Y’know those child cartoons that contain a ton of jokes and writing that you wouldn’t have understood at the intended audience age? That’s this game.
Pikuniku is a puzzle adventure game made by Sectordub and published by the indie specialist Devolver Digital. You take control of Piku, the titular red circle with legs that has awoken from a slumber only to find out that the locals label you as ‘the beast’ — the sign outside of your mountain abode even warns people to not open your door. However, after repairing the bridge that is destroyed (by Piku), the townsfolk warm up to the red blob and the exploration begins in full. It’s up to you to guide Piku through the journey, solve puzzles and explore the world to understand just what’s going on, who you are, the purpose of the giant robots and why there is a man handing out money everywhere.
It’s quite obvious from the start that Pikuniku is a game for younger audiences. The colourful world is plain and simple to understand, with ghosts and blobs and birds littering the terrain to interact with. The core of the gameplay revolves around the desire to explore this multicoloured world, and the puzzles that stop you from doing so. These puzzles revolve around levers to press to open different areas, kicking objects to sit on other objects or rearranging a room to be able to jump up high enough. It’s straightforward enough to understand at a glance, yet rewarding by giving access to the rest of the area or level or world to see what’s around the corner. Any source of frustration I felt usually based on the fact that I could see the solution almost instantly, but know that I would have to run back to a certain area to acquire the solution.
What keeps Pikuniku motivating for all ages is the world that has been crafted for these simple yet engaging puzzles. There’s a childlike sense of wonder in many of the areas, where little is explained with words — the game just allows players to explore and find out what’s going on. Characters frequently have their own problems that they are trying to solve that have nothing to do with your ‘mission’, rewarding you with little in the traditional sense of a game. This may sound bad, but it sets the tone of the world that Piku feels: that they aren’t sure who they are and what they are doing, and the world is just continuing forward regardless and subsequently, Piku can do whatever they want. There were countless times where I would get distracted due to the lack of ‘direction’ besides ‘go explore the world’, where I would find a pathway and just go for as far as I could before coming across a little dungeon to beat in a toaster. Pikuniku gives you the tools to just simply explore while keeping some areas locked away via power ups, so you can find that wizard floating in the sky or the talking worms.
This sense of vast exploration can only be achieved with the clever writing that’s used throughout the entire game — well, maybe not clever, perhaps unpredictable is the correct term. Characters talk in a nonchalant tone, then suddenly zoom in when they begin to yell some exciting news about their breakfast. Individuals all talk about their own problems to Piku regardless of how personal or how bizarre, leading to constant conversations with strangers simply to see what they will say next. Will they bring up a dance competition, or make a joke that I swear would go over a 7 year old’s head again? As stated in the subtitle above, there were more than a handle of times that a line of dialogue felt as if it was directed at a crowd of adults, yet was delivered in such a child-like tone that I nearly missed the possible undertones. There are references to working for exposure and references to genocide laughed off with a love for corn. Sure, there are jokes that fall a little flat at times — not every joke can be a winner — but there is enough content to keep players exploring and looking for the next hidden area all because a villager mentioned something offhandedly.
If there is one downside to Pikuniku, it is that the physics elements of the puzzles can be a little frustrating to work with, such as if a ball gets stuck in a corner or it rolls completely down a hill for some reason. These mishaps shouldn’t occur often, but in typical puzzle fashion it is always during a long puzzle that is starting to wear thin. This won’t detract from the overall experience, so go out there and discover how much of a beast Piku is at rolling balls around and finding hidden rooms by running into walls. Oh and kicking literally everyone and everything in sight to see what happens. The length of the game is also up for debate, as a full ‘playthrough’ from start to finish can be completed in a single sitting. There is replayability in your quest to find more hidden items and locations throughout the world, but some may find this lack of length to be a little disappointing. It can either be viewed as a short game, or a fun interactive movie experience for all ages, and neither are a wrong point of view to take.
Pikuniku was made to be enjoyed as a gleefully childish adventure, at least that’s what I can tell from it. They even have a co-op mode to share the puzzling exploration fun with another, be that a sibling, a friend or a willing parent who is wondering what all this nonsense about “Pikaniku” is about. It’s easily a game I’d recommend to anyone that’s looking to either play a simple game with any age group, be they children or aging grandparents that don’t care much for games. It’s inviting and colourful enough to keep anyone engaged, and the writing can be appreciated by all.
Welcome to page 3 of 59 of the bundle (I just demoralized myself a little typing that out).