Games: Pikmin 3 Hands-On Preview

Like all of the most enticing Nintendo Wii U games unveiled thus far, Pikmin 3 doesn’t throw everything at the console’s touch screen controller simply because it can. You control Pikmin 3 in the same way that you controlled its predecessors on the Wii – with a Wiimote and Nunchuck. The Wii U tablet is meant to sit either on your lap or on a table in front of you, and you use it to briskly peruse your environment. Are you worried about a band of wayward Pikmin who’ve performed a task and not returned to your side? With a few swipes of the touchscreen you’ll be able to locate them in a second or two, even if they’re pottering around at the very far end of the map.

The lack of overbearing touch-screen functionality may sound like a wasted opportunity, but if you’ve played a Pikmin title before, you’ll understand how it’s clearly going to bring out the best in the game; in Pikmin and Pikmin 2, you always spent an inordinate amount of time looking around for stuff to loot, for hidden areas and for those aforementioned lost Pikmin. In Pikmin 3, the moment that you touch a button (or move the nunchuck thumbstick) the perspective will immediately zip back to you, and it’s an elegant solution to a lightly troublesome issue that the first two games always had. There’s no excuse for wasted seconds here.

Visually it’s as colourful and instantly attractive as you’d expect, but also genuinely busy. Watching hundreds of Pikmin traipse around different parts of the environment in high definition isn’t something we’ve ever been able to expect from a Nintendo game before, and the experience is all the better for it; it feels like the serious, rigid entry-level RTS game that Pikmin and its sequel always wanted to be under the bonnet. It even shows off, occasionally; a shortcut that bridges the rear section of the demo level and the frontal hub area containing your ship, takes the form of a rollercoaster-like set of vines that you (and your Pikmin) are able to slide down at high speed.

In terms of gameplay Pikmin 3 is undoubtedly more of the same, but given the sky-high quality of Pikmin 2 especially, it’s hard to imagine anyone begrudging Nintendo for that. The new rock Pikmin allow you to destroy walls and obstacles quickly, but they’re also (somewhat bizarrely) highly flammable, so flipping between them and the red Pikmin was essential during a sequence that took place on (what looked like) flaming hot coals. That new breed represents the only fundamental change that Nintendo has announced so far, but even if the rock Pikmin end up being the only new (non-cosmetic) addition to the series, excitement deserves to remain at fever pitch. Nintendo’s Pikmin 3 demo lasted just under ten minutes, and it was ten minutes of effortless delight.

Pikmin 3 is currently due for release on the Nintendo Wii U towards the end of 2012.

Watch the E3 trailer for Pikmin 3 below: