Every so often, Nintendo decides it appropriate that one of its franchises branches out and does something completely new. Mario most often fits the bill; he’s either a baseball or tennis player, perhaps his brother is raiding a haunted house, or maybe he’s just a scrap of paper and off on another adventure.
The Pokémon franchise is another with countless spinoff titles, some in the puzzle genre, others in the pinball arcade genre (is that a thing?), and even further still in a digitalization of its own trading card game.
Well, Nintendo is taking this spin off concept in a completely different direction with Detective Pikachu for 3DS.
As you might be able to surmise, Detective Pikachu is a mystery game in which the player must use clues, find evidence, and interact with people (and Pokémon) to solve a series of mysteries.
You play as Tim, a young kid who happens upon this roaming Pikachu who just happens to speak. The wise-cracking, know-it-all yellow zapper sounds like an angry 1920s detective and has entirely too much coffee coursing through he veins for his own good. It’s a bizarre choice but it is one that works surprisingly well; who would have thought that a cute and cuddly Pikachu could be so rough around the edges?
With that said, this 12-hour adventure is definitely aimed at children with its hand-holding nature, but some of its humour (and Pikachu’s odd flirtatiousness) seems out of place at times. It’s an interesting and certainly surprising choice for a company that otherwise appears to be very protective of character portrayal, especially of what is arguably its most iconic character.
In any case, the game itself sees the player through dozens of mysteries that are all tied together in some form or another. At one point, you’re following the footprints of a mysterious Pokémon across town, while another takes you on a boat ride with a seasick companion Pikachu groaning at every moment.
The general flow of Detective Pikachu is that of a point-and-click adventure in many ways, albeit with a stylus and a d-pad rather than a mouse and keyboard, of course. Unfortunately, some of the cases are extremely easy to solve. While that wouldn’t normally be a problem, the game forces you to uncover every bit of evidence at hand in order for Tim to have his “ah-ha!” moment and carry forward. That reduces the replayability of the game to nearly zero.
The cases do get more complex as the game moves along, however, and while it doesn’t end with a giant puzzle to finally solve a massive murder mystery (it was Colonel Mustard in the kitchen. It’s always Colonel Mustard in the kitchen.), the game does have a solid payoff for all the work you do.
Throughout the adventure, as one might expect given the Pokémon moniker on the title, there are dozens of other creatures to interact with, including a great assortment of characters including an old lady, young athlete, and the requisite actual detective.
Despite every other Pokémon town which seems to be riddled with trainers at every turn, you only run into a small handful of actual trainers. It would have been nice to see a battle animation only to have the opposing trainer realize that you don’t share his or her hobby. The cute nod I half expected throughout the entire experience never happened, unfortunately.
Detective Pikachu is definitely a new adventure in a series that has some very solid tropes about it, and it is a game that dispels a few of them quite handily. Unfortunately, with simple puzzle mechanics and a lack of replayability, Detective Pikachu is a nice little distraction until a full-fledged Pokémon RPG lands on Nintendo Switch, but delivers little more than that.
- Unexpected Pikachu character choices
- Escalating case and puzzle difficulty
- Voice acting is quite good
- Game mechanics get in their own way
- Awkward Pikachu flirty moments
- No 3D option whatsoever