Review of Detective Pikachu Returns – Detective for the little ones
Nintendo really likes to reveal their series from an unusual side, trying to reach the maximum audience. The record holder in this regard is, of course, Mario, but the Pokemon series also has a variety of spin-offs, from pinball to a Pokemon photographer simulator. Detective Pikachu Returns combines the Pokemon universe with the detective game genre for the second time – and we decided to see what happened.
- Developer: Creatures
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Release date: October 6, 2023
Detective Pikachu, released in 2018 on Nintendo 3DS, was received rather lukewarmly by the standards of the Pokemon series. On the one hand, this can be understood as everything except insane delight; on the other hand, Pokemon without catching and the excitement of battles is really a completely different matter. And the sequel, released on Nintendo Switch, only confirms this.
We will play as the hero of the first part, Tim Goodman from Ryme City – a student who knows how to talk with Pokemon – and his Pokemon partner Pikachu. In general, Pikachu, if anyone doesn’t know, is not a name, but a biological species, but our Pikachu is special and wears a cap, like Sherlock Holmes. Because detective.
In the first part, we, together with our yellow friend, helped save the city after the so-called “R incident”, during which the Pokemon went crazy, and now we have became recognized detectives throughout the city, but we were never able to find our father, with whom Pikachu worked earlier.
Detective Pikachu Returns begins with a recap of the previous installment, followed by a scene where our heroes are rewarded for their role in the case. But according to all the laws of the genre, something goes wrong – the crazy winged Pokemon Corviknight flies in, disrupts the ceremony and steals that very Pikachu cap.
We find the cap pretty quickly, but then someone steals a gem called “Aurora’s Tear” from a local jeweler – this will be our first case, which will begin the thorny path of identifying those responsible for another strange episode with Pokemon and continuing the search for our father .
In terms of gameplay, our path looks like a typical detective game, slightly flavored with additional mechanics. We walk around the city and other locations, interview possible witnesses and suspects, look for evidence at the crime scene, write down important points in our notebooks, and draw conclusions using the deductive method.
From a setting perspective, we have the huge advantage of being able to talk to Pokemon that only Pikachu and I understand. But technically there are absolutely no differences between conversations with people and Pokemon – it’s just selecting lines with the cursor.
The basic mechanics, like the plot, are elementary – in dialogues, everything comes down to a total enumeration of all the lines, in examining a crime scene you need to “vacuum clean” the screen with a cursor in the form of a magnifying glass, and deduction is a choice from several options that appear as new information is revealed. The complexity of such a deduction rests somewhere on the level of asking “Is it true that Paris is the capital of France” – however, perhaps I am too harsh on the game, given its 6+ rating.
As we unravel cases and solve puzzles (which here are also built on the same mechanics), further twists and turns of the plot are revealed to us. It’s banal (don’t forget about the 6+ rating), but quite cute, and all the cutscenes are well-voiced. The voice acting of Pikachu is especially touching when the cute yellow animal speaks in a low, masculine bass voice.
The monotony is partly brightened up by the introduction of additional mechanics – for example, QTE, or various actions riding on other Pokemon, such as sniffing out a trail or breaking stones, but they do not have a dramatic impact on the gameplay. As well as side quests, which are purely a search for a given Pokemon.
Everything is aggravated by inconvenient controls – on the one hand, everything is simple and intuitive, but in 2023 it was necessary to think of making a three-dimensional game with a FIXED camera. Otherwise, the technical performance of the game does not raise any complaints – of course, in terms of graphics, even the Switch can be better, but the right amount of cartoonish cuteness fixes the matter, and everything works stably, without lags, drawdowns and long loading times (though where would they come from here).
I already wrote about the voice acting, the soundtrack is calm and unobtrusive – however, I admit that I played most of the time without sound and I can say that the feeling of the game does not change at all.
While working on this review, I couldn’t understand for a long time what the gameplay of Detective Pikachu Returns reminds me of, and finally, I remembered – it’s something akin to solving simple crossword puzzles or Sudoku. It seems like “gymnastics for the brain,” but it also seems like an absolute banality.
This game will only really be of interest to hardcore fans of the Pokemon universe, who don’t miss a single release, even the most passable one, or children, for whom the complexity of the puzzles will not yet be elementary – let me remind you again about the 6+ rating. True, children should know English well, because there is no Russian localization in the game. For the rest, I’ll repeat my thesis from the beginning of the article: Pokemon without the excitement of catching and fighting is a completely different matter. And not to say that it is so good.
A copy of the game for review was provided by the Achivka company.