Over the years, the Pokemon franchise has offered fans a number of interesting video game spinoffs from the primary “gotta catch ’em all” series. From Pokemon Stadium to Pokemon Sleep, each game offers a different way of engaging with the creatures and world we know and love. Detective Pikachu is perhaps one of the most interesting installments, giving us a talking, wise-cracking Pikachu.
Detective Pikachu Returns is a sequel to the original Detective Pikachu Nintendo DS game, which invites us back into the world of Tim Goodman and his partner, Detective Pikachu. It’s set two years after the events of the first game when a new mystery creates upheaval in Ryme City.
While the game has a solid sense of humor and a relatively engaging main storyline, Detective Pikachu Returns suffers from a lack of immersive gameplay and repetitive question-and-answer sequences that make it feel more like a lightly interactive movie than a video game in its own right.
- Developer: Creatures, Inc.
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Price: $49.99
- Release Date: October 6, 2023
A Game with Humor and Storytelling at Its Heart
Part adventure, part point-and-click, the plot is the central driver for Detective Pikachu Returns, as we pick up after the events of the previous installment to once again solve a mystery in Ryme City.
Detective Pikachu himself is described as a “wise-cracking” Pokemon with a love for coffee, and this quirky take on the character is the primary selling point of the game. Humor is infused throughout the story, from Pikachu’s tendency to lose his balance to the taglines used to introduce us to various characters. There were quite a few times I had a little chuckle during a cutscene or from a line of clever dialogue.
That said, this story also has a good bit of heart, as relationships between people and Pokemon form its core. I will confess to tearing up a bit during a few moments in the parade of cutscenes that is Detective Pikachu Returns, and the balance of humor and heart in the story kept me engaged even when actual gameplay elements fell short.
Gameplay with Training Wheels
Like its predecessor, Detective Pikachu Returns fails to deliver a particularly immersive experience when it comes to gameplay. The map is relatively limited, and if you try to veer off course for a particular point in the story, Pikachu or Tim himself will scold you and turn your character right back around.
In terms of what players actually do in the game, it’s mostly a point-and-click gathering of clues. You use your notebook to gather clues by interviewing people and Pokemon and clicking through crime scenes. Then, you answer multiple-choice questions to deduce your next move and solve the mystery. Here, too, Pikachu won’t let you misstep, as you’ll get a gentle “try again” from the talking Detective if you select the wrong option.
These elements make it virtually impossible to waste time following bad leads or wandering around in unrelated areas of the map. This is a great introduction for younger or newer gamers, as it ensures you won’t get frustrated or feel lost about your next move. However, for more experienced gamers, it feels like having your handheld gaming with training wheels.
Tap Into Pokemon Skills Outside of Battle
By far, the most enjoyable and interactive gameplay moments are when Pikachu teams up with Pokemon pals to navigate obstacles using their special skills. It’s always fun to engage with Pokemon’s abilities outside the context of battling other Pokemon, and this was one of the more interesting aspects of Detective Pikachu Returns.
Teaming up with Pokemon lets you interact with the map more robustly by moving crates, following scents, and solving other puzzles in real-time. You also get to listen in on translated conversations between Pikachu and his friends, letting you see the personality of each Pokemon in a way you can’t when you only hear “Pika Pika.” I found myself wishing this aspect of gameplay was available more often, as opposed to the many “mash the button” pivotal cutscene moments where you help Pikachu accomplish tasks by simply hitting a button repeatedly.
Overall, Detective Pikachu Returns is a unique entry to the Pokemon universe that offers an engaging story but falls short in gameplay. The storytelling and humor are enough to keep you interested in learning what will happen next to Pikachu and his friends. Still, if you’re looking for an interactive and engaging video game experience, this one doesn’t quite deliver.
If you’re interested in an entertaining story that doesn’t require heavy gaming chops or hours of free time to play through, Detective Pikachu Returns may have something to offer. The world has some interesting detail that pulls you in, and you can play through the full story in a relatively short time.
6 / 10
|+ Entertaining storyline with good bits of humor|
|+ Wide variety of adorable Pokemon play a role in the game|
|+ A technical marvel|
|– Limited flexibility with game progression and exploration|
|– Fairly repetitive and simplistic gameplay elements|
|– Relatively short total playtime without much replay appeal|
Gamepur team received a Nintendo Switch code for the purpose of this review.