Plugged In

Critics are crazy for Pikmin 3, the Wii U’s best game

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(Credit: Nintendo)

Pikmin 3 is taking root with critics.

The oft-delayed, heavily-anticipated, uber-cute strategy title hit retail shelves this weekend in the U.S., and gamers -- even the most jaded -- are smitten.

The game currently boasts an 87 rating on Metacritic, making it one of the five best reviewed console games of 2013 and the highest rated title to come out for the Wii U thus far.

Nintendo’s Pikmin series skipped the last generation of consoles (except for ports of the previous games), which gives the game a new franchise feel, but it's still very familiar to fans of Nintendo's first-party games. The concept is essentially unchanged: playing as a lost spaceman, gamers use the adorable, plant-like Pikmin creatures to defeat enemies and harvest resources on an alien planet.

The trick? It manages to be kid-friendly while still retaining plenty of smart gameplay for grown-ups.

"It sounds precarious, but Pikmin 3 finds a graceful balance between violence and a kid's game," writes Polygon's Phil Kollar, who gives it an 8/10. "It refines real-time strategy mechanics into a clever, console-friendly shape."

IGN cheers the game for the way it elicits a pure sense of joy from players.

"Pikmin 3 is a delight," says reviewer Keza Macdonald. "There’s nothing else like its gentle combination of exploration, strategy and discovery, and it made me feel both empathy and responsibility for virtual creatures that most games would treat as disposable fodder. It transported me like few other games can, giving the feeling of being a stranger in a strange (but oddly familiar) world. It's over too soon, but it leaves a lasting impression." She awards it an 8.8/10.

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While critics praise the gorgeous new HD graphics and the game's gentle difficulty curve, they do note Pikmin 3 isn't quite perfect. The length, they say, seems short, although it's imminently replayable, and the control scheme isn't as sharp as Nintendo fans might be used to. While the Wiimote and nunchuck controller give players a level of precision, the Wii U gamepad lacks finesse.

"It's too bad the Wii U GamePad -- the console's main controller with a 6.2-inch color touch-screen -- seems like more of an afterthought than making it an integral part of the gameplay experience," says Marc Saltzman of USA Today, who gives it a 3.5/4.

"A tiny flick of the Wii U GamePad's thumbstick can send the aiming reticule careening away from your desired target, and the game had trouble recognizing whether I was trying to finesse my aim or actually move my character," adds Polygon.

Critics add, however, that those problems don't do anything significant to detract from the fun of the game.

"Pikmin 3 isn't everything that Pikmin has ever been before, but it's still the best representation of the concept to date," says Destructoid’s Jonathan Holmes in a 9.5/10 review. "It feels like a full replacement of Pikmin 1, and a perfect companion to the different-but-equal Pikmin 2. ... The Pikmin series does things that no other games do, and Pikmin 3 does those things better than ever before."

The Wii U could certainly use a hit. Only 160,000 Wii U consoles were sold last quarter, a number surpassed by competing consoles -- including the regular Wii.

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