You have heard of Xbox Game Pass, right? The incredible gaming service offered by Xbox that gives you access to oodles of games? The service that is constantly adding new titles that you may not have heard of? If you have not heard of it then this is me, Xbox Game Pass’ biggest fan, telling you that it absolutely rocks. I have played tons of amazing games that I never would have played before because they become immediately available with Game Pass. One of the recent additions is Pikuniku. This puzzle adventure game caught my eye when it arrived, and it offers a pretty unique gaming experience.
Pikuniku comes to us from the developer Sectordub. As you fire the game up, you learn through an informational video that someone named Mr. Sunshine is offering everybody free money! Definitely nothing shady is going on, and as long as you peacefully allow Mr. Sunshine’s robots to collect trash around your homes, you too can receive free money. Following this video, you gain control of your character, Piku, and begin exploring the world, starting to meet kooky characters.
Immediately you will notice that Piku is nothing but a red oval with eyes and legs. As such, your key way of interacting with the world around you is through your feet. You swing from grapple points with your feet, and you can kick buttons, barrels, boxes and other characters in order to solve puzzles or laugh at cartoony physics. Physics based puzzles can often be frustrating in other games, but they are regularly the best part of Pikuniku due to some thoughtful level design that ensures items will roll or fly to where they should.
Although the puzzles are enjoyable, they are never anywhere near challenging. The solution to each problem you are presented with in the game is painfully obvious every time. The few boss encounters that happen are equally simple and underwhelming. That is, of course, until the final boss, where the game showcases a textbook example of a difficulty spike. The final boss requires quick reflexes and careful timing – something that the rest of the game has absolutely none of. The final boss also ends in a huge anticlimax – another thing the game struggles with throughout.
The final boss’ anticlimactic ending is played for laughs, but it does not feel that funny. Rather, it makes the characters involved feel uninterested and bored. If the main characters in a video game feel uninterested, then I probably will start to do the same. The game has a lot of jokes or little stories end abruptly in an attempt at dry humor. Yet, when several different characters have a habit of sounding completely bored, it just sounds like the game itself is bored.
None of this, however, is to say that Pikuniku is not funny. In fact there have been several times that I laughed out loud because of well constructed jokes. Some of the best moments require some searching and exploration through the game’s levels, but there are some great laughs to be had in Pikuniku. It is just a shame that some jokes are genuinely funny, because they make the less funny moments that much more apparent.
In addition to seeking out laughter, Pikuniku’s levels provide plenty of collectibles to find and sometimes wear on your head. There are fun little cosmetics that can be purchased from the occasional store and, on two occasions, special hats that offer gameplay mechanics to push the game forward are present. My favourite of the two is a watering can that you use to water flowers for some platforming boosts. This is a concept I really loved, and it bummed me out when more useful hats were not introduced. Maybe there were more that had unique functions that I did not find, but I am not entirely sure how more hats with abilities would have been added when the game is so short.
Now, usually there is some negativity associated with a game being short. I definitely do not think that applies to Pikuniku though, as it is just as long as it should be due to its comical ups and downs. Its brevity ensured that I stayed interested long enough to see the story through to its end.
And after that, you have the co-operative levels to enjoy. Though there are only nine, the co-op puzzle levels are Pikuniku’s best feature. Like the game’s campaign, they are pretty short but that only maximizes the enjoyment. However, with that, there are just not nearly enough levels. The short length made us want to move on to more and more. Although, there is enough variety between levels to keep players engaged as well, with some of the levels being competitive go-kart races.
Pikuniku on Xbox One is a tiny little game. It tries to do a whole lot with its short campaign, yet it only does half of it well. Its writing bounces back and forth between being endearingly random and just plain unfunny. The puzzles featured within the campaign and co-operative modes are easily the best part of playing, so it is odd that the game does not focus entirely on those two things. Regardless of its flaws, Pikuniku is a pleasant little game that will undoubtedly make you smile and laugh once or twice in the short afternoon it will take to complete.