Review: Detective Pikachu is for young children… and fans of Pikachu’s voice acting
by on May 8, 2018

Detective Pikachu is one of those ideas that came out of nowhere. Pokémon is no stranger to spin-offs, but I am certain that no one expected the mascot of the series to be given a voice and be employed as a detective. Even so, I was intrigued when the game was announced… only to be subsequently disappointed when the game was never released outside Japan. Now, here we are just over two years later, and Detective Pikachu has finally been localized.

I was excited to finally jump in, but unfortunately, what I found was a bit of a mixed bag.

FULL DISCLOSURE
Nintendo of America has graciously provided us with a review copy of Detective Pikachu.

An interesting but slow-paced story

Detective Pikachu starts out pretty strong. You play Tim Goodman, a young man who is searching for his father, a detective who went missing recently. Soon after arriving in town, you meet Pikachu, your father’s partner. This Pikachu is a bit odd because Tim can understand everything he says. Together, Tim and Pikachu continue the search for Tim’s father after the police investigation has hit a dead end.

The story is a highlight of a game. You encounter many different Pokémon and explore a variety of different areas including city streets, lakes, warehouses, and a cruise ship. You never really know where the story is going to take you next, and the story keeps you guessing until the end. There were many times that I thought I had the whole story figured out only to be surprised later on.

Even so, the story is not especially original, and anyone who has played other investigation-style games like the Ace Attorney or Danganronpa series will find it lacking at every turn.

The story’s biggest weakness is its pacing. There are nine chapters in the game, and many of them feel like padding intended only to extend the length of the game.

Repetitive and simple gameplay

Let’s get this out of the way: Detective Pikachu is designed for young kids. How much enjoyment you find while playing the game will depend greatly on how much you love Pokémon (or Pikachu) and your age. At my age, I found the gameplay to be pretty boring. But another person with less experience with the genre may find it to be new and exciting.

“How much enjoyment you find while playing the game will depend greatly on how much you love Pokémon (or Pikachu) and your age.”

The investigations play out the same way throughout the game. You will gather testimony by speaking to everyone (and I mean everyone). You may also find evidence by exploring the nearby environments; common types of evidence are documents left out on tables or items found on shelves. Then, Pikachu will guide you through using the evidence to reach some kind of conclusion. Then, with your new information, you will repeat the entire process, which often requires running back and forth and talking to the same people repeatedly, until you solve the entire case.

Occasionally, you will get to take a break with a more interesting puzzle. One such puzzle is actually a Zelda-style block puzzle. Another has you deciphering a password to open a door. All of them are relatively simple.

The quick time events are neither challenging nor fun.

Then there are the quick time events. During major story moments, you will frequently be asked to press the A button at certain times to successfully help Tim escape harm. It’s a very simple set of quick time events that are difficult to mess up.

Unfortunately, I found the actual gameplay to be the weakest part of the entire experience. Again, I am certain this is because I am far outside the target age group for this game. The story kept me engaged enough to finish the game, but the real reason I kept coming back was Pikachu.

Pikachu!

I love Pikachu. Maybe its boring, but Pikachu has always been one of my favorite Pokémon. The character of Detective Pikachu is what initially made me interested in playing the game, and the character of Detective Pikachu is my favorite part of the entire experience.

At almost any time, you can activate one of dozens (hundreds?) of cut scenes where Pikachu talks directly to you. He gives you game tips or plays silly pranks on other nearby Pokémon (or has a prank played on him). Sometimes he just tries to scare you by jumping in front of the camera. Pikachu is perfectly animated, and his gruff voice is just perfect.

Pikachu alone sells the entire experience.

Pikachu is fully voiced throughout most of the game. He will applaud you when you solve a case and give you a hard time if you select a wrong answer. He frequently interjects with random comments about his love for coffee or to poke fun at Tim for whatever happened in the last cutscene.

This Pikachu is unlike any other that has been seen in a video game before, and despite all its short comings, I would play another Detective Pikachu game just to see all the new things Pikachu has to say.

An excellent game for younger fans

I have to be completely fair: If I were twenty years younger, I probably would have loved every minute of Detective Pikachu. The easy solutions to each investigation and the very simple gameplay are clearly targeted at a much younger audience. If you are a young Pokémon fan yourself, or if you are looking for a new Pokemon game for a young fan, this may be a great choice. Fortunately, there is a demo on the eShop, so you can try it before you jump in.

Pokémon fans will find a lot to love. There are many different types of Pokémon, and I learned a few new things about them while playing through the story.
Fans of other investigation-style games will find the gameplay lacking in every department. The logic is simple, and the investigations are boring when compared to other prominent series in the genre.

But Pikachu almost makes the entire experience worth the effort.

Score Similarity to other games
5.0/10 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – ▲▲△△△
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair – ▲▲△△△
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass – ▲△△△△
Joshua Lindquist
Joshua is the content director of Zelda Universe and long-time executive of Zelda Wiki who previously founded Zelda Relic. Wielding an undying passion for Zelda, he works behind-the-scenes to build collaboration in the Zelda community.