What I'm Playing - No. 96
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
Be warned, minor spoilers may be contained within. Generally, I do try to keep things spoiler-free but this isn’t always possible/practical! If you want to totally avoid all potential spoilers so you can play these games yourself in a blind run, you shouldn’t continue reading! Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
Gris is an indie platform adventure game, and I had the pleasure of playing through it this past week. You play as Gris, a young girl in a vibrant, fantastical world. In the game’s opening, she is singing in the palm of a large statue of a woman. After a few moments, she is unable to sing anymore, and the statue crumbles away around her. As Gris falls, the colors drain away from the world around her, and by the time she lands, everything has faded to gray. From there, you control Gris as you explore her world, solving puzzles and doing a bit of platforming.
Immediately, Gris impresses with wonderful 2D animation and art, as well as excellent music and sound design. I played nearly the entire game with headphones, and I definitely recommend playing this way. There is no dialogue in Gris, either spoken or written. That said, there’s definitely room for interpretation in the game’s story. Regardless, the music and artwork make it a very moving experience. There were moments in Gris’s journey that brought a smile to my face, and others a tear to my eye, and the fact that it’s able to do all this without a single line of dialogue is very impressive.
Gameplay-wise, Gris adheres to a pretty simple formula. It’s a mostly linear experience, though there are segments where you’ll need to explore and collect a few white orbs, which can generally be collected in any order. In this gameplay loop, you’ll explore, unlock a new area, gain a new ability, and then the process repeats, with new areas requiring you to use your newfound abilities. The puzzles and platforming are pretty simple throughout, but they were still fun, and a few towards the end even took a few tries to figure out what to do. Don’t let the simplicity dissuade you though - the puzzles and platforming might be simple, but that doesn’t stop them from being delightful. The fact that the environments are an artistic feast for the eyes definitely helps!
I think I’ve gotten all the gushing-about-Gris out of my system. It’s a short but incredible experience, with my final playtime running just under 3 hours. If it sounds at all interesting, I whole-heartedly recommend giving it a try!
Pikmin 3 Deluxe (Switch)
An port of the once Wii U exclusive Pikmin 3, Pikmin 3 Deluxe released for the Nintendo Switch this week and I played through the entire main story between release day and the day after! I’m a big fan of Pikmin, but despite Pikmin 3 originally releasing in 2013, I never played it since I didn’t own a Wii U. So, I’ve basically been waiting for this game, the followup to the amazing Pikmin 2, since 2004. Playing a new game in this awesome, unique franchise was an amazing feeling!
Like in the other Pikmin games, you play as some tiny spacemen stranded on the strange planet of the Pikmin after their ship crashes. Unlike the previous games though, you don’t play as Captain Olimar in the main story. In fact, the 3 characters you play as aren’t even from the same planet as Olimar! This time, they’re from the planet Koppai, and their mission is to find food on the Pikmin’s planet in order to save their home planet from starvation.
Pikmin 1 had a strict, fixed time limit, while Pikmin 2 had no time limit. Pikmin 3 seeks a happy medium between the two and brings the time limit back, but this time it’s not fixed, and is quite flexible. With each piece of fruit your Pikmin army collects, you’ll get juice that enables your crew to survive more days on the planet, increasing your time limit. This fruit is also the solution to their home planet’s famine, as they plan on bringing the seeds of the fruit back to cultivate on Koppai. This flexible time limit was interesting, but I collected fruit fast enough that I had plenty of time, and the limit was never a concern. It’s a cool system though, and I like the way it makes sense in terms of the story as well.
That’s not the only change in Pikmin 3 though - far from it! One of the most notable changes is the addition of the Lock On system. In previous games, you’d aim and throw Pikmin using only your targeting reticle, which required a bit of skill, especially when things got dicey. In Pikmin 3, you could still play that way if you really wanted, but it’s far more effective to use the new Lock On ability. When this is toggled on, you’ll automatically throw Pikmin at the target when you press A. Pressing the Lock On button again toggles between nearby targets, so things can still get dicey when a lot of enemies are involved as you’ll need to quickly cycle through targets. The Lock On took some getting used too, but overall I think it’s a good improvement. You also can’t move your Pikmin around you using the 2nd stick anymore, but this isn’t really an issue because the Pikmin follow AI is better, and Pikmin don’t get stuck on corners and other terrain as much anymore. The only reason I miss 2nd stick Pikmin movement is because I can’t use my pro strat to throw Pikmin super fast anymore - in the old games, you could use the C stick to position Pikmin closer to Olimar, allowing him to throw them faster than normal!
