The Right Kind of Weird
One of the best things about the rise of “indie” games has been the large amount of creative ideas getting released in smaller packages. Weird, unconventional games aren’t as risky of endeavors for the developers and publishers because the consumer is more willing to shell out $15 instead of $60 for a unique and memorable 4 hour experience. For gamers on a time constraint that don’t have 100 hours to sink into AAA titles like The Witcher 3 or Red Dead Redemption 2, these gems are a great way to have fun without the fear of never finishing what they started. The publisher Devolver Digital has an amazing track record with such games, and their newest, Pikuniku, is no exception. To put it simply, Pikuniku is one of the weirdest games I have ever played, and I loved every second of it.
The story of Pikuniku is simple: a pink, lumpy cloud looking guy named Mr. Sunshine has promised villages FREE MONEY in exchange for some of their most abundant resources. You, a little red circle with two legs and no arms, awake from a sleep and decide to go out to one of these villages. Upon reaching the village, you learn that the villagers think you are “the beast” and will kill them all – only to disappoint them with your round, sweet, and un-scary exterior. Deciding to help them from the resource stealing Mr. Sunshine and his gang of unpaid robots, your quest has begun and what transpires is anything but conventional.
I tried to talk to every single character that I could, so that I could hear every possible line of dialogue…
The real draw of Pikuniku is the writing, which actually made me laugh out loud a couple of times! While story is relatively basic overall, it is elevated to new heights with its amazing dialogue and hilarious characters. Along the 4-ish hour story mode, I tried to talk to every single character that I could, so that I could hear every possible line of dialogue from disgruntled shop owners and rebellious baby birds. (One minor gripe I have is that there were a couple uses of mild profanity; normally I really wouldn’t care, but for an E-rated game, I couldn’t help but be a little confused about the purpose considering the “all ages” market that it is aimed for). I know it’s a cop-out, but I don’t want to talk anymore about any of the dialogue because I don’t want to spoil the charm of any of it. What I will say is that fans of witty and (not overly) self-aware dialogue will find A LOT to love here!
Just as good as the writing in Pikuniku is the gameplay, which is simple and goofy. Being a circular character with no arms in a 2D game, your movement options are pretty limited. Piku (which is what I’m pretty sure you are named), can jump, kick, and roll. Using these abilities, you have to perform basic platforming, solve relatively basic puzzles, and kick a lot of stuff. So many things in the game are bouncy and kick-able and you just never know what will happen when you do it. When you aren’t distracted by kicking objects and people, the main storyline has you collecting items for characters, beating a couple bosses in combat (or dance), and finding odd collectables and costumes. The main quest has a lot of variety and doesn’t ever get stuck in a cycle, and there are even more fun things optionally to do if you take time to find them! This, to me, is quite a feat as I never once was bored, but I didn’t think it ended too soon either. (Note: there is a short co-op mode that I didn’t have the chance to play, but from what I watched it was nothing spectacular – but it also isn’t the main draw of the game either).
…you can’t help but smile while playing!
The audio and visual presentation really seal the deal for Pikuniku’s wonky world, perfectly matching the silly tone of the writing and kicking. Characters are just plain silly looking and their movement is just as bouncy and wobbly as you could ever want. The world itself is colorful, vibrant, and simple in its visuals and looks like it came straight out of a goofy cartoon. Complementing the charming visuals is the equally charming sound design. Sound effects and character voices are weird without getting annoying. In addition to that, Calum Bowen created a wonderfully upbeat and joyous soundtrack that you can’t help but smile while playing!
All in all, Pikuniku is a wonderful change of pace from the traditional gaming norm. It’s short (but not too short), it’s hilarious, it’s charming, it’s smile inducing, and it’s just a real joy to play. You won’t find yourself talking with your friends about a crazy plot twist, awe-inspiring graphics, or how challenging it was – but you will be talking about how fun it is! It is actually pretty tough to spend a lot of time writing about a game like this, and honestly my best recommendation is to go and watch the trailer – it shows off exactly what kind of game you are in for. But to me, with it’s hilarious writing, fun gameplay, goofy and colorful visuals, an equally bouncy soundtrack, and a humble $13 price tag, Pikuniku is a wonderful change of pace for those looking for one in their gaming library!
Yes, if you:
- Love witty writing and dialogue
- Enjoy 2D platformer games with unique art styles
- Need a change in pace from traditional games
- Want a shorter game with little time commitment required
No, if you:
- Want a tough game that has a rewarding difficulty
- Don’t enjoy “weird” games and humor
- Are looking for a full co-op experience
Pikuniku was released on January 24th, 2019 and is available on PC and Nintendo Switch.