Pikuniku | Review

PIKUNIKU (2019)

Sectordub | Reviewed on Nintendo Switch

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Pikuniku is the best game ever. I’ve played a ton of indie games with genuine heart, quirky dialogue, and charming characters, but none quite like the wacky world of Pikuniku. You play as Piku, a small red… thing with long legs, well suited for rolling,  jumping, and most importantly, booting things with the kind of power that seems impossible for such stick-like appendages. But what is Piku? What is their role in this world? Where do they come from, where do they go? Pikuniku answers none of these questions, but does hope that you have some fun along the way.

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Jeff Bezos has left the chat.

Piku wakes up in a cave, with only a Ghost to greet them – the Ghost suggests you explore the world, and sends you off with the classic, “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this! My full moral support” which pretty much sets the tone for the entire game. As you exit your cave and get oriented with the vibrant, adorable 2D world of Pikuniku, you’ll discover a sinister plot afoot – namely, Mr. Sunshine and his robot minions are co-opting all of the islands resources, while distracting the inhabitants with free money. FREE MONEY! What was I saying? Oh yeah – the valley residents are losing all their corn (and only source of food) while the forest residents sit back and watch their trees (and homes) be destroyed by Mr. Sunshine’s robots. There is, however, a small resistance on the rise, and it’s up to them (and you, of course) to uncover Mr. Sunshine’s plot, and put a stop to his nefarious resource-stripping deeds – free money be damned. To what end is Mr. Sunshine amassing these resources? You’ll have to play the game to find out!

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I don’t think I’ve ever been in love with the world of a game as much as I am with the world of Pikuniku. I hate using the word “quirky” because of how its utilized in today’s culture, but it’s a great descriptor for this title; Pikuniku has that Adventure Time-esque charm, the kind of offbeat writing that is unexpected, occasionally bizarre, and utterly hilarious. This game had me genuinely laughing multiple times. For instance, you can find a DJ working on a new mix. They ask you to help out – you have to kick a horn with good timing in a short mini game. They play their mix back to you – and it’s all electronic beats, and thundering bass, until the very last note where you hear your little HONK. “Your part really adds something to the mix” your DJ friend says. I completely agree. There’s another section in the forest, where you can draw a custom design on a tree trunk. The next time you return, one of the residents will be wearing your design. “I made it into a custom t-shirt!” they say. I also highly recommend you give Baskick a try or two (don’t listen to anyone who says the name is terrible) where you face off against the Baskick champion, trying to kick a watermelon into a basketball net three times before your opponent. Booting the opposing Baskicker is also fair game, and exceedingly amusing. It took me way more tries than I am publicly willing to admit before I was able to flail my way to victory.

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The game is, at its heart, a puzzle adventure/platformer, but nothing in the game is especially difficult. The mainline story is fairly simplistic, in both its gameplay and storytelling, and I think it suits the game perfectly; from the simple art style, to the intuitive puzzles and forgiving platforming, its a very easy, straightforward experience. Not every game has to be Dark Souls, and I think Pikuniku illustrates that sometimes, simple is best. Though some of the secret areas contain more challenging platforming elements, and certain boss fights had the classic side-scrolling-chase-sequence that gives me heart palpitations, this title is very forgiving. Pikuniku is also accompanied by a soundtrack that absolutely slaps – I’ve had the theme tune stuck in my head for weeks.

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I’m also a of fan of Pikuniku’s deceptively simple storytelling. Though its presented in a comical way, it actually touches on some really interesting topics: like the residents learning that their “free money” is completely useless when all of their resources have been destroyed – what good is money when you have no food or shelter? The robots refusing to work for free, and unionizing at the end of the game was the real kicker for me. I loved every single second of this games’ story, and I didn’t want it to end. And in a game full of random surprises, and funny twists, that ending sure was… er, surprising. It earned a laugh-out-loud from me.

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Which brings me to my only real complaint about the game: its length. Though Pikuniku is probably on par with a lot of indie games in terms of length – I would say it can be completed in 5 hours or so, depending on what you choose to engage with – I just wanted more. More of this wonderfully bizarre world, with its loveable inhabitants. Not to be dramatic, but I would literally die for Ernie. There are also certain items you can obtain, but ultimately, they can’t be used for anything. For example, in the beginning of the game, your Ghost friend tells you to send them a postcard – and you can actually buy one in the forest area! But you have no way of sending it. Bit sad, innit?

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Pikuniku is one of the most fun games I’ve played in recent memory. Its brilliant dialogue, wonderful characters, and wild plot were everything I didn’t know I wanted when I played the game on a whim (thanks for the recommendation, sis). From robot dance battles, and demonic toast entities, to wizards in the clouds and secret bases called El Bunko, Pikuniku has it all. Its simple puzzling and undemanding platforming were just the break I was looking for. I’ll remember this game for a long time to come – especially because I’ve already played through it three times. This title also has a co-op mode that I’m just now diving in to. If only the game were longer… and had a sequel. I’m definitely counting myself among those still hoping for a follow up to this mathematical game. But that’s all for now folks. So just remember…

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Great(transparent)