Released in October 2023 for the Nintendo Switch, Detective Pikachu Returns is the endearing sequel to the 2016 Nintendo 3DS original, Detective Pikachu. These unique entries in the Pokémon game franchise see the incredibly smart and idiosyncratic Detective Pikachu – with his precious investigator’s cap, amusingly deep voice, and penchant for a strong cuppa joe – teaming up with fellow sleuth Tim Goodman in Ryme City to decipher mysteries both big and small. Such as: What happened to Harry, Tim’s dad and Pikachu’s former partner, and what’s the deal with the Pokémon Protection Bureau?
While Detective Pikachu Returns makes mention of prior events, you don’t need to have played the 3DS game to thoroughly enjoy this new offering on the Switch. In fact, you don’t need to have played any previous Pokémon game at all. This light-hearted detective/adventure narrative will entertain and warm those hearts of gamers young and young at heart. (If you’re an adult, don’t pretend you don’t love it; I know many of you would rather live in the Pokémon world than this one!)
As just mentioned, one great aspect of Detective Pikachu Returns is that you can be a Pokémon diehard enthusiast or a complete newbie to the series and still appreciate the adventure. For those who haven’t touched a Pokémon game since the ‘90s or early 2000s, you’ll probably still recognise quite a few of the Pokémon while encountering tonnes of new ones.
Some of the sweetest moments are when the pocket monsters are interacting and communicating with each other – conversations that fly over the heads of humans. Only Pikachu and Tim have this thing where they can understand each other. There’s no Pokédex to log them all, but the game introduces each new Pokémon variety you stumble across, giving you a rundown of their distinctive traits and abilities. You’ll also require their special skills to crack the cases, in many cases, including side quests.
Another plus is that although at the beginning you may think the entire plot takes place on Ryme City’s main streets, there’s actually other intriguing surroundings to discover, with their own Pokémon inhabitants. All brought to life with the kinds of graphical stylistic choices that the Switch was made for – which makes sense as the Pokémon franchise is exclusive to Nintendo. What’s more is that the star, hero, and saviour of the game, the cleverest Pikachu in the universe, is carefully well-developed. So many of his facial expressions and exchanges with Tim and fellow Pokémon are adorably cute.
Detective Pikachu Returns is partially voiced, but the accompanying subtitles are so well copy edited and proofread (geez, I just had to comment on that… nice work!) that the whole experience flows seamlessly and smoothly. It’s also wonderful to see (or hear, rather) Asian Americans providing the English voices for the two lead characters, with Kaiji Tang and Khoi Dao voicing Pikachu and Tim, respectively.
Last but not least, the user-friendly detective notebook (with handy dandy flowcharts) simplifies managing all that evidence and all those testimonials as your investigations unfold. Just like Mineko’s Night Market, this is a title you can just veg out to, basking in the charm of the Pokémon realm without expending many mental resources.
- Appeal to new and old Pokémon fans
- Adorable Pokémon interactions
- Different surroundings to explore
- Sweet and simple gameplay/detective work
Detective Pikachu Returns is a kid’s game, so, for us adults (playing for nostalgia reasons or because we just love charming games, or whatever), we might need some patience to get through the first hour or so of hand-holding. It takes a while to warm up. Despite that, once the plot gets moving, the cases build on each other – with enough variety in gameplay and locations – to keep the young and young at heart engaged in unravelling the narrative’s mysteries.
Nevertheless, if you are not a child and are expecting any kind of intellectually stimulating challenge, you won’t find it here. The deduction scenarios (and also the breezy mini-games and puzzles) are not exactly rocket science – most are painfully easy. You’ll even get alerted when you’ve gathered enough clues to solve the current case-related question you’re working on. You might want to try Master Detective Archives: Rain Code if you want something a little harder… and more adult.
Alongside the main story investigations, Detective Pikachu Returns features quite a few side quests where, as in numerous other games, you are a great humanitarian (and Pokémonitarian?) helping out complete strangers with their various worries and needs because you are such a good person (an angel, really). However, the game offers you no tangible reward for fulfilling these requests, as your only prize is reading a related article in the local newspaper once you’ve finished the main case. This isn’t an RPG, so you won’t be awarded cash, items, or stats for completing the side missions – and this game lacks those things, anyway.
- Kid’s game, too easy for adults
- Not intellectually stimulating
- No rewards for side quests
Final Score: 8/10
Another special addition to the Pokémon series, the delightful Detective Pikachu Returns is worth the investment for fans of undemanding detective, adventure, and cosy games with compelling narratives. While it might not push your deductive reasoning skills to their limits, you probably won’t be purchasing it for that reason. Likely, if you’re not grabbing it for your kids, you’ll just be seeking to let your inner child run loose in what is a wonderful encapsulation of the Pokémon universe (no judgement at all).
Thank you for checking out our Detective Pikachu Returns Switch review, thank you to Nintendo AU/NZ for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: