Niantic’s vision for games is so demanding that it can be viewed as a way of life. Players are encouraged to explore the world, play sports and socialize with others. It takes a lot of effort, and this may be the reason for the success of Pokemon Go and the demise of its other projects, Catan: World Explorers and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.
A game that demands so much from the players sucks the oxygen out of their lives. Maybe there is no room for anything other than Pokemon Go. This puts Niantic’s latest title “Pikmin Bloom” in an unusual position. It should be a game that takes players out of the house, and it should complement the gameplay of its larger and more successful counterpart. In other words, Pikmin Bloom should be a game that fans can play alongside Pokemon Go.
HOW TO PLAY
The developer manages to do this by focusing on exercises in the game. Instead of trying to catch them all, players are encouraged to take a walk and explore their surroundings. So they discover new seedlings and grow tiny creatures, which are essentially a cross between ants and plants. They swarm around the players, chasing them, and in console games, the hero Olimar can throw them to defeat enemies. On the surface, the gameplay isn’t as intuitive as in Pokemon Go, but somehow this collaboration with Nintendo works.
Saplings can be compared to eggs in Pokemon Go. Players need to walk to raise / hatch them, but players will discover other exploration benefits. During their outdoor adventures, they will find new seedlings to grow and fruits to make nectar. This nectar is important because it is used to grow flowers on Pikmin’s heads, and these flowers produce petals that accelerate seedling growth.
Having more picmins is beneficial because players can use them on expeditions for fruits, gifts, and seedlings. They can even send them to Trials, in which up to 18 picmins attack objects such as mushrooms in order to obtain fruits and other items.
While this sounds like a lot of work, Pickmin Bloom is pretty free. By focusing on walks and exploration, players can focus on regular walks and check what their picmin has collected from time to time. If players travel to Unusual Locations, they receive rarer Special Saplings that contain a fancy-dress pikmin. Best of all, they can do this while playing Pokemon Go at the same time.
Niantic tries to capitalize on the collective aspect of the game by giving Pikmin different costumes based on specific themes. Players will encounter outfits inspired by parks, restaurants, and lounges. What’s even more interesting is that sometimes these little additions can be found while walking around shops or places related to the topic. If players are looking for a clover costume, a stroll through the park might find a gift that contains it. Wandering around a restaurant or bakery can lead to a sausage picnic. It’s a nice touch that adds the exploratory aspect of Pickmin Bloom.
Another subtle detail of the game is that players will be faced with four types of nectar that produce four different petals – white, yellow, red, and blue. When players activate the petals, they speed up the growth of the seedlings, and flowers appear in the path the player is following. Players should be aware that activating the petals can reveal a familiar walking pattern or perhaps even a house, but it is a way to give the name a more social dimension.
Unlike other Niantic games, Pikmin Bloom does not have a strong social element. Players can see the footprints of other people playing the game by the colors scattered across the map. Interestingly, I could see where the players cut through the BART parking lot to get to the metro station. This is the detail that makes the players feel less lonely. Another social aspect is challenges in which players can team up and send their Pikmin to rip the mushroom apart. This part of the game seems to be underutilized at the moment, but it can act like raids in Pokemon Go. However, the whole process is random as players send Pikmin and nearby players can join them whenever they can.
While playing Pickmin Bloom, I found it had few competitive elements. I have no intention of raising rare picmins and there are no PvP elements. The game is player and world oriented. As they level up, they unlock new types of picmins, and at the end of each day, a funny summary appears showing where the players have gone, accompanied by any photos they have taken.
The only problem holding Pickmin Bloom back is that it’s not the most intuitive game to play. It will take players hours to figure out how to navigate the various menus and discover options for expeditions or even sending gifts to friends.
However, that shouldn’t detract from the best part of Pickmin Bloom, and it’s a fact that the game doesn’t interfere with Pokemon Go. In fact, it’s a great counterpart to Niantic’s flagship game. It follows the same gameplay mechanics, but explores it through the lens of restrained exercise. At its best, it’s a game that encourages more walking and more exploration, which helps Pokemon Go players to hatch eggs and discover new Pokemon.
This is the right game for players who want a more casual experience that can fit into their lives, or one that they want other games to breathe.
Platform:iOS and Android
Rating:9+ on iOS, all on Android