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Pikmin 2 (Switch) Review

by Melanie Zawodniak - July 20, 2023, 11:49 am EDT
Total comments: 5


A look back at Pikmin’s growing pains.

Pikmin 2 is something of a black sheep in the Pikmin franchise. It exists within Nintendo’s mid-2000s transition away from hardcore gamers towards more casual audiences, and it feels like a weird midpoint between those two extremes. I have no idea if this dichotomy is the result of any intentional design decisions on Nintendo’s part, but the result is an undeniable sense that the game has trouble deciding what exactly it wants to be. Sometimes it’s too easy and lacks some of the challenges that made the original Pikmin compelling, and sometimes it’s brutally punishing in ways that only the most skilled players will be able to stomach. The audience for this game feels slim, but the most dedicated fans of the franchise may enjoy it for the truly unique experience it brings to the table.

Pikmin 2 opens with Captain Olimar and his new partner Louie returning to the Pikmin homeworld in search of treasure to pay off their boss’ massive debts. The two captains enlist the help of the native Pikmin to carry various delicacies, devices, and doodads back to their ship to sell for cold hard cash. The big twist introduced in this game is the presence of underground caverns teeming with treasures and monsters alike. Though the traditional overworlds of Pikmin 1 are still present (literally, since you visit remixed versions of the original maps), the majority of the game’s runtime is spent in the caverns, descending deeper into the Earth with no warning of what you’ll find ahead.

The caverns themselves are sadly pretty dull, made up of copy and paste assets that are lightly randomized. Enemies and treasures are fixed to each individual cavern, but their exact positions will be different each time you enter. The layouts of the underground are mostly flat and simple with very few visual themes, and I swear I saw a few layouts multiple times (though I’d never be certain given how basic and featureless each one is). The randomness also makes the gameplay feel directionless; I would often break down walls and obstacles that lead to nowhere while treasures were laying out in the open. The bespoke puzzles and challenges in the overworld are just as good as the original Pikmin, but they feel few and far between since your time in the caverns will easily dwarf your time above ground.

In terms of difficulty, Pikmin 2 is very uneven. The core challenge of the first game—the limited number of days you have before a game over—has been completely removed, making the day/night cycle feel like a tedious leftover. With no hard time limit you’re free to explore at your own pace and take as much time as you need to restock your army of Pikmin with no consequence, leaving no incentive to optimize your route through the game. Every few minutes the sun will set and you’ll be forced to go through the rigmarole of gathering your Pikmin and returning to your ship before coming back the next day and returning to what you were doing exactly where you left it. The result is that the end of a day feels like it might as well be an especially long loading screen for how little purpose it has, especially since time freezes completely when you’re underground.

The flip side of the coin is the intense challenges to be found in the underground, which feature some of the most punishing consequences for failure I’ve seen in the franchise. Caverns are densely filled with powerful enemies that can easily catch you off-guard and wipe out an entire squad of Pikmin in an instant. Multitasking is actually deeply discouraged in the underground since unexpected enemies can be lurking around the corner, and the game often throws what I can only call pranks at you as explosives literally fall from the ceiling without warning. Monsters become tougher and more destructive as you progress further through the game, and I had to make frequent use of the autosave the game makes on each floor of a cavern to get through some of the unfair and unexpected curveballs that would be thrown at me.

Ironically, I think this punishing difficulty is actually something that especially dedicated fans of the franchise may find appealing. Combat in Pikmin is often simple because you aren’t directly engaging with enemies, and the intense difficulty found in the caverns is exactly what I’ve seen many hardcore fans say they love about Pikmin 2. The tedious repetition of each cavern’s randomized features took away a lot of appeal for me, but there’s no doubt that the game’s high intensity that requires intimate familiarity with the nuances of commanding your Pikmin is unlike anything else the series has to offer.

As for the Switch version specifically, the updates in the HD version of Pikmin 2 are pretty much identical to those found in Pikmin 1, which I covered in a mini-review last month. The primary change unique to Pikmin 2 is that the real-world product placement found among the game’s treasures has been removed, and a joke spam email from an online dating site (yes, that’s real) has been rewritten to be more family-friendly. One thing in both games that I didn’t realize until playing Pikmin 2 is that while using gyro controls the cursor can still be moved around by the control stick. This was not the case in the Wii versions of Pikmin 1 and 2 where you could freely aim independently of your character’s movement, and you’ll need to actively fight against the cursor drifting away when positioning yourself around enemies.