Another change makes the gameplay more like an RTS: the Go Here system. Since you control 3 characters in Pikmin 3, you can get a lot done at once if you micro-manage carefully. To help with this, the Go Here system allows you to order one of your characters to move to the spot you indicate on the map automatically. Once given an order, they and their Pikmin squad will march to the location on their own, and they’ll let you know when the reach their destination. I loved sending Go Here orders, and once I had all 3 characters unlocked, I was splitting into 3 teams and issuing move orders left and right! It felt like this saved me so much time. One of my favorite things to do was leave one character back at the Onion, then after I’d sent several Pikmin from another character’s squad back with treasure or monster carcasses, I’d have the character left at the Onion grab all those Pikmin and set out with their new squad to do whatever I needed them to do.
Last but certainly not least among the new features and changes, there are 2 new Pikmin types in Pikmin 3: Rock Pikmin and Winged Pikmin. Unlike in previous games, the only time Pikmin have their own Onion is the day you unlock them. After that, their Onion fuses with the main Onion (the one that lands near your ship each day), and you’ll call all Pikmin types from their. This was a surprising change at first, but it’s honestly a lot more convenient, so I definitely appreciated the change in the end! Anyway, the Rock Pikmin’s rock-like bodies can be used to break hard crystals and glass/plastic walls, while the Winged Pikmin fly above the ground (as their name suggests). Because they’re flying, this means you can cross bodies of water with them. The Winged Pikmin will fly above the water’s surface while your character walks on the riverbed. Since you’re underwater and they can’t swim, you can’t grab and throw them while crossing water, but this does allow you to reach some new areas regardless. There are also Bamboo gates that you need Winged Pikmin to lift up, allowing other types of Pikmin to cross. These are the only gates in the game that aren’t permanently opened. Instead, you need to leave some Winged Pikmin assigned to them if you want to cross back and forth repeatedly.
Of course the classic 3 Pikmin types, Red, Yellow, and Blue, all return as well, and have the same abilities as in Pikmin 2: Red are immune to fire, Yellow to electricity, and Blue can swim and breath underwater. One last interesting feature: Pikmin can carry Bomb Rocks again in Pikmin 3. In the first Pikmin game, only Yellow Pikmin could carry Bomb Rocks, and that was their special ability instead of the electricity immunity. That was always weird to me and I much preferred how they were electric resistant in Pikmin 2. Anyway, Pikmin 2 removed Bomb Rocks altogether, or at least the ones your Pikmin could carry. They still existed as hazards in that game, but you couldn’t use them. Well, in Pikmin 3 they’re back, and now all Pikmin can carry and use the deadly explosives. It was kind of a nice surprise to see Bomb Rocks and the stone walls they’re used to break down again!
If I had any complaint about the main Story, it would probably be that it felt pretty short. You also unlock Blue Pikmin very late. When I got the Blue Pikmin, I was finally settling in with my complete Pikmin crew, but then the story was over before I knew it! I had a lot of fun with the story, and I could have played longer to collect more fruit (I certainly had enough juice left for days), but I think if it was 1 area longer it would have felt a lot better. Anyway, I cleared the story on Day 17, after just under 7 hours of playtime. There’s no post-game in the main Story like there was in Pikmin 2, but you can rewind back to any Day of your adventure if you want to collect more of the available fruit. I’ll probably go back a day or 2 and try to collect all of it at some point!
After the main story was finished, I moved on to the Side Story content. I believe this was newly added for Pikmin 3 Deluxe. There are 2 short Side Story arcs. You play as Olimar and Louie, the main characters from Pikmin 2, in both arcs. These aren’t freeform adventures like the main story, but are instead missions with specific objectives and rankings depending on your performance. They were pretty fun, but simple. They re-use maps from the main story, with certain areas barred off and a few other changes made. It was cool to play as Olimar and Louie, but other than that these didn’t add that much in my opinion.
I’ve really been enjoying the Missions mode. These are objective-based missions like the Side Story content, but the challenge is higher, or at least the rankings system is more strict. You also play as the main story’s trio of characters in these, and having 3 characters as opposed to just 2 is where the multi-tasking, micro-management gameplay really shines. I’ve been taking on the Battle Enemies missions, but there’s also missions where you collect treasure, and a third category where you re-fight bosses from the main campaign. This mode is sort of like the Challenge mode from Pikmin 2, and I really enjoyed that mode as well, so I guess it’s no surprise that I’m enjoying this one in Pikmin 3 so much!
Just one last note before wrapping up this post: Pikmin 3 Deluxe has in-game achievements! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now, I really like when Switch games implement their own achievements. Sure, it’s still not as nice as a real achievement system tied to your user account like Steam achievements or PlayStation trophies, but it’s still nice to have some sort of achievement system, and I love seeing the unlock notifications pop up during gameplay!