Review – Pikuniku
I’ve been a fan of abstract puzzlers as far back as I can remember. Regardless of console, if it includes vibrant colors, offbeat humor, and a good challenge, it’ll most likely be in my library. With that being said, the PSP will always hold a special place in my heart because it brought us something special: LocoRoco. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a game that reminds me of the quirky brilliance of this squishy 2000’s gem. That is of course until I saw the trailer for Pikuniku. Although I came to discover later on that they are nothing alike, what I found here was still worth the plunge.
Pikuniku is an abstract exploration puzzle game set in a seemingly happy island. Mr. Sunshine has recently arrived and the islanders are ecstatic that he did. He’s brought something new and he’s giving it away for free: money! All he asks in return? Just some natural resources here and there, no biggie. You are Piku, a pill like recluse with extremely flexible legs. You kick things, lots of things. You’ll interact with the world in one of three ways: jumping, kicking and rolling. You’ve been sleeping for some time now and it’s not until a ghost comes to wake you that you decide to venture back out into the island to discover that everything is not what it seems. After descending from your mountainous home, you’ll come to meet your neighbors which don’t receive you with warmest of welcomes.
After a hilarious opening sequence you’re left at the middle of town free to explore and kick to your oval heart’s content. The prologue does wonderfully at showcasing the controls and setting the tone for the adventure to come; and what an adventure it is. Pikuniku consists of helping the islanders by either helping with errands, overcoming certain challenges, or interacting with them in specific ways. These tasks will naturally propel you across the story where you’ll soon become part of a series of highly ridiculous situations. The main town is particularly filled with intrigue and fun distractions. But, as you’ll soon discover, the most enjoyable aspects of the game are hidden around the world and through its delightful cast of characters.
Everyone has something new and unique for you to do. From playing baskick to composing your own musical masterpiece, every door you open will most likely lead to some strange and fantastical scenario. This is a game that truly rewards exploration and curiosity. During my playtime, almost every corner I jumped and kicked my way to reach would produce a smile; mostly due to the wacky personalities of the islands residents and their nonsensical requests. Each character felt like they had a place in this offbeat world. Even after finishing my adventure there were still things for me to discover and new characters to meet. That’s not to say there was a lot left, but enough to keep me engaged for a while longer.
With that being said, the game is fairly straightforward if players do not venture out of the beaten path. While the story does a good job of keeping players engaged, the lack of gameplay diversity drastically hampers the fun and whimsy. Even though it features a healthy amount of unlockables, none of these do much in the way of evolving the game and its mechanics. Actually, the more challenging and interesting sections are only found through exploration. Moreover, Pikuniku in general is a fairly easy pill to swallow. Players will find that their biggest hurdle is overcoming the imprecise controls and getting physics to work in their favor. For instance, there is a particularly aggravating chase sequence that almost convinced me of calling it quits. This coupled with a lack of mechanical invention, the game can become stale after long playthroughs.
Nevertheless, there is a fun and alluring charm here that shouldn’t be overlooked. The crisp, sharp graphics and fantastic score make the whole adventure a pleasure to experience. Even though the character and world design is ultra-simplistic, the vibrant colors and physics based animations help each area come to life with character and moxie. Not that these islanders needed any more personality than they already have. The writing here is a joy to go through and everyone has something interesting to say. A good majority of dialogue can go in two very distinct directions. These options don’t have any consequence within the games narrative, but reading through the characters reactions generated a good amount of laughs and gave me incentive to talk to everyone and everything I saw. You’re not the only sharp tongued blob in the block, that’s for sure.
There was one thing I wasn’t expecting from Pikuniku, and that was its excellent co-op mode. A completely standalone portion of the game, here Piku and Niku must work together to solve a series of quirky and fun puzzles. The puzzles were all fun in their own right, the best of the bunch being the go-kart racing course and the PVP baskick. This was easily the highlight of my time with the game. The simple mechanics lend themselves perfectly for couch co-op and make the whole experience a blast to go through with a friend. The entire mode can be finished in less than an hour, but what an hour that was. It begs the question if the game would have been better off focusing exclusively in this collaborative approach. Regardless, it was a much welcome addition to an already enjoyable experience and one that most players will likely want more of once they’re done.
Quirky, charming, and downright adorable, Pikuniku is candy in videogame form. Like any sweet, too much of it can become mawkish. Thankfully the music, graphics, and charming cast of characters keep it from ever becoming too much. If you’ve been looking for a game to satisfy your sweet tooth, this Mike&Ike shaped adventure will certainly hit the spot.
Simple, minimal, and colorful; the perfect compliment to its offbeat narrative.
For an exploration puzzler, there’s barely any challenge here.
The soundtrack is downright addicting. Yo Devolver, #availablesoon ?
Fun Factor: 8.0
The strange and charming cast of characters coupled with fun surprises, make this an adventure you’ll be glad you took.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Pikuniku is available now on Switch and PC.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Pikuniku was provided by the publisher.