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January 22, 2019

Pikuniku - Review

Switch has quickly become the home for quirky yet delightful indie titles, with Pikuniku being the latest to grace the platform, but does it offer enough to help it rise above the rest?

There is very little story in Pikuniku, at least regarding the character that you play as, Piku, he just awakens inside a cave, where a ghost is there to greet him. Before that happens though, we get to watch an infomercial for Mr Sunshine, a character who is willing to take away your junk and in exchange offer money, lots of money, it is really a great offer, but back to Piku. Once we make our way out of the cave, there is little to do, except head east and soon after we cross a bridge, that breaks, two citizens of a nearby village come to investigate the noise, clearly deciding that it was nothing. They walk away, letting us follow them, but they spot Piku and decide he is the beast that lives in the caves and run back to town and following results in Piku being captured. Once they interrogate Piku, they learn he is not the beast, just happens to look like him a little, they agree to let him go, in exchange he must repair the bridge he broke.


The gameplay is broken up into three parts, a little exploration, a little combat and some puzzle solving, with the parts coming together to make something, but what that something is can only be described by what Piku is, which is just as strange. Exploring the world is pretty straight forward, you can run and jump and if you want to move faster, for a little jump you simple need to bring your legs back into your body, letting go of the button that holds your legs in, which lets Piku pop back up. The other action, in fact the only other one that Piku can do is kick, as he has no arms, kicking is how you can break things, launch rocks or acorns across the screen and even smug spiders, should you want to.  The gameplay is broken up into three parts, a little exploration, a little combat and some puzzle solving, with the parts coming together to make something, but what that something is can only be described by what Piku is, which is just as strange. Exploring the world is pretty straight forward, you can run and jump and if you want to move faster, for a little jump you simple need to bring your legs back into your body, letting go of the button that holds your legs in, which lets Piku pop back up. The other action, in fact the only other one that Piku can do is kick, as he has no arms, kicking is how you can break things, launch rocks or acorns across the screen and even smug spiders, should you want to.  Kicking is also how combat works, whilst the only fights you can get in, are against the games few bosses and not even all of them, it is flawed system, which results in a lot of frustration. Even those few times, when you are not in a fight, Piku will naturally kick towards one item, even if you want him to aim for the one on the other side of him, there is no ability to target anything before you kick, so sometimes the kicking of something takes many attempts.


The puzzles though, is where the game shines, some are quick ridiculous, but in the best way possible, I mean who would have thought giving a golden tooth to a wizard who lives in a floating house, would be challenging, but it is. Some of the puzzles require you to simply buy something, but the game gives some very vague hints on that being the objective, others require you to collect items, to enter a room, you might not know exists. Discovering what you need to do, is often more fun than completing the puzzle, but the game understands this and will usually throw in some form of joke, to help you with it. Some of the puzzles, are done in the form of challenge rooms, that require some fast fingers to survive, the rooms within are filled with spikes and other dangers, that if you land on one, will warp you back to a set point. In addition, you still have some regular puzzles to solve at the same time, so they will keep you on your toes.


If there were issue with the gameplay, it would be that the game is short, like only a few hours long short and while there are some collectible to find, the game never actually does anything with them, so missing one or five, as I did, does not hurt you in the long run. The other thing is that the final boss, has a very challenging segment where you need to race after them, whilst on lava and they are shooting at you, in the end I was so tempted to rage quit, due to the frustration it provided. The games physics are weird enough and can often result in some anger inducing moments, when you are just walking and jumping around, but throwing them into a boss fight, that requires, essentially precision control, does not work well. How I ended up beating that final boss, was done through sheer frustration and determination, there was no pattern to learn, it was purely reflex based, something the game had not used before and did not suit the mechanics it offered.


When it comes to presentation though, Pikuniku is up there as one of the most simplistic, yet artfully creative games I have seen in sometime, it somehow manages to look like Mr Men and JellyCar are the same time. Piku is very bouncy, he can fall from great heights and land, with nary a hiccup and when he runs, especially up hills, his legs tend to stick to the ground behind him, giving him a look of something being pulled apart and stuck together at the same time. The citizens of the world also look fun, though they are very basic in their overall design, but still fun, whereas the enemies are very bland, not only are they flat, but there is no depth to character and it shows. The world itself is a little odd, it manages to have the same look and feel as Piku and the rest, but with a level of challenge, there are times when you need to climb up on houses or trees, but there are only some that can be climbed, which leaves you to find out which, as there is no indication of what object will be something you can stand on.

The games music is catchy and fun, providing ample reason to listen to it, it does however repeat quickly, which can increase the speed at which you might get annoyed with it. There is a track, during the boss fight, which honestly sounds like a mix between Snipperclips, (given the composer here is the same guy behind that game, not that surprising) and Splatoon, it is a really cool track. The character though, don’t speak, all their talk is done via text box, which is nice, but even some gibberish noises, would have gone well with he games visuals.


Pikuniku is a game that is worthy of a play-through, not only does it have fun with its presentation and characters, it also comes packed with some challenging, yet still fair puzzles. While the game falls on the short side and the physics are very loose, it is still a blast.


Review copy provided by Devolver Digital

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