Pikuniku is a physics-based puzzle-platformer that takes place in a happy world riddled with sinister plots. As a red blob with legs, talk to interesting characters, undertake strange requests and explore a colourful world full of charm and personality.
The game mechanics in Pikuniku are simple but fun. As you play as a little blob with legs, you jump, duck, kick and use various hats that have special abilities. As a physics-based puzzle-platformer, the puzzles can be frustrating, but that is to be expected. However, there is a lot of maneuvering of small objects that prove to be finicky.
Aside from that, the gameplay is relatively straightforward. The hats provide an extra level of depth, allowing for more puzzle variety that keeps the game fresh until the very end. Not only that, but the hats can look pretty cool on the little blob… aside from the arms, they’re just terrifying.
As a physics-based puzzle-platformer, any frame rate dips or glitches could have greatly diminished the experience. But don’t fret, Pikuniku runs flawlessly, playing as smooth as you would hope it to.
There are a few mini-games scattered throughout the world, such as an NES in a house that upon finding the cartridge, you can play a small micro game called ピーピー (Pipi) that involves you bouncing a ball on your head. There is also a basketball mini-game called Baskick that you can come back to in the co-op menu. These act as fun little distractions that stretch out the experience, but they won’t hold your attention for long.
The co-op feature has nine levels that require you and another to work through together, working as a team to solve puzzles and help each other around. Whilst these challenges can become frustrating, they’re a great addition to an otherwise short game. We only wish that there were perhaps a few more levels, or even a bit more to the Adventure Mode.
At the end of each chapter, you’ll have boss fights that take fun and creative twists to the regular formula. However, they do not pose a challenge, to the point of being dull. The only difficult moments in the game are optional platforming challenges that must be found off the beaten path.
Pikuniku doesn’t pose much of a challenge and it’s a very short game. There are a few creative puzzles, but nothing special. The boss battles, and even the finale, are surprisingly easy and slow-paced, much to the disappointment of any seasoned gamer.
The story is the absolute strong point of Pikuniku. With its charming visuals and lovable characters, it’s easy to assume a simplistic plot that lacks depth. However, you may be surprised to hear that the game tackles some complex themes of industrial consequences, secret organisations and propaganda. There are also moments when the dialogue takes sudden dark turns that make you do a double-take.
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This doesn’t mean it’s all dark and gloomy, far from it. Pikuniku’s humour is as colorful as its colour pallet, with witty one-liners and nonsensical moments. It certainly has a dry humour that relies a lot on randomness and comedic timing, but Pikuniku executes this perfectly.
As far as a platformer goes, Pikuniku does its job to fit the bill. Rarely is there anything unique about the implementation, rather it is more about the reasoning behind it. Some of the puzzles require some deep thought, whilst another may require brute force and persistence. However, the linearity of the game highly diminishes its replayability. There are some hidden and secret areas to find, but most of them are quite obvious with clear zig-zags in walls.
The Trophies scattered throughout the world encourage you to explore every nook and cranny, with some hidden secrets that will definitely surprise you. There are also some short micro animations that are cute and endearing, whilst also being incredibly random. The only downside to the animations is that you cannot keep track of how many there are and how many you’ve found, nor can you rewatch them, which is a bit disappointing for completionists. Despite the game’s linear nature, the hats that you collect allow you to backtrack and reveal more of what a previous area had to offer.
Music / Sound Design
Pikuniku’s soundtrack is jolly. It’s simple, but it perfectly sets the mood for its happy vibes. It certainly has its own flavour to it, adding a level of wackiness that anyone can appreciate.
Whoever was in charge of the soundtrack certainly took some creative liberty in its use of instruments, using sound effects like suction cups to play the melody and pots and pans for the percussion (much like a child would).
Graphics / Art Direction
One of the first things you’ll notice about Pikuniku is its art direction, with the use of bright colours and no complex textures. It almost resembles a children’s picture book, quite like the Mr. Men series (Google Mr. Men books if you’re unfamiliar with the series and you’ll see what I mean). This vibrant yet simplistic approach makes the world pop and is pleasant throughout the entire game. The only downside to it is that it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether some surfaces are platforms or whether they’re apart of the background.
Despite its colorful tone, Pikuniku frequently reminds you of its mature themes with propaganda posters in towns and villages. Its presentation takes a similar approach to the Mother/Earthbound series, with bright and colorful aesthetics, along with seemingly random humour, that masks its more sinister and complex themes.
Final score 72%
Pikuniku is pure joy wrapped in a puzzle-platformer. It’s aimed at kids and adults alike. Whilst the plot can be surprisingly deep by tackling controversial issues, the gameplay tends to be aimed at a more younger audience, lacking any depth and complexity. The story and characters are certainly its best qualities and its dialogue and dry humor are well-written, sure to leave you with a wide smile across your face. And in the end, isn’t that why we play video games?
Will you be picking up Pikuniku on Nintendo Switch? Let us know in the Comments section below.
And here are some more walkthroughs and guides if needed: