Trying to quantify Nintendo's magic is a thankless task, but the fact I can't stop thinking about Pikmin 3 is testament to its power. After all, this is the third game about dragging an army of cuddly toys/plant creatures around small worlds solving fairly simple puzzles. It shouldn't be this good.
But it is. Pikmin 3 captures everything that was great about its predecessors and streamlines it further. There's no dead weight - just hours of beautiful-looking and beautiful-playing video game, with that same sadistic streak that underpinned it previously.
As before, the action takes place over a series of days, commanding an army of up to 100 creatures to explore, collect and accomplish different tasks, all under the guise of RTS-rules. Thankfully, the 30-day limit from the original is now a distant memory. This forced structure lends Pikmin 3 a sense of urgency and also acts as an anti-grind mechanic. If you could take everything at a snail's pace, you'd amass a giant colourful army and there'd be no challenge.
In many ways, this is like a Nintendo greatest hits: the appeal of Mario and the structure of Zelda and Metroid flipped on its head. You'll break down environments bit by bit as you gain new knowledge, skills and Pikmin. You'll systematically figure out bosses as both puzzles and tests of skill. You'll be made to feel like the smartest guy in the world and a complete idiot all in one half-hour in-game 'day'.
Perhaps only a tighter control scheme could improve Pikmin 3 (although you can switch to Wiimote for more precision) as the infrequent boss battles can prove trickier than they need to, especially when your army is under duress. Nevertheless, this is a sumptuous, intelligent, witty and oddly cruel piece of work from a company that has no equal. Shouldn't be this good? No one told Nintendo.
Played for 12 hours. Click here to read about VideoGamer.com's new review policy.