Pikmin is an odd little confection that was unleashed on the Gamecube early in its life. It’s the tale of Captain Olimar, space-pygmy (that is to say, he’s four centimetres tall) and astro explorer extraordinaire. On one fateful mission, he loses control of his ship (which has that random bits of crap hammered together in a shed on a sunday afternoon Millenium Falcon feel) and crashes onto an unknown planet. He’s left stranded in a hostile atmosphere, with only thirty days of air. Days in Pikmin last about as long as it takes me to get out of bed, on a good day, so he’s pretty much knackered at this point. A matchbox-sized coffin was being arranged by his next of kin, until the deus ex machina strides magnificently into view. This takes the form of an homogenous horde of the most adorable aliens you’ve seen since E.T phoned home.
These freakish little dudes are the Pikmin. While apparently botanically-based, they raise a casual middle finger to logic by being basically humanoid once plucked from the ground. (Think Mandragora legends, but less bone-chillingly terrifying. That shit always creeped me out.) When Olimar picks each one, they dash over on their tiny stumpy-plant legs and beam emphatically at him. What does he do with his new-found adulation? Enslaves the little guys, naturally. When his ship hit the ground, it didn’t explode dramatically, burning the flesh off our hero’s bones in a catastrophic conflagration. (Nintendo frowns upon such things.) Instead, the vital components all flew apart like the aftermath of a pissed assault on a Jenga tower. If he can corral the Pikmin, explore the planet and return the pieces to his now utterly shit ex-ship, he can escape a slow unpleasant airless death. Or, indeed, a fast, equally unpleasant face-chewing death from the local wildlife.
And a monstrous bunch they are. The indigenous beasts run the gamut from giant bird-head to miniscule pig with a fire-expelling elephant trunk. It’s the kind of crap Dr. Frankenstein might have sewn together during his lunch breaks. (“My pretty...” the doctor cooed. “Now let’s attach a giraffe penis onto this shark. Don't ask why, Igor. I'm the boss, that's why.”) Oftentimes they serve as bosses of sorts, defending the next precious portion of your ride. Sometimes they’re just trundling along, licking their own balls and doing whatever else wild animals do all day. Olimar doesn’t bother distinguishing between the two, and throws ‘min on their backs to beat on their groins regardless. When your enemies fight back, though, it’s a saddening business.
Seeing the aforementioned monstrous bird-head devouring Pikmin with such relish is quite shocking. The poor little guys let out a pitiful whine when they perish, like a dog demanding to be taken outside for a piss. This is accompanied by a ghost passing across the screen, bulging eyes staring out at the player in silent, eternal accusation. You can have 100 of your minions following you at a time, and if you’ve named each and every damned one, (which I did not do) the guilt factor is multiplied exponentially.
Horatio! Get away from that giant-assed frog! It’s going to crush y.. HORATIO!
Said asshole amphibian then felt the full extent of my wrath. But that’s just par for the course in the lunatic cartoon world of Pikmin. A truly underrated game, from the nigh-peerless mind of Japanese gaming wizard Shigeru Miyamoto.
Article by Chris Littlechild