2023.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

Review for
Pikmin 4
  • Lots of new and refined features
  • No prior series knowledge required
  • Biomes & caves are gorgeously varied
  • Ice & Glow Pikmin are fun new additions
  • Oatchi is a certified Good Doggo
  • Rewind Time is great for fixing mistakes
  • Pikmin pathing is occasionally quirky
  • Oatchi is harder to upgrade than comparable features
  • Tips can run long and are often unskippable
From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 14, 2023 9:00 AM

    TJ Denzer posted a new article, Pikmin 4 review: Pikture perfect

    • reply
      August 14, 2023 9:23 AM

      Can’t wait to play, but I’m still playing TotK and haven’t beaten advance wars yet either!!

    • reply
      August 14, 2023 4:45 PM

      First rate game that has the misfortune (like every other game) of coming out in a year packed with first rate games

    • reply
      August 14, 2023 5:18 PM

      I've just got platinum on all the dandori challenges! You may kiss my hand peons etc

    • reply
      August 14, 2023 7:24 PM

      I got 80% of the way through and decided to see if BG3 hype was real.

      I'm sorry, little Pikmin :(

    • reply
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    • reply
      October 9, 2023 11:57 PM

      This game is undeniably exceptional and has the power to captivate and entertain both series veterans and newcomers alike. https://fnfgo.org

      • reply
        December 19, 2023 4:35 AM

        The Shacknews review of "Pikmin 4" highlights the game's successful blend of strategy and exploration, and the introduction of new features like Ice and Glow Pikmin. It's encouraging to see such positive feedback, particularly regarding the game's design and the depth added by the character Oatchi. While there are some areas for improvement, overall, it seems like a delightful addition to the series. https://www.y9freegames.com/

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