Detective Pikachu Review
Even if you are not a long time fan of the Pokémon franchise, there is one thing you probably do know: Pokémon don’t talk to humans and humans don’t talk to Pokémon. Sure, based on emotions of a Pokémon – or even their actions – a good trainer can determine what a Pokémon is thinking or feeling; but to actually talk to one? That is basically unheard of. So when we learned about the popular Japanese Detective Pikachu and that it was going to be brought over to the West, I was incredibly skeptical. I wasn’t onboard with talking Pikachu. So how did this colour my view of the game? Thankfully, it didn’t!
Despite the craziness that is a Pokémon talking with a human, and vice versa, the developers made it seem so natural within the first 10 minutes of the game, introducing the transition into human-Pokémon communication in a humorous way. You’ll play as Tim, who has made his way to the big city to find his missing father. You’ll meet up with him after he gets off the subway and up to street level, with his eyes straining to see Baker Detective Agency on one of the signs. It is at this moment that Tim runs into Detective Pikachu, as well as a few Aipom who steal a nearby girls necklace. With little introduction between Pikachu and Tim, your game begins with your first case!
Everything is quickly explained to you, and although I found the first case to drag on quite a bit, the pace picks up as you get going. Ultimately, you’ll want to talk to everyone you see, collecting clues, and finding points of interest on the map. From time to time you’ll be asked to remember the clues you’ve been given, and slot them in as Detective Pikachu recounts the facts of the case to that point. This will push your case forward. You’ll have two folders on your lower screen: case files and case notes. Here is where all the information you’ve learned to date will be stored. When looking for updates on your case to date, or to see what evidence you’ve collected, beautifully drawn pictures of the evidence and the case to date can be found on this screen. The art work here might be the best part of the game, and if that was ever available as background screens for my cellphone, I’d download it in a heart beat.
As Tim continues to look for his dad, a number of slight story twists do occur. These are infrequent, and at times I really wish these were a bit more fleshed out. The revelation of Detective Pikachu and Tim’s dad might be one of the biggest the game drops on you, but it’s passed over like nothing crazy had just been revealed. It was as big of a twist as when you learn Tim can talk to Pikachu, but that was handled with humour; this, unfortunately, was basically washed over.
But overall, the writing throughout is fantastic. Pikachu cast as a middle aged, old somewhat grouchy man is fantastic, and his and Tim’s voice acting are top notch. When bringing the first fully voiced Pokémon to Nintendo consoles, Nintendo could be forgiven if it wasn’t 100% perfect; this was as close to perfect as possible, and I can’t give the developers enough praise for how they handled Pikachu.
Detective Pikachu is an easy experience for adults, but yet one that is still fairly engaging; I genuinely wanted to figure out all the cases, and definitely wanted to know what happened to Tim’s dad and the why all the Pokémon were acting so weirdly. But at the end of the day, I think this is once again something aimed at younger kids and teens. For the most part, my son Logan loved his 15-16 hours with the game and although he required a bit of help from myself – usually when he forgot some of the clues people had given him – he was able to play through most of it without much help.
For Logan, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and as I played through other things for review, I’d periodically look over at Logan and almost always could see a great smile on his face. Logan rarely plays through a game to completion because, as a child with ADHD, he struggles to focus on tasks that are not enjoyable too him. Being able to get through this entire game over a weekend was a huge accomplishment for him, and a testimate to the work Nintendo has done bringing this title west.
The experience on Nintendo 3DS isn’t without its issues though. As pointed out by numerous reviewers and YouTubers, the game lacks a save option, so the only way to safely power done your device is to walk into a new area so the game can auto-save for you. While the game gets progressively better as you go, there can be some pacing issues present, especially for older, more established gamers. I generally knew some solutions prior to solving the case, and slugging through to that predicted end did get tiresome on occasion.
Other negatives pointed out to me by players was the lack of extra collectibles or hidden objects to find in each chapter, as well as the lack of personality that protagonist Tim had, especially when you compared him to Detective Pikachu. Pikachu was fantastic throughout, which may have highlighted Tim’s lackluster performance a bit more.