Pikmin Bloom, the review between walks and little creatures



Niantic comes up with a new take on AR games with Pikmin Bloom, let’s see what came up in this new review.

Before tackling the review of Pikmin Bloom there’s a necessary premise: this Niantic title can’t be treated as a real video game, because it’s something different: a fitness app or simply a pedometer that’s particularly rich and well characterized are perhaps more appropriate classifications for this strange product, which somehow manages to stay true to the spirit of the original Nintendo series and present some features that are properly playful. The idea is very interesting: it is to recover once again the technological base exploited by the development team in its previous games (Pokémon GO and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite to name two) and apply it to Pikmin, with an intuition really very smart and fitting. The little beings in question can count on a considerable charisma and have behind an appreciated series, representing the ideal subjects for a title focused on augmented reality and the direct relationship with the player.

Pikmin Bloom takes to extremes what was considered a positive side effect of Pokémon GO, namely the fact of pushing the player to get out of the house and walk, something that here rises to a fundamental and unique element of the “game”.

All the activities in this case are simply accessory to the fact of walking: the goal is to make steps, so it’s not so much to go around looking for something and, consequently, move and exercise, here the cause-effect relationship is reversed, so to speak. It follows that Pikmin Bloom is not really a game but a real app that can fall within the fitness or wellness in general, but certainly with a certain playful and social meaning. In the intentions of John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, the purpose of the game is to get people out of the house and make every walk a kind of adventure, stimulating exploration, physical activity and interpersonal connection, with some vague environmentalist reference in the possibility of planting flowers to customize the map.

Gameplay: walking and gardening

Pikmin Bloom: main screen, an AR photo, and the inside of the backpack-flower box

After customizing our avatar according to the classic system of Nintendo Mii, we are immediately ready to go: the purpose of the game is to germinate the seedlings that the protagonist brings inside a special “backpack-flower” simply by walking. Each seedling requires a certain amount of steps, which are detected by connecting the game to the Health app on iOS or Google Fit on Android, in order to hatch and give birth to a pikmin, which depending on the seed planted can be of various types (red, yellow, blue or rarer types yet). Once built the team of pikmin, these accompany us during the walks finding fruits and more seeds around the maps: the fruits can be transformed into nectar, which can be launched to the creatures to make the flower bloom on their heads and allow us to collect various flower seeds, with different colors depending on the type of nectar. From the flowers we can get the petals, which can be sown in turn as we walk, so as to cover with colorful vegetation various parts of the map. This is basically the basic gameplay loop, to which we then add some interesting elements.

Planting the flowers serves the dual purpose of accelerating the growth of the seedlings in the backpack-florist and also the mega-plants that can be found around the map, until they hatch.

Pikmin follow us wherever we go

The latter represent a bit ‘the equivalent of PokéStops in Pokémon GO, working in a similar way: they are placed on the map at real points of interest and provide extra distribution of fruits and seeds to get new pikmin. The planting of flowers is a cooperative action: anyone can see the flowers planted by others on the map and, cooperating, you can increase the amount of flowers in some specific points by accelerating the flowering even of mega-plants, which otherwise require a little ‘work to get into business (about 300 flowers to be placed in the vicinity, or a lot of steps to be made in the same area).

Collect them all

Pikmin Bloom: the nectar to throw at the creatures, the customizations and the planting of flowers

By discovering new areas on the map, it is also possible to send teams of Pikmin towards some specific objectives that include collecting fruits or plants or removing giant mushrooms, which often require cooperative action given their size. It is likely that more missions will be included later, but they shouldn’t deviate too much from the mechanisms currently present. As you can easily see there is no element of challenge or competition, nor obviously a story or a real sense of progression beyond the collection of badges and medals, because collecting Pikmin clearly does not have the same implications that can have the construction of a team of Pokémon, resulting mainly in a collection from the aesthetic and emotional value. On this element also insist on micro-transactions, which are present, but not at all invasive, encouraging the purchase of power-ups and customizations that do not change the gaming experience itself.

Leveraging on these aspects, going forward you can unlock some customizations for creatures or rarer types, all elements that come in handy to take pictures of your team and exploit in this way the inevitable AR technology that makes Pikmin run around in reality. The beings Nintendo are definitely charismatic and it is impossible not to get a smile seeing them walk around busy around your Mii, proudly show the fruits collected around or run in groups emitting verses to pace the sentence when they are sent on a mission. From this point of view, the idea of exploiting them for such an app was really brilliant, even if it can easily fuel the anticipation for a Pikmin 4, now largely given up for lost. On the other hand, a return of the brand in the spotlight with this operation could also have positive influences, paving the way for a real new chapter.

Comment

Just in these days the CEO of Niantic has spoken of his vision of the metaverse as immersion in the outside world with grafts in augmented reality and direct contact with other people: Pikmin Bloom seems to go precisely in that direction, being a kind of social “game” that works as a stimulus to get out of the house, walk outdoors and possibly get closer to other users. These are all extremely positive things and we must praise this bizarre project for being able to put them together in a rather elegant way and also recovering a beloved brand, properly exploiting the charisma of the protagonists. The fact remains, fundamental, that this is not a game but rather a companion app that focuses on wellness, a real enriched podometer, to tell the truth not even as precise and technical as other more specialized but certainly more fun and challenging. Even just knowing that our Pikmin remain active in the background accompanying us at every step, without having to constantly look at the screen, is pleasant and gives a sense of accomplishment to simple daily walks, with the only drawback of a really excessive battery consumption.

PRO

  • Lightweight and pleasant, also simply to keep in the background
  • It enriches the experience of walking in some way, prompting you to move
  • The charisma of pikmin is undeniable
  • It is simply an enriched podometer, moreover not very precise
  • Impressive battery consumption
  • Have you noticed any errors?
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