Detective Pikachu, a spin-off in the Pokémon franchise, was originally released in Japan in 2016 as a short game called Great Detective Pikachu: Birth of a New Duo. Two years later the full version of the game was released all over the world, and now getting its own movie in the year 2019. Picking it up after Christmas, I played through it to see what it was like.
I played some Nancy Drew games when I was younger, and I was utterly terrible at them. Although, in recent years I had more of an interest in the mystery genre than I did before. Detective Pikachu is not a hard game for older players. At some points, I got stumped either because of a change in the gaming mechanic or because I had to look for something rather specific. As expected the beginning was rather obvious on the culprit, but as the game progressed it did become more difficult and thought-provoking at times.
Even at times during the “big reveal” where the evidence is laid out, as well as testimonies and circumstances, I would have to stop and think it through all the way. Sometimes, I had a culprit in mind, but I had to make sure that it matched up correctly. Now, that doesn’t mean that the solution necessarily had to be logical, of course. When going through the case notes to solve part of a case, you use testimonies to answer several questions. You can do the trial and error process until Pikachu gives the OK. Not something I relied on, but I would miss something in the game, and would have to play around with ideas until something clicked.
Now, what about the story? As a mystery game the story isn’t as important as the cases themselves, however, it is vital to keeping the cases accurate on where they lead. In this case, we have Tim Goodman, a teen, looking for his father, Henry, who happened to be the Great Detective Pikachu’s partner before going missing. He meets Pikachu, a Pokemon that he can understand for some mysterious reason.
Pikachu himself is a very strange Pokemon, and not just because of his deep voice. For one he is unable to use any moves, from Quick Attack to Thunderbolt. His mind, however, is key to solving the mysteries he and Tim come across in order to find Henry. Now, the biggest mystery is what he was like before Henry went missing, as several dream sequences show him being rather similar to other Pikachu and able to use Thunderbolt.
The story in its entirety is rather solid, you go from case to case with only a few recurring characters, as expected when going to different places. Yet, the game as a whole isn’t very replayable. Once you solve a case or the game entirely, turning around and playing it again just isn’t fun. Going back and solving puzzles isn’t the same since you already know the solutions. You’ve already figured out the small details, like who do you need to talk to in order to move on.
Also, there is no post game since the entire thing is scripted. I’m not one to complain about the linearity of games, as I believe that games can be good linear. However, in this case, not having a post game leaves a bad taste in my mouth and leaves me unsatisfied. We caught the mastermind, we prevented disaster, a promise is fulfilled, but we don’t know what that promise is, what the cost was, and the entire goal throughout the game is still left wide open.
I get that the developers probably have plans for a sequel as it is a Pokemon game, but the way it ended just left me unsatisfied. We can’t even explore the city, see how things have changed, or visit all the other people and Pokemon that we met.
There isn’t even a New Game + with outfits for Tim and Pikachu or unlocking a hidden mission. Just NOTHING. There is no reward for completing the game, not even a “Thanks for the playing”, kind of thing like in Mario. That and without the replayability makes it hard for me to even think of going back and playing it again since nothing would have changed. It feels so hollow to finish it. In comparison to other Pokemon games, I feel like Detective Pikachu lacks in replayability.
So overall it is a good game to play, but if you want to play it again you’d either have to be really into the story or have a short memory for puzzles. The beginning is a bit hand-holdy, but it’s to be expected for those who have never played such games and for younger players. This is a game for Pokemon fans and no-one else.