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Review: ‘Pikmin Bloom’ is a perfect companion game to ‘Pokemon Go’

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Published in Science & Technology News

With ‘Pikmin Bloom,’ Niantic creates a game that’s casual enough that fans can play it alongside its flagship game

Niantic’s vision of gaming demands so much that it could be considered a lifestyle. Players are encouraged to explore the world, exercise and socialize with others. It takes a lot of commitment and that could be the reason for the success of “Pokemon Go” and the demise of its other projects “Catan: World Explorers” and “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.”

With a game that asks so much of players, it sucks the oxygen out of their lives. It could be that there’s no room for anything beyond “Pokemon Go.” That puts Niantic’s latest title “Pikmin Bloom” in an unusual predicament. It has to be a game that gets players out of the house, and it has to complement the gameplay of its bigger, more successful counterpart. In other words, “Pikmin Bloom” has to be a game that fans can play alongside “Pokemon Go.”

HOW TO PLAY

The developer manages to do that by putting the game’s emphasis on exercise. Instead of trying to catch them all, players are encouraged to walk and explore their neighborhoods. That’s how they discover new seedlings and grow the tiny creatures, which are essentially a cross between ants and plants. They swarm around players, following them, and in the console games, the hero, Olimar, can toss them to defeat enemies. On the surface, the gameplay isn’t as intuitive as “Pokemon Go,” but somehow this collaboration with Nintendo works.

The seedlings are comparable to eggs in “Pokemon Go.” Players need to walk in order to grow/hatch them, but players will discover other benefits to exploration. On their outdoor adventures, they’ll find new seedlings to grow and fruits that are distilled into nectar. That nectar is important because it’s what used to grow flowers atop Pikmin’s heads and those flowers produce petals that boost a seedling’s growth rate.

Having more Pikmin is advantageous because players can use them on expeditions to fetch fruits, gifts and seedlings. They can even send them on Challenges, in which up to 18 Pikmin attack objects, such as mushrooms, to break them down for fruit and other items.

Although it sounds like a lot of work, “Pikmin Bloom” is fairly hands off. With the focus on walking and exploration, players can concentrate on casual strolls and occasionally check on what their Pikmin have gathered. If players venture to unusual areas, they get rarer special seedlings, which contain a costumed Pikmin. Best of all, they can do this while also playing “Pokemon Go.”

COLLECTION MECHANIC

Niantic tries to capitalize on the collection aspect of the game by giving Pikmin different costumes based on certain themes. Players will run across outfits inspired by parks, restaurants and salons. Even more interesting is that sometimes these little extras can be found by walking near stores or places connected to a theme. If players are looking for a clover costume, walking through a park could reveal a gift containing one. Meandering near a restaurant or bakery could lead to a Pikmin with toque. That’s a nice touch and adds to the exploration aspect of “Pikmin Bloom.”

Another fine detail of the game is that players will encounter four types of nectar that produce four different petals — white, yellow, red and blue. When players activate petals, they give seedlings a growth boost and the flowers show up on the path that a player walks. Players should be aware that activating petals could reveal a walking routine or maybe even a home, but it’s a way to create more of a social aspect to the title.

 

Unlike other Niantic games, “Pikmin Bloom” doesn’t have a strong social element. Players can see traces of other people playing the game by the flowers strewn along the map. Interestingly enough, I could see where players cut through the BART parking lot to reach the subway station. It’s a detail that makes players feel less alone. Another social aspect is the Challenges, in which players can team up and send their Pikmin to tear apart a mushroom. At the moment, this part of the game feels underused but it could act something akin to raids in “Pokemon Go.” The whole process is casual though, as players send out Pikmin and nearby players can join them whenever they can.

Playing “Pikmin Bloom,” I found there are few competitive elements. I’m not out there to grow a rare Pikmin nor is there any PvP elements. The game is focused on the player and the world. As they level up, they unlock new kinds of Pikmin, and at the end of each day, there’s a fun summary showing where players walked accompanied by any photos that they snapped.

The only issue holding “Pikmin Bloom” back is it’s not the most intuitive game. It will take players a few hours to figure out how to navigate the different menus and find out the options for Expeditions or even sending gifts to friends.

Nevertheless, that shouldn’t distract from the best part of “Pikmin Bloom,” and that’s the fact that the game doesn’t get in the way of “Pokemon Go.” In fact, it’s a great counterpart to Niantic’s flagship game. It treads along the same gameplay mechanics but explores it through the lens of low-key exercise. At best, it’s a game that encourages more walking and more exploration, which helps “Pokemon Go” players in hatching eggs and uncovering new Pokemon.

It’s the right game for players who want a more casual experience that can fit in their lives, or one in which they want other games to breathe.

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‘PIKMIN BLOOM’

Three stars

Platform:iOS and Android

Rating: 9+ on iOS, Everyone on Android

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