Pikuniku (2019)

A game with this hard of a name to pronounce at first sight, Is usually a good indication that it’s probably not going to be something that I like. It’s got Japanese katakana underneath the title in its “box art”/Store page. That in and of itself isn’t going to immediately deter me away from the game, but it makes me wary, as I just don’t find most Japanese oriented games very enjoyable or interesting. However Pikuniku isn’t really a japanese game, in the sense of some random JRPG where you play an effeminate boy who has to save the world from destruction. No, you get to play as this weird red colored rock with legs.

A platformer with its design firmly planted in light puzzle solving and platforming.

The game starts off with your character basically getting trapped in a mountain for an unspecified long amount of time… decades to millennia… It’s never really clarified.

Mr. Sunshine and his company Sunshine Inc. are offering towns free money in return for their “useless junk”. As your character wakes up, you help out townspeople with a few small tasks, and you realize that Mr. Sunshine isn’t really all he's cracked up to be. He’s secretly taking things from the villages and hoarding them, and then his grand plan is to erupt a dormant volcano and rebuild the island however he wants, and run it with his own robots at his beck and call.

With a short playthrough time of around two and a half hours, the game is something that can be completed within a single sitting. I do love shorter games, as you can finish them so much easier, but I have to be in the mood for it. I originally bought this game earlier this year with the intent to play it, but I just never was wanting to play a lighthearted, colorful, simplistic looking platformer… even though it was really cheap. After getting another copy for Free on The Epic Game Store as well, it pushed me over the edge on a day where I actually had some free time.

The game itself is very colorful and vibrant, with lots of primary colors. The game is really contained within three sections of the island, and there isn’t much to it. Your character, who resembles a rock, and has legs that can kick things. This allows you to get through blocked obstacles, and also move things into position for puzzles later on in the game. The legs twitch and stretch in a weird sporadic pattern that reminds me of a lot of the Gang Beast characters. While not completely wobbly, it has the appearance that your character can topple over at any given moment.

Each of the three main levels have a hub area, where you can talk to villagers, and each villager has a very simplistic and “big cardboard cutout” design to them. Really, the whole game feels very simplistic, in a 2nd grade art book kind of way, but it isn’t actually a bad thing. I think it works really well with the minimalist design. It’s a very light hearted type of game.

The dialogue comes off as trying a bit too hard in a couple spots, but sadly, that’s just the way a lot of dialogue is written now. Trying to be more brash and cynical. Also the few swear words that do show up feel extremely out of place for a game that looks and plays like this does. It doesn’t need it, and really broke the immersion for me, while I was playing. The text also is in very short bursts and takes up more time than it needs to. Even though it does add to the story, it could have been cut down drastically to allow for the player to just continue on.

The puzzles are extremely easy, with the most complicated sections, requiring you to push a button or two at a time. Although they are essentially effortless, it still breaks up the platforming and dialogue sections nicely. Coupled with some decent small platforming sections, it really fleshes out the gameplay itself a ton. There are a few Boss fights as well, which in typical fashion, require you to hurt the boss the same way, three separate times until he his defeated.

There were a couple stand out parts to the game itself. One was a boss fight, where the boss himself is chasing you down, across a very long and lengthy level. The level has multiple paths to take and although I didn’t die at all in it, I came close and felt that rush of adrenalin as I jumped and swam through the level to the end, where my companions were waiting with a deadly laser beam.

The second stand out part was when a rogue piece of toast pops out of a toaster and makes me perform his gauntlet. At the end of the gauntlet, again, you are chased throughout a level, and have to perform the jumps, with pinpoint accuracy, and impeccable timing.

The music stands out as being a bit whimsical, and jaunty. It’s peppy with really no care in the world. It’s something that put a smile on my face and reminded me of Lovely Planet’s wonderfully joyful soundtrack as well.  

For a game that only took a couple hours to finish, it kept my attention the entire game, and allowed me to just kick back and relax while playing a game, without much stress about bad guys or dying. It took me back to playing A Kingdom For Keflings, and kept a smile on my face the entire time I played. There needs to be more games like this.