Pikmin 2 smart game in a cute package

Game Room

September 23, 2004

Don't let the similar sounding names fool you: Pikmin has nothing to do with Pokemon. They're completely different, most notably in that adults can find enjoyment in Pikmin 2, while the appeal of Pokemon has remained a mystery to anyone older than 12.

Pikmin also has nothing to do with Pac-Man, although, come to think of it, one wonders about the originality of these names. Trademark tip of the day: Grab Pekmen and Pukmun, quick!

Pikmin 2, the sequel to 2001's Pikmin, improves on its predecessor in almost every way while keeping to Nintendo's maxim of delivering an intelligent game disguised in a cute package.

In the original, tiny Capt. Olimar crash-lands his ship on a mysterious planet populated by bud-like creatures called Pikmin, who assist him in finding his spacecraft's scattered parts. In the sequel, Olimar returns home to find out that the company he works for is bankrupt. To save it, Olimar must return to the same planet to scavenge for "treasures," such as bottle caps and discarded lip balm, which can be sold to pay off the company's debt.

In the last game, Olimar had a 30-day limit to find his ship's parts. The sequel thankfully gets rid of that limit, plus adds two more species of Pikmin. In addition to the fire-resistant red ones, electrically charged yellow ones and aquatic blue ones, there are the white species, immune to poison gas, and the plump purple species, which can carry 10 times the weight of other Pikmin. Olimar also gets an assistant this time, the spaceman Louie, allowing players to split tasks between the two.

While the goal of the game is to find treasures, Olimar frequently encounters enemies whose only purpose for existing, it seems, is to eat Pikmin. Overcoming some of these enemies takes strategy, especially in the underground areas (also new to the game), in which boss monsters can easily wipe out hordes of Pikmin.

Along the way, Olimar is accompanied by the research pod of his spaceship, which analyzes treasure and gives hints and tips about what to do. Its duty also is to name the artifacts, and it can't go without saying that Pikmin 2 has an extraordinary amount of product placement. A bottle cap (identified as "drought ender" by the research pod) carries the Dr Pepper logo, and a stick of lip balm ("survival ointment") is, naturally, Chapstick. Could life as a corporate shill be next for Capt. Olimar?

Bottom line: Pikmin 2 is easily one of the best GameCube titles this year.

Newsday

Pikmin 2

Cost: $50

Rating: E for everyone

Platform: Nintendo GameCube

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