I was at PAX South earlier this month and had the chance to play a demo for the multiplayer mode of Pikuniku, shortly before the game was released. Just from that demo, it caught my attention how perfectly ridiculous and humorous it was as a multiplayer platformer. Pikuniku is an adventure puzzle-platformer with silly physics and character mechanics; it has both a single-player mode and a multiplayer mode.
Pikuniku multiplayer mode is an absolute delight to play with a friend. My partner and I couldn't stop laughing when we began playing this game, explored the bouncing, rolling, and kicking mechanics on each other. The game is co-op multiplayer, but you sure can spend a lot of time kicking your teammate out of the way. Each stage adds a new co-op challenge, such as being tied together to your teammate (there will be yelling about which direction to move). Nine stages seemed a bit short for how much we were enjoying it, but it’s also a really good amount for being able to go back and replay with different friends, which I would definitely like to do. My main critique on the multiplayer would be the lack of indication on your progress, or what stage you're on – we finished the 9 stages and suddenly were sent back to stage 1 without any sort of break or ending scene.
I decided to purchase Pikuniku for the Switch at launch mostly because I wanted to continue on the multiplayer mode I tried out at PAX. I hadn’t really even given much thought to the fact that the game also has a single-player story mode. I assumed that story mode would be the same levels as multiplayer, with some small amount of story thrown in. However, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that story mode is a whole different game. Despite the fact that it's only about a 3-hour story mode, it’s one of the most surprising and creative plots in an indie game I’ve played. Let me be clear. Pikuniku is wacky and lighthearted, but it’s also a story about destroying capitalism. Okay, that’s just my take after finishing the game. That's all I'll say about the story, since that part was kind of clear from the beginning. Subtle and not-so-subtle references to real life societal issues were so excellently written into the story that it was almost scary.
The physics of Pikuniku are enough to distract you for a good portion of your playtime. I had to attach a clip below to prove how terribly disruptive you can be to all things in your path (what's wrong with me). If you roll the right way under someone, they’ll end up on your head. You can keep walking, and they’ll be standing on your head. I actually love this. I mean, maybe it's just my criteria, but being able to push an NPC off a platform adds major points to a game's score. The only fighting ability you have is your might kicks, but that does the job for the few battles that present themselves. None of the puzzles are exceptionally hard, but often times your control of the character doesn't go quite the way you expect it to, especially in multiplayer mode.
There’s a lot replay-ability in Pikuniku, as it incorporates trophy achievements even in the Switch version. Trophies are gained both from single-player and multiplayer mode, so you’ll have be really thorough in both modes. It’s easy to miss some of these in a first run-through, so I’m sure it’s enjoyable for fans of collectables (personally not my thing, but I still need to go back and collect a few I missed). The trophies themselves are really cute and fun to look at, too.
Pikuniku is so dang cute and colorful and it’s sure to make you laugh: whether you’re laughing at the ridiculous physics of it, or you’re laughing at how painfully accurate its jokes are. Somehow, it manages to bring up some heavy societal and political issues without taking the mood to a very dark or sad place. It's an indie game that is truly representative of its time, and I really respect the idea behind the story. I’d recommend it just for the single-player, but if you find a friend to play some co-op with you, it’s double worth it for the price. It’s simple its aesthetics but feels clean and crisp to play, and the soundtrack is catchy and consistent with the lightness and bounciness.
Pikuniku is available for Nintendo Switch and PC.
Played on: Nintendo Switch
Playtime: 5 hrs (including multiplayer)
How I heard about this game: Demo at PAX South