Devolver Digital are known for publishing games that might not typically be described as conventional, so it’s no surprise to see that the bizarrely adorable platform-adventure Pikuniku comes directly from them. They also just so happen to be known for publishing games of a high quality and thankfully Pikuniku delivers there too, with it offering a delightful little experience that’s hard not to keep smiling at from start to end.
Pikuniku puts you in the role of ‘The Beast’: a notoriously vicious being that’s out to cause harm and mayhem. Or at least that’s what the people of the world believe anyway. When they actually meet you though they realise you’re a friendly and harmless creature that’s full of joy and willing to help just about anyone out – yay!
Unfortunately, whilst you happen to be charming and nice, the world around you is in a bit of a sticky situation. See, a mega corporation run by a strange fella named Mr. Sunshine has been offering people money for their junk – the problem is, that so-called ‘junk’ just so happens to include things like the water, trees, and everything that gives the world life. It’s up to you to make sure that the world is protected and that Mr. Sunshine doesn’t deprive it of what it needs to survive.
The concept alone actually sounds like it makes for a harrowing adventure, but Pikuniku is anything but – it’s actually one of the most colourful and charming experiences I’ve had in a video game. It’s also brilliantly written, with jokes that seem to hit the mark every time (even if they do go for silliness over wit more times than not). The world is full to the brim with lovable characters whose innocence often makes for comical situations, whilst the quirkier folk you meet always have SOMETHING about them that’ll keep you laughing. Pikuniku just has a wonderful world to be a part of, and whilst the underlying dystopian theme behind it might feel more daunting anywhere else, in this case it’s just a little bit adorable.
It’s helped by the fact that the visuals are so pretty though, with the game adopting an aesthetic that’s vibrant yet simple in design. It actually reminded me a whole lot of the PSP game LocoRoco with its focus on shapes and colours, though Pikuniku certainly has more varied and interesting sights to see. It’s certainly very creative in its visual style and whilst it might seem a bit too basic to some, it’s hard not to find it all appealing. The same can be said for the soundtrack, which just so happens to be both fun and heart-warming. It’ll be hard not to find yourself humming along to some of the sillier tracks, with everything you hear in the game working perfectly with whatever location or situation you might find yourself in.
Gameplay-wise, Pikuniku plays like a platforming-adventure – there’s plenty of places to run around and jump between, whilst you’ll also encounter plenty of characters to interact with along the way. The Beast’s (I find it comical calling him that so I’ll stick with it) skillset allows him to kick objects, curl up into a ball to roll around, and swing around with his flexible legs, so you’ve got plenty of ways to traverse across the world. That being said, you shouldn’t expect your platforming skills to be pushed to the limit – it’s always pretty clear where you need to go and the act of getting there shouldn’t cause you to break too much of a sweat.
The same goes for the puzzle solving, with no enigmas cropping up in the game that’ll really have you scratching your head for too long. Pikuniku feels like more of a peaceful experience than anything else, with the only real adversity coming with the boss battles (who, again, are easy to take down). This lack of difficulty doesn’t make it a bad game by any means though and it certainly won’t take you out of the experience – just expect something that feels more serene and relaxing than challenging.
Whilst the game is fairly simple in design and won’t push your skills too much, it deserves credit for the variety of tasks it sends your way. I don’t want to talk about them here though so I don’t spoil anything for anyone, because honestly, experiencing them yourself first-hand is the best way to do it. Just know you’ll find yourself in PLENTY of strange situations in the game and that working your way out of them with both your platforming and puzzle-solving skills is always a whole lot of fun.
One thing I have to mention is that Pikuniku isn’t a particularly long game, with it easily beaten in under four hours and with minimal effort from the player. It’s definitely a game you could finish in one sitting and with it coming in at around £11 to purchase, some gamers might want a bit more bang for their buck. At least there are collectible hats to keep you playing when you beat the game though, as well as an additional co-op multiplayer experience and competitive Baskick that you can play with friends. What’s Baskick, I hear you ask? Basketball, but you kick the ball… duh. Trust me, it’s a LOT more fun than it sounds, especially when you’re in competition with a friend.
There really is a lot to love about Pikuniku, with its weird and wonderful world joined by enjoyable gameplay that remains delightful from start to end. Sure, it’s not the most difficult of games you’d have played and it does lack the depth that’s seen in similar titles in the genre, but the sheer silliness of the situations you find yourself in and the enjoyable ways in which you have to get out of them ensures that you’ll be kept thoroughly entertained on your bizarre little adventure. Honestly, it’s just a feel-good title that plays to its strengths perfectly, and it makes for another great addition to Devolver’s ever-growing Nintendo Switch library.
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC