The cuddly Pikachu is gracing us with his presence in a new 3DS title that has him donning a swanky deerstalker hat and magnifying glass.
In Detective Pikachu, you play as Tim, a young man who stumbles across a sleuth version of Pikachu on his way to an appointment. Tim is the son of Harry Goodman, the detective partner of Pikachu and the focus of Tim's investigation. Harry went missing after an accident while investigating a mysterious compound called R and Tim is eager to find him. Although the premise sounds a little depressing, Detective Pikachu promises lots of laughs and smiles while Tim stays full of vigour in anticipation of being reunited with his dad once again.
Tim and Pikachu may be partners in crime-solving but you only actually interact with people as Tim. He can talk to humans but can't understand any Pokémon other than Pikachu. On the other hand, Pikachu can understand all the Pokémon but other humans can't understand him. Their partnership is therefore necessary to dig deeper into the mystery of the missing dad. Pikachu hangs out on the bottom screen of the 3DS where you can tap him to hear him give a silly comment about something or occasionally help with the case. Tapping him shows a cutely animated little clip that is always a delight although often not that useful to the case. He also follows Tim around on the top screen as he investigates which is adorable.
There are nine chapters in the campaign, each revolving around a case for you to solve with some of them uncovering additional information about the disappearance of Tim's dad. You will typically walk around an area while talking to all of the characters and observing and picking up some objects. Occasionally, you have to press A at the right time to complete a timed interaction but it's painfully easy to do so and doesn't do anywhere near enough to mix up the basic gameplay.
When you think you've got all of the information and objects that you need to solve a part of the case, you go into case-solving mode where you drag and drop items onto the screen to answer certain questions. For example, dragging a yellow and a red berry in order to create an orange coloured concoction. Dragging two colours to make one sounds like an extremely simple puzzle to figure out and unfortunately, they don't get much more complicated than that. The challenge seems right for an 8 to 10 year old most of the time with the odd puzzle being a challenge only for a toddler. That being said, I'm not sure how a toddler is reading the text in the game.
As well as the lack of challenge in the smaller puzzles, it can also get annoying when you know the culprit for the case very early on (due to the not-so-subtle clues) but you have to go through a song and dance in order to finally incriminate them. It feels like one of those point-and-click adventure games where you know how to complete a task and you have what you need but you just can't figure out how to progress. Meanwhile, the protagonist remains completely dumbfounded which only adds to the frustration.
As someone who's mostly unfamiliar with the franchise, I was surprised by how much Detective Pikachu introduces you to different Pokémon. Whenever you meet a new one, you get a little blurb about them and get to talk to them for a bit. You also uncover information about them as you play and you use this information in order to put pieces together to solve the case. It's very basic but I feel smarter now for knowing a little more about the vast variety of Pokémon that are out there.
The visuals in Detective Pikachu are adorable and so is the audio. Whenever you come across a Pokémon, all you hear them say is their name repeated over and over with different tones and pauses. Some of the monsters are so cute that I just continually talked to them in order to make them go on and on while saying silly nonsense.
The clips of Pikachu walking back and forth in his hat, talking with a grown-up man's voice and holding a coffee cup are super-cute. However, the visuals as you walk around are nothing special but they are varied as there's a good variety of locations. It's unfortunate that even Nintendo titles aren't bothering to implement 3D support anymore as I would have enjoyed a 3D Detective Pikachu.
Detective Pikachu is a cute and fun little game but it only offers enough challenge to satisfy an elementary school student.
- + Adorable graphics and sound
- + Good way to learn about Pokémon
- + Interesting and engaging overarching story that gradually unfolds
- - No challenge for anyone other than a child
- - Lack of gameplay variety
- - Aha moments are too predictable