Pikmin 2 Review
With Pikmin 2, Nintendo has addressed the bulk of the shortcomings of its predecessor by crafting a game that tops the original in nearly every way.
You'll have more than just your own brain to rely on when aiming to accomplish your tasks each day. Olimar and Louie will be able to use potions made from berries you find in the game. The spicy potion boosts your pikmins' speed and attack powers, while the bitter one converts nearby enemies to stone for a brief time. The duo's suits and ship can also be upgraded, as the items you find inspire your ship's computer to create enhancements that come in handy. You'll also find several types of flowers in the game. Some of the flora will yield the purple and white pikmin when fed any of the other colored pikmin, while others will spew out extra pikmin when fed a like color. Your pikmin have also been tweaked some with improved artificial intelligence, which works pretty well most of the time by motivating your minions to help each other out as the situation arises. Finally, you'll be able to split Olimar and Louie up when playing to form two separate groups of pikmin that can double-team some of the challenges you'll encounter.
Besides the gameplay tweaks, you'll find a few extra modes that will help lengthen your playtime with the game. In addition to the aforementioned single-player game, you'll find a two-player battle mode that will pit you against a friend. The split-screen mode will require you to collect four yellow marbles on a map. However, you can steal your opponents own like-colored marbles before time runs out. The different themed maps will come populated with enemies and other hazards that you'll have to surmount to meet your goal. You'll also have to deal with brawls with your opponent, which consist of hilarious battles between your respective groups of pikmin. Finally, you'll be able to unlock a challenge mode for one or two players that will task you with clearing 30 maps. You'll be rewarded with a leaf icon if you clear a map normally, but you'll get an extra bit of prestige--in the form of a pink flower--if you make it through a map without losing one of your pikmin.
Control in the game is solid and responsive--once you spend a little time familiarizing yourself with it. Olimar and Louie handle well together or separately. The reticle you'll use to direct your minions works well, although you'll find that gauging some throws can be a little tricky at times, especially against airborne foes. However, it's still fine. A nice tweak to the system is the ability to cycle through your colors of pikmin before throwing one by pressing left or right on the GameCube's directional pad when you're holding onto a pikmin.
Pikmin 2's solid gameplay mechanics are complemented by polished visuals that are both technically and artistically impressive. The game's subtle charm is anchored by near photorealistic environments that create richly detailed, themed environments out of seemingly simple outdoor locales. The graphics have been improved over the original game and allow for a higher level of detail in the areas you'll explore. You'll notice a greater degree of motion around you as animals and insects go about their daily business and as the wind blows flower petals around. As for the critters who will populate these rich areas, you'll see a mix of old and new faces on hand, with many creatures from the original game returning. Olimar, Louie, and the pikmin are all looking good, albeit tiny, in comparison to the environments, and they all animate smoothly. The level and creature designs stay true to the same whimsical and somewhat dark style achieved in the first game. Furthermore, they offer some disturbing new additions to the game's canon, like the giant machine gun-wielding crawler. From a performance viewpoint, Pikmin 2 stands as an impressive achievement on the GameCube, especially since the improved visuals still move at a solid frame rate despite the increased detail. The only slight hitches are the occasionally odd camera angles, although they can be compensated for by manually adjusting your view. Outside of gameplay, Pikmin 2 also contains some computer-generated movies that help tell its story, which marks a first for a pikmin game.
The audio in the game is a fine, albeit understated, accompaniment to the onscreen action. The soundtrack moves between full-blown themes and more-subtle, ambient tracks that suit the action perfectly. Voice in the game has been beefed up by the inclusion of the CG movies we mentioned. You'll hear the Hocotate president speaking in Olimar's native tongue, and Olimar and Luie say their names as you switch between them. The biggest upgrade to the audio, however, involves the effects that are used for the pikmin. The little guys now sport a great deal more personality thanks to a wider variety of speech samples. Besides their standard high-pitched effects, pikmin now speak all manner of chatter as you go about your business. The downside to the added personality is that it makes the pikmin death cries all the more disturbing.
All told, Pikmin 2 is an excellent sequel that builds on its predecessor by introducing important additions that make the game even better than the original. The game's improved visuals and deeper playability smartly expand on the concepts introduced in the original. The implementation of the multiplayer modes is a welcome addition to the sequel, as is the lengthier single-player experience. If you're a fan of the original game, picking Pikmin 2 up should be a no-brainer. If you haven't tried the series yet, Pikmin 2 is a fantastic place to start.