While it may have a name akin to an early Pokémon and an aesthetic that promises a bright and breezy time, there’s a darkness just beneath the surface of Pikuniku. Pitched as a dystopian puzzle platformer, Pikuniku offers an eccentric take on well-worn conventions that delights with its off-kilter nature and big load of kicking. Unfortunately, the tale of “The Beast” and a corporation fails to make much of a dent in the surface of its own mystery — just as it’s beginning to get interesting, the finale abruptly arrives and the credits roll.
You play as a red ball with kangaroo-esque legs (honestly, that’s about as accurate as I can get) as he’s awoken from a deep sleep. Venturing outside for the first time in a long time, local villagers presume him to be The Beast: a fearsome monster that’s the stuff of urban legend. After you roll and kick your way through a few simple puzzles, they come around and realise that you aren’t what they think. Pikuniku opens up slightly after this, allowing you to talk to more people and even take part in a mini-game or two, all while you have a spring in your step — it’s hard not to be won over by its jovial nature.
Pikuniku is an adorable adventure, its bright colours and cheery soundtrack pairing well with the game’s silly tone to create a refreshing and undemanding time. There are few opportunities to fail and even then the checkpointing will send you back just a few seconds at most. The puzzles are nothing too intensive either and can be bested without your brain having to get out of second gear, and this is coming from someone who breaks out in a cold sweat when even thinking about The Witness. Pikuniku plays like an interactive cartoon, a Nickelodeon cult favourite where the main character goes around griefing people and chatting to worms.
The majority of Pikuniku’s gameplay revolves around finding items to reach new areas, a fairly early sequence tasking you with drawing a face on a scarecrow after finding a pencil hat. Most of Pikuniku is like this — finding weird thing A to use on weird thing B — and it create a linear but enjoyable experience with solutions never far out of reach, despite some bumbling around. There are opportunities to find secrets in the environment, which you will almost certainly manage as you search around the enclosed spaces for key items. These are simple models that act as collectibles, so there is some added scope for completionists who may be underwhelmed by the playtime.
What resonates most about Pikuniku is its sense of humour, it never taking itself too seriously as you roll around and bump into oblivious villagers and robots that think sunglasses make you cool. Whether you’re playing hide and seek with a rock, telling moody baby birds to return to their mother, or rolling around a worm who drank too much toxic waste, Pikuniku dares you not to smile through it all. Perhaps I’m just simple-minded, but a scene where the perspective zooms in on a puzzled worm made me laugh more than I care to mention.
Pikuniku, just like its overall attitude, is unconventional with its controls on Switch. B is jump, A is roll, Y is kick, and X is interact and skip through dialogue. It takes some getting used to, especially having to hit X to get through conversations, but zealous usage of Y is where you will find plenty of joy. There isn’t really much in the way of combat to speak of, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t go around kicking people all the same. “The Beast”‘s legs are also used to nudge key items along in the environment for use elsewhere, but they’re also required for mini-games such as a weird but hugely fun variant basketball variant called baskick. There are distractions to pad out the playtime and give you value, but again: Pikuniku is simply much too short.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with some games being on the briefer side, it’s just a case of how they utilise that time to do all the things they need to do. Just as the player is beginning to collect enough coins to presumably put towards something cool, they’re whisked away to a final boss battle that feels like it came out of nowhere. This may be a subtle comment on consumerism — the game also has underlying warnings about totalitarianism and surveillance — but it simply adds to the sense that the developers ran out of steam. Pikuniku feels as if it barely even gets out of its tutorial stages before it shuts up shop, giving you a light-hearted but ultimately disposable experience that you can get through in just over a couple of hours.
Luckily for the sake of its longevity, Pikuniku also comes with Unravel-esque local co-op that is where most of your brainpower will be used. The puzzles here ask you to be in sync with your partner as you grappling hook your way across gaps and use each other as platforms to reach new areas, or have one player stand on a button to open a new area as the other explores for the next step in the solution. Again, nothing too taxing, but there seems to be more precision in platforming required than in the single-player so expect a few swear words if you’re playing with someone who isn’t always glued to a controller.
The experience translates well to both players using a Joy-Con each, the SL and SR buttons controlling adorable emotes with the temptation to boot the other player off a ledge and undoing their hard work far too evil an opportunity to pass up. There are plenty of different scenarios with them taking an average of ten minutes each to finish, so those disappointed by the short playtime of the campaign may want to find themselves a partner.
Ultimately, Pikuniku is a short but sweet puzzle platformer that stops just as it’s warming up with solid co-op and collectibles partially making amends. Sectordub’s slice of absurdist fun is a potentially great game for travelling, but don’t expect it to wrap up all its threads in a satisfying manner.
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.
Pikuniku is a bizarre and often hilarious puzzle platformer that is too hamstrung by its brisk campaign to make it much more than a neat distraction.
Gamezeen is a Zeen theme demo site. Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.