Operation Backlog Completion 2024
May 112022

I’ve been saying I would play it for years now, and this mystery celebration was the push I needed to finally play Detective Pikachu.

(I haven’t seen the movie to compare the two, so everything in this review is solely about the Detective Pikachu game for the 3DS.)

Detective Pikachu follows a boy named Tim who is searching for his father, who went missing under suspicious circumstances.

He joins forces with his father’s Pikachu, who gained the ability to talk (except only Tim can understand him) after the accident.

It’s an adventure game of sorts where you investigate crime scenes and talk to characters to gather evidence to solve the mystery.

Unfortunately, the gameplay is rather… basic. Everything you learn or inspect is added to your list of evidence/testimony, and once you’ve gathered everything, you solve the mystery by choosing the relevant evidence/testimony in response to questions about the case.

I got a bit worried early on when the game gave me questions like “What clue does this feather give us about the culprit?” Answer: “The culprit is a Pokémon with feathers!” It does get a bit more challenging than that, but the mysteries are never exactly mind-bending.

Talking to people and solving these smaller mysteries in the course of pursuing the larger case is the bulk of the gameplay, along with occasional action sequences that give you a couple easy quick-time events.

Pikachu and the story are clearly meant to be the draw here, and they’re the game’s strongest points. Pikachu is cute, and there are some genuinely funny moments. He does not behave like a normal Pikachu, so his reactions to various situations are the highlights. You can also talk to him at any point for a variety of short scenes, although I didn’t take the time to keep checking back to try to see them all.

The story feels aimed at a younger audience in general. (Actually, I thought Tim was supposed to be 13 or so until he got into a car and started driving. It turns out he’s 18.) It’s a cute story, and entertaining enough.

It also ends on a cliffhanger, leaving a few core mysteries unexplained. Now, one thing that bugs me is that it hints strongly at a certain twist, to the point where it almost feels too obvious, while at the same time not really explaining how the twist could be true.

Click for Detective Pikachu spoilers
I’m talking, of course, about the strong implications that Detective Pikachu has taken on the personality of Tim’s father, Harry. They make such a point of how Pikachu’s behavior has changed (and several of these changes parallel what we hear about Harry’s personality) that it seems almost certain. Yet it’s not clear how exactly that would tie into his deal with Mewtwo and Mewtwo at the end telling him to choose. Detective Pikachu remains his current self, so was that the choice? But in that case, where’s Harry’s body? What would the alternate choice have been?

I don’t know, there are enough details that don’t quite add up to make me think that maybe the reason the implications are SO obvious is because it’s actually a red herring and Detective Pikachu isn’t Harry at all.

In short, I found Detective Pikachu to be… pleasant. It’s a cute game. The gameplay is fairly basic and it’s not the most compelling mystery, but the story was enjoyable enough.

This does leave me conflicted about the in-development sequel, though. If the Switch Detective Pikachu game is truly a sequel, I’ll probably play it. But if it’s another updated re-release with more story added, like some people think, I don’t know if I enjoyed it enough to play through it again.

Don’t forget, May is Mystery Game Madness month, so you have a chance to win games and other great prizes by participating in this year’s contest!

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  7 Responses to “May Mystery Game Madness: Detective Pikachu Review”

  1. I felt similarly about the game. I had more fun finding the unique Pikachu scenes that with the game’s story. As for your spoiler-text theory… let’s just say that the movie addresses this particular plot point in a more thorough matter, or at least doesn’t leave the story with some kind of open-ended cliffhanger like the game did.

  2. I have so little respect for Detective Pikachu that not only do I continually forget that there is allegedly a sequel being developed, but I also forget that it even has a first game to begin with and the whole thing ain’t just a movie.

    I’m a bit surprised you liked it.

  3. Well… humor is subjective.

  4. […] expanded version of the original game, it appears from the trailer to be an all-new sequel. When I played Detective Pikachu last year, I found it to be pleasant enough to play a full sequel if that was what the new game […]

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