image5Some games draw you in with intricate, sophisticated stories. Some pull you in with incredibly detailed, massive open worlds. Pikuniku from developer Sectordub and Devolver Digital caught my attention with its simple and quirky art style and a sense of humor that is deceptively clever. It seemed like the perfect type of game that my entire family might enjoy, but would it hold all of our interests? Or leave some of us scratching our heads?

As we all sat down in the living room to check out the game, my daughter asked if she could play first. Being the awesome dad that I am, I was more than happy to let her have first crack at it. “What’s this game about?” she asked as she undocked the pair of JoyCons from the Switch. I thought for a moment about the game description from the press release: “Help peculiar characters overcome struggles, uncover a deep state conspiracy, and start a fun little revolution in this delightful, dystopian adventure!” “Um… I’m not sure.” I lied.

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The story begins with your simple, red oval of a character being awoken in a cave by a friendly looking ghost who guides you to the exit. As Chloe made her out and stumbled down the hillside, she quickly got a hang of the controls, they’re simple and intuitive enough that even younger members of the family should be to play with ease. The visuals also immediately caught our attention. They’re very simple, but have a Katamari Damacy meets Mr. Men type of charm that’s both fun and in an odd way, relaxing. Maybe it’s the fact that so many games bombard you with super detailed environments and flashy special effects, but I found the simplicity of it all very refreshing. The music also has a lighthearted fun to it, although it can feel a little repetitive after you hang out in one environment for more than a few minutes.

She made her way down the mountain to the village below,  meeting an odd cast of characters along the way. From an unusually snarky spider to the paranoid villagers who are terrified of a beast that lives nearby, one of the best things about the game are the weird characters that you’ll meet. Some of the humor seemed to go over her head a bit though, so that might be more of a draw for the grown ups playing the game.

pikuniku - screen 7The gameplay consists mostly of simple platforming and exploration with some puzzles thrown in here and there. Chloe spent around 30 minutes hopping, rolling, and kicking her way around town before she seemed to lose a bit of interest, offering to give either myself or my wife a turn. She passed off the controllers and asked if she could go to the family room and read. If your child asks if she can stop playing a video game and go read a book, that’s not very promising. Lucky for us though that her lack of interest meant that my wife and I got to play the game more ourselves, and we had a complete blast.

My wife played first and went around meeting all of the different townsfolk. Most of them have some sort of task or errand that they want you to do for them, and the quirky sense of humor seemed to entertain us much more than it did Chloe. We spent the next hour or so passing the controller back and forth and making our way through the world. The gameplay never got overly complicated or the puzzles too challenging, but they throw in some twists like a basketball type mini game to keep things fresh and the amount of charm in that world kept us laughing the whole time. I mean… I challenged a robot to a dance battle and defeated a demonic piece of toast, how could we not kind of love this game?

After my wife and I had our fill of the game for the evening, Chloe returned and I thought maybe we’d give it one more go with the co-op mode. Maybe if we played together it would keep her a bit more engaged. Well, I’m glad that she came back because this mode is definitely where things clicked for her and she started to have a really good time.

The couch co-op mode offers around 10 levels to play with a friend, including the aforementioned basketball type mini game that has you shooting hoops with a watermelon. I think these modes clicked more with her because they toss aside the narrative elements of the game and focus on shorter levels that the two of us needed to work together to complete. We did the first three of those which took roughly ten minutes each and they were loads of fun. They require cooperation to get through and the last one we played in particular had our characters tethered together by a rope, creating some truly hilarious moments of us dragging each other around that us laughing out loud.

After a few rounds it was bedtime, and I’m happy to say that we all (besides Sam, who was watching JoJo Siwa videos) had quite a bit of fun with Pikuniku. It’s short, simple, and very charming. After spending so much time with huge, serious, open-world games lately, this was the perfect palette cleanser that offered something to enjoy for both youngsters and adults. If you have a goofy sense of humor and enjoy good couch co-op games, Pikuniku is easy to recommend.

Parent’s Take

John “It’s short and sweet, and the quirky sense of humor kept me entertained the whole time. The co-op missions also offer a fun alternative to the main story.”

Cristina “It’s very cute and a lot of fun. The world is really creative and interesting!”

Kid’s Take

Chloe “It’s a lot of fun, but also kind of obnoxious. Especially the music.”

Sam “I’m gonna go watch YouTube.”

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