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Pikmin 4 takes the series to new depths, with fewer dead soldiers

Oatchi the space pooch is the star of the show in Nintendo’s new Pikmin for Switch

Pikmin 4’s spaceman stands next to Oatchi the dog and a group of red Pikmin Image: Nintendo
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Nintendo’s friendly real-time strategy game series Pikmin has more depth and more breadth in next month’s long-awaited sequel, Pikmin 4. New types of Pikmin, including Ice Pikmin that can freeze enemies and water, and Glow Pikmin, which can be used in brand-new nighttime battles, join another great addition: The space dog Oatchi.

And, for Pikmin players who wince at the deaths of Pikmin en masse, either by drowning or at the jaws of a Bulborb, Pikmin 4 lets you undo unnecessary deaths — or at least, the most painful ones.

Based on an hour spent with Pikmin 4 at a recent Nintendo hands-on event in New York, the core of Pikmin hasn’t changed much. You’re still a tiny, alien explorer harvesting the plant-like Pikmin of various colors and abilities on a rescue mission. You’ll still collect treasure, like toy binoculars or a Game Boy Advance, by throwing teams of Pikmin at precious objects and any obstacles that stand in your way. The mission this time is different, though; you’re not Olimar, the original smol spaceman who starred in the first two Pikmin games. Instead, you’re a new recruit, a character of your own design tasked with rescuing the rescue team that failed to rescue Olimar.

An underground level in Pikmin 4, showing Oatchi carrying a swarm of Pikmin on its back
Underground levels return in Pikmin 4
Image: Nintendo

This challenging mission is made less daunting by some of Pikmin 4’s streamlining. Targeting enemies is easier. You can move your Onion — the base that functions as a Pikmin storage unit — around levels to reduce backtracking. You can also rewind time, should you want to retry a certain challenge (or if too many of your Pikmin have died). Overall, there’s less pressure to complete your expeditions under the time constraints of previous Pikmin games.

Oatchi, who functions as the tank/armored transport to the Pikmins’ infantry, is a big and intriguing new addition. The two-legged space pup can destroy objects with a powerful rush move, haul a small army of Pikmin, and jump over small ledges that your space explorer can’t. Oatchi can also be upgraded, bolstering his bite, healing ability, and more.

I spent only a little bit of time testing the new Ice Pikmin, freezing enemies in order to take them down more easily, but sadly I did not get to do much puzzle-solving with them.

Pikmin 4 has a broader range of tools that go beyond new Pikmin types and an ever-evolving Oatchi. At The Lab, players can craft items and gear, like a drone that will survey levels, made from raw materials that you and your Pikmin can harvest.

A Dandori Battle in Pikmin 4, shows a splitscreen setup with two players fighting for treasure and resources
Dandori Battles are split-screen face offs of speedy strategy
Image: Nintendo

My hands-on time with Pikmin 4 focused on an early portion of the game, so I didn’t get to test out the new Night Expeditions or the Glow Pikmin that are exclusive to those nighttime moments. But I did get to play two rounds of the competitive Dandori Battles, in which players fight each other by collecting as much treasure as possible — and blocking their opponents from collecting treasure — in special levels. Dandori Battles is Pikmin 4 at its most frantic, throwing exploration and research out the window in favor of speed and strategy. It’s a welcome change of pace from the mostly laid-back single-player adventure.

Nintendo Switch owners, who have no shortage of older Pikmin games to play now, will get a taste of Pikmin 4 for themselves later this week. A demo of the game arrives on the eShop and on the My Nintendo Store on June 28. Players’ progress will carry over to the full game when Pikmin 4 launches on July 21.

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