Nintendo Land Preview: Pikmin Adventure and the Simple Joy of Smashing Stuff

There’s been a trend in the games industry of late to make combat systems more sophisticated, with the addition of long strings of melee combos, dual-wielding, and quick-time events in the heat of battle. Alongside this shift, we’ve seen the adoption of more action-oriented camera angles that swivel with the movements of the player in order to get the best view of the fighting.

Nintendo has decided to buck that trend entirely with Pikmin Adventure, one of the twelve attractions you’ll be able to enjoy inside Nintendo Land. Pikmin Adventure takes us back to a simpler time, a time when our actions essentially boiled down to running up to objects and enemies and bashing them repeatedly, and when the only view we had of the game world was a fixed overhead perspective.

The results are surprisingly refreshing.

Pikmin Adventure is one of Nintendo Land‘s “Team Attractions,” which means it focuses on cooperative multiplayer, with two ways to play based on which controller you use. You can control an “Olimar”-clad Mii using the GamePad touch screen to toss an army of Pikmin at whatever you tap on screen, or you can control a Mii in a Pikmin outfit using a Wii Remote and do the fighting up close. Either way, the name of the game is pretty much the same: smash everything in sight. The game offers you a pretty wide variety of stuff to clobber, from Mario-style blocks to robotic imitations of various Pikmin enemies such as Bulborbs.

Controlling Olimar with the GamePad actually feels rather close to what you’d expect from a touch-controlled Pikmin. You move around with the analog stick and simply tap things on-screen to throw your little plant soldiers at them, and you can press the Z triggers to blow the whistle and recall your Pikmin (including any player-controlled partners) at any time. Other than that, there’s literally nothing else to keep track of in terms of controls. The simplicity is more than welcome and suits the Pikmin gameplay perfectly.

Playing with the Wii Remotes, however, feels a lot more like a simplified version of The Legend of Zelda – and by that I mean the very first games on NES and SNES. You get that classic birds-eye-view of the action, and your combat skills basically boil down to “run up to enemy, hack away.” The enemies, of course, will respond in various ways; sometimes they’ll force you to move far away to avoid getting bowled over, other times all you need to do is shift around behind them to dodge a quick chomp attack.

Both player classes can pick up sweet nectar to increase their attack power, which will be a must for mowing down the increasingly thick waves of enemies as you move deeper into each dungeon. Players can also pick up various items to use against their adversaries, including large rocks, bombs, and small hammers that give another attack boost. It’s not a terribly tough game, but the fact that every player shares the same life bar means that you’ll have to work together, protecting one another from danger, in order to make it through in one piece.

What stood out to me the most is that the overhead perspective actually works even better in HD. There’s a lot more natural scenery on-screen, and unlike the tile-and-sprite-based 2D Zeldas of yesteryears everything you see on screen is made up of 3D geometry. And while the camera will always look down on the action, it isn’t 100% fixed; it’ll pan around certain objects in the environment to give you the widest view possible. Given that our last tastes of this kind of overhead adventure game on a Nintendo platform were the marginally unimpressive DS Zelda games, seeing that the birds-eye-view still has potential actually has me in the mood for another top-down Zelda – but this time, in HD!

If such a game would capitalize as much as this little beauty did on the simple joy of smashing stuff – and lots of stuff, whether it’s brick blocks, grass, or jars, Bulborbs, Bokoblins, or Octoroks – and add a rich overworld on top of it, I think it might just recapture the classic magic all over again.

Either way, I’m excited to play more Pikmin Adventure. Not as excited as I am for Mario Chase, to be sure – I have a strange and unshakable obsession with that game for some reason – but the idea of a simple, vaguely-Zelda-like dungeon crawling adventure is enough to put this one on my hype radar.

Pikmin Adventure is one of the twelve attractions included with Nintendo Land, which will be released alongside Wii U at the system’s November 18 launch and comes packed in with every Deluxe Set bundle.

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