I received an email while I was at work that my new PC graphics card had arrived. I had been awaiting this critical component to my gaming rig to help me push the boundaries of what I was able to do graphically and to explore the new depths I could delve into modern gaming. I raced home to install my state-of-the-art card (which went flawlessly, thankfully) and hurried to install the new, highly anticipated video game to release this week about an innocent, freshly-minted hero caught up in an adventure to save his town and world from being overthrown by a large corporation who had turned many of its inhabitants and familiars into mindless drones bent on destruction.
That’s right, you guessed it.
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On: PC
Release Date: January 24, 2019
Game Acquired Through Twitch Prime for the Purpose of This Review
Pikuniku stars a semi-anthropomorphic red blob, which the player controls, with no name, individual details, or defining characteristics besides a sturdy pair of legs and a penchant for unique hats. The game, billed as a puzzle-platformer, gives you very little backstory to the world you are thrust into; nevertheless, you are expected to save a village of bulbous townsfolk from an evil corporation giving free money in exchange for crops. Along the way, you are treated with a small cast of literally colorful and frequently hilarious characters that help drive the story and assist you in your quest.
The game shines most when interacting with the NPCs. Each character has witty and hilarious dialogue. It’s worth talking to each one you come across just to reveal their small bit of personality. The story is simple, but you’ll find yourself happy to see a lot of the characters popping up again and again throughout the world. The characters pair well into a cute, fresh setting, bright with colors and high-pitched sounds. Everything about this game is perfectly charming, and it will fit in nicely amongst the pantheon of games by developer Devolver Digital, who has never been criminal of taking anything too seriously.
The music, composed by Calum Bowen, is simple and sweet and adds well to the environments you’ll be travelling through. High electronic notes pair well with rhythmic, consistent bass beats. Frequently, when streaming games for audiences, I mute the music in order to provide a better sound experience for the viewers; I could not allow such a crime with Pikuniku. The music is almost essential to the game.
Unfortunately for the game, the actual high-points end here. Don’t get me wrong – the game works on nearly every level, especially atmosphere, but nothing else of high praise can be ascribed. The game simply works in every other regard. The simple controls, consisting of walk, jump, kick, roll, and a hat-specific action, all function almost exactly how you’d expect them to: usually reliably and consistently with some degree of trial and error and minor frustration. The story also basically works. Pikuniku will not be optioned off for big studio movie rights any time soon, but it’s an easy-to-follow and familiar tale that has enough charm to it to hold interest throughout your play. The puzzles also work; simple enough to be solved with mild effort, but again, no new ground is broken in its execution.
Finally, the game is woefully short. My play-through lasted just over three hours, including short breaks for option fiddling and stream interaction. Upon completion you are returned to the starting area and are gifted with some post-game content, but in my limited post-game play I did not find much more than collectibles and a handful of new puzzles and platforming to attempt. The game also offers a co-op mode, which I unfortunately was unable to test-drive prior to this review.
But does everything have to be revolutionary? In my opinion, no. Sometimes, I want to relax and play something that doesn’t require too much effort or thought, and Pikuniku certainly filled that hole in a playing catalogue that, for me, is usually occupied by the newest hardcore, realistic, blood-and-guts grit fest. The game garnered plenty of laughs from me and I’ve recommended it to a few friends to try; especially since it was free on Twitch for Amazon Prime subscribers for a few days. The price tag on Steam is set at $12.99, which may be a little high for a short, low-budget game with little replay value, but if you find yourself bored and looking for something fun to do with a few extra bucks and one of Steam’s frequent sales on your radar, Pikuniku isn’t a bad choice at all.
7.0 / 10