This title was reviewed on Nintendo Switch, but is also available on PC.
Pikuniku developed by French-British developer SectorDub and published by Devolver Digital is a 2D puzzle platformer that may well be one of the most refreshing games I’ve played in a while. Happy music, cute characters, and general humour make for an all round delightful experience. Let’s dive right in shall we?
Pikuniku’s graphics are simple yet wonderful, consisting of 2D flat backgrounds and assets that look like they came from MS Paint. The colourful and vibrant look of the graphics are what captivated me, every character a different colour, clouds that you can stand on stand out from the others and different shades of colour are used for things you can interact with. It was this that made me realise that the graphics in Pikuniku were intentionally made as such, to draw you in not with flashy 3D models but with the most simple of things, colour. Using colour as your main design point for graphics opens up a completely new avenue when it comes to game design. Letting the colours do the talking really dumbs down the amount of help you need to give the player, if you make the interactable items stand out, the player will learn themselves how to work the game, and in turn make them feel smarter and more like they’ve worked it out themselves. The graphics here are beautiful in their own right and remind me of some of the old browser games we all used to play in our youth but just better, in this case less is more as I believe this was a brilliant decision for the kind of game Pikuniku is.
You play as Piku, a little red oval with really gangly legs. He is locked away in a cave and is known by the local townspeople as the ‘Monster’ of the mountain. This even though Piku is the least threatening thing since butter. The locals discover this however after you’re coached into leaving your safe haven by a ghost, you are soon captured after breaking a bridge by accident and startling some local farmers. From then on you are tasked with repairing the bridge so the locals can access their crops again, this leads to you having to go places to get things but to get there you need to go somewhere else and get things but to get there you need to…yeah you catch my drift. Either way the story in Pikuniku is secondary to its puzzler gameplay, a means to an end to showcase the platforming genius I’ll discuss in a moment. The story is cute but it’s short, extremely short. I guess that’s all you can expect from a game such as this, short and very sweet, the devs never intended it to be a deep lore filled dive to the other side of the galaxy but more a small paddling pool of interconnecting areas with lots of fun stuff to do.
Here we have the major genius of Pikuniku, the platforming puzzles are never too hard that you want to chop your own ears off but simply fun and challenging enough that you want to stick at them. Your character can jump, kick and swing their way through dungeons to get to the treasure at the end that is inevitably used for some other objective in the game. The thing about this is that there isn’t anything useless, everything fits and works together, it all has a use and straight from the word go you’re collecting items that you can use later on in the game. Bounce pads and spikes mean you have to time and aim your jumps to perfection which makes getting by that pesky section even more rewarding. Every obstacle has a solution that doesn’t take years of thinking to work out and every area has some secrets to uncover. This game truly has had the love of a dedicated team to bring what can only be called a masterpiece together. However…every game has its shortcomings (hahaha pun intended) and this isn’t even a criticism of the game itself, it’s just that it’s way too short. A couple of hours at most if you want to experience all the secrets and trails off the beaten track that Pikuniku has to offer.
As you might expect with a game that I can’t stop going on about how much I like the art style and how cute it is, the audio is no different. Happy chirpy tunes grace your eardrums for the duration of your adventure with the only downside being that it’s one track on a loop. This after a while does become rather irritating but if it gets too much it can easily be turned off. Personally I enjoyed the cute chirping of my Switch as I made my way through the environment. Dialogue is given through text boxes except when you pick an item up you hear a very robotic voice tell you what it is, having “AN APPLE” shouted at you by the terminator will never not be funny. As for audio that’s really as deep as you can get into it I think, with the soundtrack being small and with the voice acting nonexistent it’s not something I think was intended on being too much of a focus of the game and that’s perfectly fine.
To call this game beautiful would be an understatement, the minimalist graphics coupled with the stunning colours, funny and cute gameplay, and chirpy audio tracks makes for a game that I think is great to just sit and unwind with. A lovely little platformer perfect for before you go to bed, if you have a Switch I would definitely recommend picking this little beauty up if you like platformers and cute little ovals that get accused of being a monster.