Recently I reviewed the original Pikmin 1 on the Nintendo Switch. It’s a classic that has held up surprisingly well over the years and is a relaxing and adorable experience that is a pure joy to play.

We didn’t just get the first game though, as Nintendo also dropped the sequel on the console too the exact same date. Despite looking similar in screenshots, the second title plays very different; so much so that it can be quite divisive within the fanbase.

Whilst I agree that the second entry is a very different beast to the other games in the franchise, it’s still a great game that provides a rather unique take on the series: one that is predominantly aimed at the most hardcore of gamers. 

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GOT TO PIK A PIKMIN OR TWO
Following on from the original game’s story, Captain Olimar arrives home after working with the Pikmin to repair his ship. He’s not greeted to much fanfare, however, as the company that he works for has got themselves into some serious debt. Over 10, 000 pokos worth of debt, in fact.

The mood changes when a bottle cap rolls out of his ship and gets at 100 whole poko. The president sees the opportunity ahead of him and realises that the debt could be wiped by simply sending Olimar (and one of his work colleagues) back to the Pikmin planet to accumulate more valuable trinkets.

Thus begins Olimar’s second adventure as he explores new areas in search of treasure that can help clear the debt. As was the case in the previous game, the story is mainly told through diary entries but there are a small number of cutscenes too to help progress the plot a little. These cutscenes appear to be improved rather than simply upscaled, but they did stutter on occasion thus spoiling the presentation a bit. It’s a shame really, considering the rest of the game looks and performs flawlessly. Pikmin 2 even looks visually more impressive than the first game, but this is largely due to the more varied locations and enemy types on offer compared with the original.

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IT’S RAINING ‘MIN, HALLELUJAH 
As for how it plays, Pikmin 2 is largely the same as the original, mechanically speaking. It’s a blend of real time strategy, puzzle solving, and exploration where you use your Pikmin army to overcome various obstacles. Starting out with only the Red Pikmin, who are strong and invulnerable to fire, you’ll need to attack bug-like creatures, build bridges, and carry objects in order to get around.

As you progress, you’ll find more Pikmin that allow you to do more things. Yellow Pikmin can be thrown higher and are now invulnerable to electricity, whereas the blue ones can survive underwater. When found, these types will relocate their home – known as an Onion – near to your ship; and, by taking coloured pellets and the corpses of your enemies there, you can grow even more Pikmin.

Unlike Pikmin 1, you’re not just limited to only three types as there are a total of six that can be obtained in the sequel. The Purple and White Pikmin have their own special abilities (which I’ll leave you to figure out), although they cannot be grown as they’re only obtainable by sacrificing other Pikmin to certain cave-based flowers. The other new type is a little bit different to the others and can be found roaming within caves; they’re invulnerable to almost all types of environmental hazards, but unfortunately they are unable to leave the caves. Overall, the roster is pretty solid and allows the game to create a wide variety of puzzles to solve whilst still feeling completely manageable.

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These caves also represent a big shift in how the second game plays. Whilst the original felt rather laid back and explorative (despite the time limit), the second feels far more puzzle based and strategic, largely due to how many of these subterranean areas you need to explore in order to get through the game. Even though treasures can be found above-ground, and offer a similar feeling of exploration to the first, the vast majority of trinkets can only be found in the hazardous depths.

After finding one of these caves, you have the option to dive in with your current army of Pikmin. Time won’t pass in caves, but you are also unable to grow any new Pikmin either so you need to make extra sure beforehand that you’re fully prepared for what lies ahead. Caves can have quite a few floors to get through, so a large and varied army is an absolute must – especially as these trials are far more difficult than the exploration outside.

Each floor in the cave is somewhat randomly generated, but contains certain set enemies, trap types, and treasures. Overcoming them will require you to deal with each floor strategically, as even a single lost Pikmin will make taking down the boss at the end of the cave even more difficult… and you also want to make sure that you have enough Pikmin to carry the final treasure back too!

Caves really are a lot of fun for those wanting a challenge, as this limit on Pikmin numbers means that you’re forced to take extra care rather than simply charging in head first. Level design is almost sadistic at times too, with the game often throwing in surprise enemies, falling bombs, and many other troll-like elements that are designed to ensure that you suffer more than a few casualties. It’s an interesting design choice that veterans of the series will no doubt enjoy, but newcomers will probably find the non-Nintendo-like design quite stressful. 

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Those aren’t the only adjustments to the formula either, as there are some other tweaks too that help make Pikmin 2 stand out from its predecessor. The removal of the overall time limit is probably the most welcome for many players, as the game no longer imposes that 30 day limit for you to get what you need and get out. Considering your ship isn’t damaged this time, the removal of the time limit makes perfect sense as you’re only exploring to find as many treasures as you can. It does still retain the day/night cycle from the previous game though, so you do need to make sure that you and your Pikmin are back to your ship by nightfall if you don’t want to suffer unnecessary losses.

Perhaps the biggest change though is the inclusion of the second captain: Louie. With the touch of a button, you can swap between Olimar and Louie, thus enabling you to manage two different groups of Pikmin at once. Considering some tasks, like destroying gates, can be pretty lengthy, it’s nice to be able to leave one captain with the workforce whilst the other goes off to do other things. Multi-tasking is rarely a necessity, but it’s still very welcome nevertheless. As Pikmin don’t return after taking items back to the landing area, I found myself leaving one at the starting area so that I could guide the collectors back to the rest of the squad.

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Pikmin 2 really feels like a huge shift in how the game plays when compared with the original title, and the inclusion of rather lengthy caves also helps to double the overall game time too. If all that wasn’t enough, the game is far from over after reaching the end credits as there’s a lengthy and much harder postgame that eventually leads to the true final boss: a  brutal monstrosity that will put all your Pikmin managing skills to the test.

And when that’s all done, there’s still a lot left to do. Aside from hunting down all the remaining treasures, there’s an additional challenge mode for you to dive into. This mode is a far cry from the disappointing challenge mode from the first game, as this one tasks you with clearing caves with a pre-set team in a certain amount of time. The goal is to grab the key on each floor and make it to the end, but you earn a higher score by collecting additional treasures and going fast. It’s highly addictive and great for when you want a Pikmin fix without having to dive into the main story again.

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Whilst I personally prefer the more laid-back nature of the original, it’s hard to deny how much fun the sequel is. Offering a much steeper challenge and providing lots more content, Pikmin 2 really is designed for series veterans. And I love it for that.