Pikuniku Nintendo Switch review | A joyous puzzle-adventure

Joyfully sticking, rolling and kicking it to the man in the charming Pikuniku. Our review…


 

Maybe I’m just getting old, but it seems almost impossible to look at a seemingly innocent-looking children’s cartoon aesthetic and not wonder if there’s a more sinister or profound message going on underneath. So when Pikuniku, a seemingly innocent-looking game with characters that look as simplistically drawn as the Mr. Men, is marketed by publisher Devolver Digital as a dystopia, it’s hard to resist an eye-roll.

Fortunately, those fears are unfounded. Sure, there’s a greedy pink-faced capitalist calling himself Mr. Sunshine handing out ‘free money’ to the villagers of an island in exchange for plundering its natural resources, but with this out of the way, Sectordub doesn’t pause for any deep state commentary. It just wants you to have a jolly good time.

It’s a sensation you get from the moment you wake up from a cave as Piku, cuteness incarnate with minimalist effort. For just a red oval with a pair of lanky legs and a pair of dots for eyes, he’s surprisingly expressive as you bounce him around this childlike 2D world, as he’s capable of rolling around and through tight spaces, or using his long legs to kick switches, boxes or other hapless denizens, whether that’s to solve a puzzle or just for, um, kicks. Better still, his leg also doubles as a lasso to swing on hooks or race up zip wires. Jumping may be a little too floaty, but for a game that’s more adventure than platformer, traversal feels wonderful.

From being first mistaken as a ‘ghastly beast’ to joining an underground resistance against Mr. Sunshine, it’s a brief and breezy journey, carried by a whimsical score from Calum Bowen. While nothing is exactly designed to challenge you, it’s more about giving you a variety of things to play around with, from a rhythm-action dance-off to boss battles against big robots.

It’s also worth splitting the Joy-Con with a friend for a standalone local co-op mode. While it only consists of nine levels, it’s almost like playing a platforming version of Snipperclips, with some fun variation, bringing up split-screen when required, missions that see you both tethered together, or an impromptu competitive race.

It’s charmingly compact then, perfectly content with dropping a bit of joy into your life without overstaying its welcome. But it’s also the stuff that veers off-path that makes Pikuniku a delight. From coins to collect, weird junk to spend it on, even physical trophies that are wrapped up like presents – a fine consolation for the Switch’s lack of an in-built system – has a dystopia ever felt this good?

Highlight

While most of the mini-games in Pikuniku are mostly one-and-done diversions, the one you can always easily return to at the starting village is Baskick, a simple but hilarious one-on-one basketball game played with your feet, and where kicking your opponent is fair game. Unsurprisingly, it’s also available in multiplayer.

Verdict

No chin-stroking here, Pikuniku is simply a joyous and varied little adventure.

79%

Genre: Puzzle adventure
Format: Switch (tested) / PC
Developer: Sectordub
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Price: £11.69 (Switch) £10.29 (Steam)
Release: Out now

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