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Pikmin 3 on Switch is incredibly relaxing .. until it isn’t

Pikmin 3 Deluxe’s arrival on Nintendo Switch is yet another example of a Wii U game being saved from obscurity with a revival on a far more popular platform (see also: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker, and Bayonetta 2). And while most of these games made the transition to Switch without many new features, Pikmin 3 Deluxe does offer some significant additions, including split-screen co-op in the campaign and a series of prologue levels that set the stage for the adventure ahead.

But the standout new feature in Deluxe is the newly-added epilogue, Olimar’s Comeback, which takes the slow-and-steady pace of Pikmin 3 and pumps it full of adorable crystal meth.

The Pikmin series has gone through a number of changes over the years. The first game, released on the Gamecube in 2001, looks like a childrens’ title; a cutesy adventure with plant beings carrying giant fruit. But then you realize that the hero, Captain Olimar, is quickly running out of breathable air and must repair his spaceship before suffocating horribly. This suddenly turns every colorful day on this planet into a gut-wrenching race for survival.

Pikmin 2 took things in a different direction, removing the air supply time limit, thus letting you cruise around the world at your own leisure. It was a far chiller experience than the first game, and much more in-line with what the adorable plant people would want.

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Pikmin 3 appears to return to the tense, watch-the-clock nature of the first game — requiring that you collect food to stay alive — but thanks to generous helpings of giant fruit in all the levels, it’s easy to build up an enormous padding of safety. Mid-way through the game’s 10-hour campaign, I found myself with so much fruit that I could literally sit on my ass for two weeks straight and not even get a tummy rumble.

Image: Nintendo EAD/Nintendo

This overconfidence carried me through the campaign of Pikmin 3 Deluxe and directly into the meat grinder that is Olimar’s Comeback, a newly-added series of epilogue levels.

Olimar’s Comeback tells the tale of Captain Olimar returning to the planet to repair his misbegotten spaceship, the S.S. Dolphin. Unlike the main game, which lets you go at your own pace over a series of days and weeks, Olimar’s Comeback features individual levels, each with their own time limit. Faster times will award medals and badges, but if you happen to run out of time on a single level, you’ll have to start it all over again.

These levels aren’t very long, mostly taking around 10 to 12 minutes, but in that short span there’s a lot that can go wrong. In the campaign I can spend an entire day trying to lug a massive cell phone back to my base. But in Olimar’s Comeback, that same cell phone journey would wipe away a large chunk of my limited time.

This means that I really have to make every second count to make sure that I can complete the level’s goals before the timer runs out. The campaign never requires much in the way of multi-tasking, but in one of the early levels in this epilogue, I have to literally toss a fellow captain off a bridge and set them to work collecting blue Pikmin for a water expedition while at the same time sending red Pikmin to attack a horde of ladybug monsters on top of the bridge. Without splitting these tasks, there’s no way to complete the level in time.

Image: Nintendo EAD/Nintendo

Playing the epilogue solo can be a serious challenge, as the AI controlling the various captains is incredibly simplistic. But it can make for a speedy logic puzzle as you figure out the right order to do things, even if that means some trial and error. I found it far more fun to have another player control the other captain directly. The game’s split-screen works great, letting two players go about their business in totally separate parts of the map, only to reunite when it’s time to join Pikmin forces to carry a big lemon. It’s a shame Pikmin 3 Deluxe doesn’t allow for online play, though, because finding another player for couch co-op — especially these days — can be tricky.

Pikmin 3 Deluxe does a great job of catering to fans of the entire breadth of the series, from its time-crunchy roots to the chiller days of Pikmin 2. But if you find the relaxed pace of the campaign a bit too lovey-dovey for your hardcore gamer sensibilities, just know that there’s a serious challenge waiting for you at the end of this road.

Pikmin 3 Deluxe was released Oct. 30. The game was played on Nintendo Switch using a download code provided by Nintendo. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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