Detective Pikachu gradually builds a spark of joy
Best 3DS Game
Best Investigative Duo
There are a lot of weird Pokemon games out there. So far, they’ve taught us how to type, convinced us to spend two or three hours a day walking around our neighborhood, aided warlords in taking control of territories, helped us become better artists and took us on photo safaris. I guess I’m saying that a 3DS spin-off starring a talking Pikachu who is also a gruff, coffee-drinking detective isn’t all that shocking. What is unexpected is the buzz this little electric mouse is generating.
The thing is, for a while it seemed like we were never going to actually see Detective Pikachu. And by we, I mean folks outside of Japan. The first portion of the game was released on the eShop in that region in 2016, giving people a chance to meet Detective Pikachu and his partner, Tim Goodman, find out the basics about Tim’s father’s disappearance and solve a few cases. Then, that was it. Everything stopped short and we received no resolution whatsoever. It was only in 2018 that things started to really kick into gear. In January, we learned that the story would continue, the movie was on the way and everyone was going to get to solve some crimes with Pokemon.
That building to something greater is honestly a good metaphor for Detective Pikachu. This is a game that takes its time ramping things up and preparing people for cases. Everything starts out rather small. Tim runs into Detective Pikachu on the street. They help get a stolen necklace back from some mischievous Aipoms, which is a low risk/low reward sort of situation. It is only once you start really looking into Harry Goodman’s disappearance and the appearance of malevolent Pokemon that high stakes situations appear and you really have to think about the game’s point-and-click puzzles.
But even then, it is difficult to feel too threatened when your job has you feeding litter to a Garbodor, make juice for a Shuckle and convince overprotective Wormadams to let you speak to a scared Burmy. There are just too many pleasant things happening around you to worry. If anything, it can be easy to get caught up in that kind of minutiae! The first park Tim visits with Detective Pikachu is teeming with Pokemon wildlife. We see Pidoves being fed by visitors and hopping around. A Murkrow, like a real crow, has an affinity for snatching shiny objects. A child is playing soccer with a Scraggy. We even learn how an ecosystem could be affected by the appearance of a new creature, as the Aipoms only started getting more rambunctious after the Mightyena appeared with her Poochyena puppies.
The Pokemon are just so well realized in Detective Pikachu. It makes the world we get to inhabit more interesting, the places we’re exploring more lively and the puzzles more logical. Since the cases tend to revolve around wayward Pokemon, a player does better if they have some idea as to what different Pokemon are like. The Aipom are looking for attention after a new “threat” moves into the area. A ghost-type creature is haunting an area. One solution might even make a Drifloon, a Pokemon known for carrying away small children who grab onto its strings, a little less scary.
It is incredible to see how Detective Pikachu goes from something so implausible and unlikely to a thing that makes absolute sense. The city Tim and Detective Pikachu explore is filled with people and Pokemon that are so genuine, and we help them as they find their way into more elaborate and grander investigations. We see a foundation being built and get to enjoy how everything finds a way to come together in the end.
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