Pikmin 2 is a tough game to recommend, especially with the brand new Pikmin 4 featuring a much more successful version of its key feature, the caverns. The high difficulty requires a lot of investment from the player to overcome, and the lack of bespoke design underground makes the journey to overcome those obstacles too tedious to feel rewarding. Dedicated fans who want to be pushed into learning the intricacies of Pikmin’s mechanics will find something special in the unique challenge, but pretty much everything else about Pikmin 2 has been pulled off much better in another game in the franchise.


  • Hardcore fans will like the unique difficulty
  • Overworld puzzles are still good
  • Day/Night cycle feels unnecessary
  • Randomized caverns are tedious
  • Unfair and punishing hazards in the underground


MythtendoJuly 20, 2023

I haven't played the Switch version, but I strongly disagree with your review. I've played the Wii version as recently as this year (via the Wii U) and it's a great game and my favorite of the series. I loved the first game too, didn't like Pikmin 3 though. Aside from a few bosses, the game is not that difficult. The environmental hazards in the cave are not as bad as you say. You also don't need to get your Pikmin back to the ship, they made this clear even in the first game, all you need is to have the Pikmin under your control at the end of the day and you'll be fine

CircasurviverJuly 21, 2023

Just played this for the first time and thought it was great. I guess I’d rank it 3rd out of the first 3 games, but that just means it’s an 8/10 behind Pikmin 1’s 9/10 and Pikmin 3’s 10/10. This score is criminally low and unfair to the game.

While I disagree with your conclusions, I like that this site can hold multiple opinions from a diverse and considerate group of gamers. (Is that a self-aggrandizing pat on the back? I guess it is ;D)

I haven't played the Switch port, but in my own review (http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/30899/pikmin-2-wii) of the Wii rerelease I more or less gushed over Pikmin 2 (after sort of ignoring it on the GC to be honest). It could be that pointer controls are a HUGE quality of life improvement that could be missing from this release, or it could be that I'm a sucker for anything co-op and so playing extensive multiplayer both co-op and versus with my brother was a ton of fun.

Or maybe I'm just one of those hardcore fans you're talking about who lapped everything up! There may not be any accounting for taste, after all!

I will admit it IS a little gutting to hear that the product-placement of the original game has been removed though.

I think this was one of the first games that I loved enough to 100% which is a thing I never do.  I'm in your boat, Kairon.

TOPHATANT123July 23, 2023

I'd like to voice support for Matt's point of view.

I played the game recently for the first time, along with 1, 2 and 3. I strongly disliked 2 and it left a bitter taste after the brilliance of 1.

To me, the designers of Pikmin 2 did not understand the fundamental tension that holds together Pikmin 1.

To me, Pikmin is about securing a safe supply line for your Pikmin to travel along and then sending Pikmin back to the base, as you press forward and leave them to do their thing. Knowing when to return to the base, how to manage your time, how many Pikmin are needed to approach an enemy, establishing an efficient route to travel along; this is where the strategy of the game comes from.

Pikmin 2 does not have this tension, where you have to make choices about splitting your time and resources. In Pikmin 2 there is no strategic reason to ever divide your Pikmin. You are encouraged to have all of your Pikmin with you at once, to baby them constantly, because the loss of a single Pikmin in the caves is catastrophic.

There is no reason to rush the caves, if you're playing optimally, you will play as slowly and as conservatively as possible, so that you can retain all your Pikmin across the 20 levels of the cave.

So the game loses almost all of its strategic gameplay, to focus on its combat. The core of the game is learning how to defeat enemies without losing a single Pikmin. To me that's not fun, combat in Pikmin should be a means to an end. It's about tapping the A button hundreds of times and shouldn't be the sole focus of the game.

In Pikmin 2 I often found myself dismissing the Pikmin and going to fight enemies as Olimar using his pathetic punches. It's slow and tedious but it means that you know all of your Pikmin will survive for the next level of the cave. This defeats the point of even having the Pikmin, instead of an asset to Olimar they are a liability.

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Game Profile

Pikmin 1+2 Box Art

Genre Strategy

Worldwide Releases

na: Pikmin 1+2
Release Sep 22, 2023

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