Pikuniku, absurdly wonderful – First Sip Review
For those of you that read our Steam Lunar Sale article, you may remember Pikuniku. In fact, it was that sale that made me decide to purchase the game. And after playing it for a while I decided to share my thoughts in the form of this review.
Firstly, Pikuniku is developed by a small team Arnaud De Bock, Rémi Forcadell, Alan Zucconi, Calum Bowen. However, publishing duties were handled by Devolver Digital a fairly major indie publisher with a solid list of titles to their name already.
Pikuniku is a mixture of exploration, puzzle, and platforming.
There is a reason the game is described as “absurd”. To begin with, Piku (your character) wakes up to find a ghost who serves as a tutorial mentor. Or more of a cheerleader might be more accurate. Anyway, the ghost gives you some advice, and you leave your house (or wherever it is you were) and begin your journey in earnest. Meeting a variety of strange and funny characters along the way. But I should really go back a bit if I’m going to talk about the actual start of the game.
In one of the best tone-setting introductions of all time, the jubilant “Mr. Sunshine” (who seems to be more of a raincloud than his name would imply), makes an attention-grabbing claim of FREE MONEY! So it seems, Mr. Sunshine is using a fleet of robots to collect “junk” and in return, he gives the junk owners free money. Savvy readers may notice that this so-called free money is actually paying for what Sunshine is taking. But the characters in the game don’t notice, and I think that’s the point. Because as bright and fun as Pikuniku appears, there is a lot more going on under the surface. Deep state conspiracies, revolution, comments on society. Pikuniku may look sweet and simple but behind the scenes, there are things to learn if you want to look at them.
Most interestingly to me, and why I rated the story so highly is the fact that it works so well as a quirky weird family-friendly fun time. And as a darker more conspiratorial analogy for real-world events.
Another example of simplicity, the art of Pikuniku is bright and fun, quite reminiscent of LocoRoco. Most characters are fairly solid bright colors. Green, blue, red, pink, yellow, orange, etc. Their actual designs are pretty simple as well with big bulbous bodies and generally thin legs jutting out. I’ve mentioned a few times about the simplicity, however, the developers use this greatly to their advantage. While most things lack minute details I never really had any issues in discerning what anything was.
Piku’s design is the epitome of simple, he’s basically a red oval with two black dots for eyes and two long legs that seem to be retractable. There is also a second character named Niku, who is the same shape as Piku but he’s orange instead of red. As you play through the single-player game you can collect hats and masks to dress Piku up which makes him even more adorable. Honestly, just looking at the game gives me childlike feelings of warmth and innocence. Which is sort of why the story works so well.
Working in complete cohesion with the story and the graphics, the music in the game is fantastic. There are different tunes that play throughout the game and I found myself enjoying them so much that I wish I could get the soundtrack (I mean you can, but you need like Spotify and stuff). For reference with the four developer names listen Calum Bowen is the guy behind the music. He’s also worked on soundtracks for various other games and he knows what he’s doing.
Other than the fantastic music there is also the sound design in general. The pattering of the characters’ feet. The springy noise he makes when he jumps and so many more. It all sounds fun and fits incredibly well. The sound in general much like the other aspects of the game just makes me feel good.
Pikuniku is a puzzle game at heart, while it contains other elements like platforming sections and exploration. But all things considered, it’s the puzzles that are the focus of the game. Some tasks are so simple they can barely be called puzzles such as finding birds and a rock and also waking up (the first task of the game). Controls are pretty straightforward as well, Piku can walk, jump, kick, retract his legs and turn into a rolling pill of sorts. Pretty standard stuff really. But in all seriousness, the pill form is fairly similar to a crouch function you’d see in other games. However, you do tend to move at either the same speed or slightly faster which is nice.
As you progress you’ll find various things like buttons, hook points, ziplines and all sorts of fun things. Again most of these things appear in other games in some form or another. But somehow they still sort of seem fresh, maybe it’s the game design or the fact the mechanics are solidly implemented. But either way, the main take away is that it’s a lot of fun to play. You can also collect coins, hats/masks, and trophies so while the runtime isn’t particularly long (estimated 4/5 hours for the main campaign). There is still a lot to do and just being in the world increases replayability.
Also increasing playtime and replayability is the co-op campaign. Much like Portal 2, the single-player and co-op campaigns are completely different levels that share mechanics. Rather than the sort of open-world exploration of the single-player campaign, the co-op campaign is split into levels. It also doesn’t have a story and each level is self-contained. However, you can still collect trophies as per the other campaign. Having both Piku and Niku also opens up some new puzzle ideas, such as one character jumping on the other for extra height. Or you can even kick each other which if you set it up correctly can push you even higher.
There are multiple parts in each stage where Piku and Niku will be split up and have to solve mini-puzzles to help both characters continue the level. It’s quite a lot of fun and now thanks to Steam Remote Play you can even invite a friend from somewhere else in the world to join you.
As I wrote this review I noticed the values were consistently high. As I got to each new section and wrote my opinions I thought about dropping some of the numbers. But honestly, I couldn’t find a reason to, every aspect of the game does what it sets out to do. And I had a fun time playing it which is the main purpose of a game like this. The only real detriment I can see with the game is the short playtime. But again as mentioned above there is replayability and the co-op campaign to add to that.
Tying into the previous point, the initial price-tag for a relatively short game might be a little high. But again I’ve offered a solution to this too. Steam sales. The game goes on sale semi-frequently and the latest sale was an absolute steal. But if you enjoy quality and have the money to spare I would recommend picking up the game at full price so the developers can work on more games.
In Coffee Terms
Pikuniku in coffee terms is like ordering a fancy-sounding coffee from a small cafe just because it looks nice in the picture. You sit down and they bring it out to you, the mug is smaller than you would have liked but it still looks really nice. So you start to drink it and realize the taste is just as amazing as the presentation. It’s sweet but not too sweet, it has that caffeine kick but it’s not overwhelming. A well balanced and expertly brewed blend from a team of barista’s that remain relatively obscure even if the cafe owners have a string of highly successful little cafes around the world.
Honestly, it was hard not to type “Pikuniku Linku.
Pikuniku Review Summary
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.