Detective Pikachu Review 3DS: Not just a game. A great game!
This year, after been sat in a dark room with complete strangers for two hours, I turned to my girlfriend next to me and said “That was my favourite film I’ve seen this year”. As this is a review for the Detective Pikachu 3DS game, I was of course talking about the Detective Pikachu movie. Without it, I would never have picked up the game, which in my eyes was a needless Pokémon spin off. But having recently finished Detective Pikachu’s magnificent twelve hour story, I now realise just how wrong I was.
Detective Pikachu 3DS Review
- Available: Nintendo 2DS/Nintendo 3DS
- Played on: Nintendo 3DS XL
A Slow Burner
The first thing to note for the Detective Pikachu game is that it’s extremely slow paced. There’s little action, walking simulator mechanics and mountains of dialogue that must be conquered to progress. Depending on the type of player you are, you may not find this that thrilling. (For reference I would say the pace is comparable to slow burning TV dramas like Better Call Saul). However, I personally love this form of entertainment. The slow pace creates opportunities for characters to be developed to an incredibly high standard. And by the end of Detecive Pikachu, you’ll know the main characters like good friends.
It helps that the story is long enough to allow characters time to shine. There are nine detailed chapters which all have an intriguing Pokémon themed case to solve. In one chapter you visit an abandoned fun fair, Fine Park, to investigate why a friendly Charlizard went on a rampage. And in another you’ll infiltrate a black market auction on a high-class cruise ship. Even on a superficial level they all sound great, and admittedly my interest was constantly piqued. I couldn’t wait so see how each one played out and unravel the mystery at each chapters core.
As an overall package though, some of the chapters unfortunately alleviate tension by creating barriers. Just as you discover a shocking revelation in the main story, you are tasked to solve the case of the missing violing, as an example. Thankfully when a case starts to unravel, you’re engaged again, especially as each finishes with an intense conclusion. The evidence is gathered and everyone gathers round in a classic ‘whodunit’ scene. Even though it was obvious who the villain was, (this is a game aimed at a younger audience after all), these moments were always satisfying due to the slow build up and big pay off. It’s also satisfying knowing that you and Pikachu make a great detective duo.
The Brilliant Detective Pikachu
Throughout the game, each scene sings when Detective Pikachu is present due to his brilliant personality. He is arrogant, narcissistic and deluded, but undeniable lovable with a childlike, innocent charm. At times it can be hard to take him seriously as he exclaims “I’m not just a Detective. I’m a great Detective!” and even after the simplest of discoveries, he jumps up and shouts “A bolt of brilliance!” There were so many times I was smirking at the words coming from Detective Pikachu’s mouth. (He’s one charming fella’!)
A spotlight shines on Pikachu again when you’re close to solving a case. By clicking on a prompt a mini-cut scene plays and Pikachu addresses you directly. These little snippets are not only incredibly well written and acted, but they also help to build the relationship between you and Pikachu. All that seperates you both is the screen of the DS and most times it’s hard not to get sucked in.
Other times these prompts appear at random where Pikachu just wants attention. Most of the time they’re not even related to what’s happening on screen. For example, one time he wanted to show me a forward roll, which he ended in a gymnast-esque finishing pose. It really wasn’t that impressive, but he looked directly at me and said “Just in case we ever need that”. Charming, ridiculous and over the top, these moments will have you laughing out loud. The character of Detective Pickachu is simply a joy to be around.
Gameplay – What Gameplay?
The slow, methodical pace is also rooted within the core gameplay mechanics, which is intentionally minimal throughout. It is similar to a classic point and click adventure like Day of the Tentacle or most recent iterations like Telltale’s The Walking Dead games. Every level involves walking around a small area of Rhyme City, investigating crime scenes, gathering testimonies and visiting key characters to find Tim’s missing father. You can decide in what order to ask the questions when interviewing people, but each line of dialogue is pre-scripted like an interactive story.
In more action packed moments quick time events are used involving the A button, but they are all incredibly easy, again because of the pace. I’m not usually a fan of quick time events in games, but here they are used so infrequently they never felt like a chore. In some instances they even made me feel more involved in the action happening on screen, again like in Telltale games. For example, you have to fire Pikachu out of a cannon to save a Bunneary trapped on a Ferris Wheel, and use A to time your shot. The whole cut-scene was outrageously absurd, but the quick time events kept me engaged while allowing Pikachu’s personality to take centre stage once again.
Along with the slow pace, you have to accept this game is designed for a wide age range. It has simplistic gameplay, easy to solve puzzles and absurd juvenile humour. (Which actually reminded me of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s comedy style). There are also basic lines of dialogue assigned to Pikachu, like checking you know what a vial is (“It’s like a glass test tube and we must find it!”) or serving up some handy life lessons (“I guess Pokémon or people can change if they really want to”). These moments are quite jarring for older players, but at the age of twenty-six, I found they added to the games overall charm rather than ruined my experience.
A Realistic City
Considering you spend the game exploring a virtual city inhabited by fictional Japanese creatures, it’s surprisingly easy to become immersed. This works for the most part because there is always something happening on screen, such as people and Pokémon performing their daily routines. (Similar to how you see people panning for gold or hunting in Red Dead Redemption 2). All of the Pokémon have jobs that are suited to their skill set, such as Machamp unloading cargo from shipping containers at the docks or Ludicolo using its oversized sombrero to serve drinks in the local cafe.
This was incredibly enjoyable in every level as I was eager to see the creative ways in which Pokémon were used. On occasions it’s lackluster, like Chandelure acting as a chandelier on the Cruise Ship (what else could it have been), but other times it excelled. A personal highlight was the flying dragonfly Pokémon, Yanma, operating cameras at the local news network. Apparently “they can get the perfect angle”.
Much like the Detective Pikachu film, the game also tries to tap into my childhood Pokémon nostalgia. (And suceeds by the way). As a child, like many people who grew up with this franchise, I always imagined what the world would be like if Pokémon were actually real. Now I think I’ve got a pretty good idea.
Detective Pikachu Review – Final Thoughts
The Detective Pikachu 3DS game has a brilliant story disguised as a simplistic point and click adventure. Due to its wide target audience, older players may be put off by its simplistic gameplay and constant slow pace. However if you are aware of its basic mechanics there’s a lot to enjoy throughout this twelve hour experience. The portrayal of Detective Pikachu is simply phenomenal and by the end of the game you will, like I did, have formed a strong emotional connection with our titular character.
For all of his arrogance, delusions of grandeur and narcissistic traits, he is ultimately loveable with a childlike charm and charisma. There were many times I found myself smirking, grinning or outright laughing at the absurd events happening on screen and I will never forget the moment Pikachu is fired out of a cannon wearing an American football helmet for protection.
I said that the Detective Pikachu movie was my favourite film this year and now I can say that the Detective Pikachu game is my favourite game this year too. (Which I may regret typing as 2019 comes to an end). While the simplisticity may put certain players off, I enjoyed every second I spent with these characters, within Rhyme City and uncovering the intriguing, well written and expertly voice acted story. Detective Pikachu is not just a game. It’s a great game. And I can’t wait to play the sequel coming to Switch soon.
Related Post: Detective Pickachu (3DS) was number 3 on my top 10 games I played in 2019!