Platform: Wii U
ESRB Rating: E, for Everyone
Grade: 4 stars (out of 5)
If you had but one day to live, would you check off everything on your bucket list that you could, or would you fight to give yourself another day?
The latter makes up the paper-thin story of "Pikmin 3," but gamers should hardly care. That's because this lovable franchise has at last returned to give us the joy of sacrificing these little creatures by the hundreds in order to survive.
For the uninitiated, pikmin are creatures with special abilities. Those that are red in color are heavy lifters, those that are blue tackle water well, the yellow handle electricity and so on. Charlie and his shipmates only have a short time to live if they don't collect adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables. And wouldn't you know it? These pikmin love nothing more than scarfing this stuff down.
Armed with a trusty whistle, you move Charlie and Co. across several sprawling landscapes, encountering beasts and food. You can only usher up to 100 pikmin at a time, so a vast amount of your focus is on strategizing how many of which kind of pikmin to collect and have follow you around.
You will encounter more throughout each level so you can replenish your forces. But be aware, for example, that running out of blue pikmin not long before you reach an uncrossable creek is, shall we say, a problem.
Maintaining an ice-cold relationship with your pikmin remains crucial as well, because, as stated previously, you run through these cute little characters at an alarming rate. Some beasts that are encountered require one to experiment with the right combination of pikmin to defeat them, and depending on how many enemies ambush you, it could be a loss of great proportions. And while I call these bugs and robots "enemies," they hardly seem that. Rather, they are just minding their own business trying to survive -- just as you are -- and when you cross their path you have no choice but to do battle.
Equally dispiriting will be the reluctance of pikmin to properly follow you around the map, which means that a few stragglers will perish and you'll occasionally curse the camera for making the viewing angle difficult to make forward progress.
The game gives you two ways to control Charlie and his buddies. The GamePad provides a great map to help keep you moving in the right direction, while the Wii Remote has more accuracy in making on-the-fly direction changes and instructions for pikmin. Neither one is 100 percent, however, and you wish there were a better balance or a way to use both.
''Pikmin 3" offers beautifully rendered environments, engaging audio and expands upon what made the first two editions so popular. It is one of the best Wii U releases of the last few months.