Did you check the new mobile game Pikmin Bloom yet? New AR games are always exciting to try out, in my opinion, but it’s not always easy to tell what AR features precisely they bring to the table. Pokémon GO, for instance, is relatively popular even after all those years, and the AR features don’t really add much to the game at all. So what about Pikmin Bloom, which has been launched today for the public? Read on to find out more.
History of Niantic, Nintendo, and AR mobile games
Both Niantic and Nintendo developed Pikmin Bloom. It’s fair to say that even though Niantic has not always used camera feeds for their AR (augmented reality) features in mobile games, they are still a pioneer in the scene and have been around since 2010, founded as Niantic Labs as a Google-internal startup. Ever since their first steps in AR by developing mobile games like Ingress in 2012, they kept on pushing the boundaries of what the smartphone hardware would allow them to do. They had their breakthrough with Pokémon GO and later also worked on titles like Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, which is already announced to be discontinued, as well as Catan: World Explorers, Transformers: Heavy Metal, and now Pikmin Bloom.
In comparison to other previous AR mobile games from Niantic, Pikmin Bloom feels a lot more relaxed. It doesn’t push you as much to do challenges and to compete with others. There are also no quests that drive a story like in Pokémon GO or The Witcher AR game. As you start the game up for the first time, there’s just a bit of information that you get in the format of a simplified tutorial. However, this doesn’t take you too much time, as the concept of the game is as simple as it is loveable.
What even is a Pikmin?
What’s a Pikmin? Nintendo might explain them differently, but if I had to use my own words, I’d say that Pikmin are little creatures from another planet that seem to be partially based on plants. They were introduced in the GameCube age of Nintendo around October 2001. The original genre was real-time puzzling, and you played the hero Captain Olimar (an anagram for “Mario” with a Japanese R/L?) who had crash-landed on the Pikmin planet.
What happens in Pikmin Bloom?
The hero in Pikmin Bloom is you. You need to nurture Pikmin seeds into Pikmin based on the number of steps you walk. Once the seeds are grown into a Pikmin, you give them food, and they reward you with flowers. The collected flowers can then be used in your adventures outside to make your virtual environment prettier when you’re taking a stroll. As you move across the map, your path is filled with flowers, and as you do that and slowly run out of flowers, your Pikmin seeds grow faster, and you require fewer steps to have them become a Pikmin. The process is a little like the egg hatching in Pokémon GO. However, another thing that is worth noting here is that you can do the “flower-walk” together with friends, and you can actually see your friends as Mii avatar on the map.
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So this is a bit of cyclic progress here. You gather seeds, grow them into Pikmin, feed them, plant flowers, and get more seeds to start over. But it’s a lot more enjoyable and satisfying than it probably sounds to you now. It would be best to try the game out yourself since it’s free anyway. It’s currently available on iOS and Android devices. Just a small tip here for starters: if you connect your existing Nintendo account to Pikmin Bloom, they will reward you with a Pikmin seed with a location source based in Japan, near the Nintendo office.
It’s only been out since today, so I’ve only spent some time with the game inside and outside, but as of now, I think it’s a nice game that’s rather relaxing than demanding for the players. The Pikmin are super cute, and having them follow you around or assemble for you is as sweet as it gets. The software could use some debugging and some more features, but this is just as everybody would expect from a mobile game on launch day. I’m confident they’ll do some fixing and improvements there.
What about AR now?
Similar to previous Niantic games, the AR features are primarily focusing on using your location in the real world and embedding real-world points of interest into your game experience. Yes, there are AR features as well that use your camera live video feed to “project” the Pikmin into the real world and have them interact with objects that exist in the real world, but none of these enrich the gameplay.
They are there for taking a snapshot maybe and sharing it with your friends, but it is no part of the central game mechanic. Is that an issue? Not at all, the game is fine as it is, but it’s not going to be a beacon of futuristic video gaming. I am curious to see if Pikmin Bloom will be around for the long term and if they will be able to attract enough players to keep the service profitable. Give it a try.
YouTube: Pikmin Bloom Launch Trailer
Photo credit: All images shown are owned by Nintendo and Niantic.