In one of the years more unexpected releases, Detective Pikachu is back in the aptly named Detective Pikachu Returns. Announced back in 2019, the game is a direct sequel to the original Detective Pikachu game, following on from the story of that game and released October 6th 2023 exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
The story of the game follows protagonist Tim Goodman along with his partner: Pikachu. The duo sets out to solve mysteries in Ryme City while searching for clues about Tim’s missing father. The game starts out with a simple jewellery theft to solve but this escalates into anything but a simple case, with the two of them uncovering a conspiracy, escalating to much higher stakes than a missing jewel.
This all leads to a story taking the duo through several chapters solving different cases. The cases themselves feel predictable for the most part, with you figuring the solution out long before the game gets to that point, with the pacing of the cases being slow, with a fair amount of backtracking finding clues. The story itself is is fairly good despite moving at a slow pace. I won’t spoil much as the games main highlight is its story but it has some plot points you wouldn’t expect to find in a Pokemon title, leading to an interesting plot at time along with Pikachu himself being the star of the show, with all the most entertaining moments involving the wise cracking detective Pokemon.
The gameplay itself is fairly simple, consisting mostly of walking around the areas of the city, speaking to people and Pokemon to find clues to solve the mysteries. Talking to each person can uncover new clues and information that helps move the story along and get closer to solving each case. The clues are recorded in a notebook that you can use to deduce pieces of information such as who the real culprit is or how an event happened. While some of the conversations you have can be fairly entertaining at times, this gameplay loop can get repetitive fairly quickly with it.. However, there are some actions you can take with Pokémon that mix the gameplay up a little. For example, Pikachu can ride a Growlithe and use its sense of smell to track scents to its source. These break up the core gameplay of talking to NPCs to gather clues and add a little more substance to the gameplay along with some QTEs.
The gameplay is very easy and there’s rarely a moment where you’re lost to figure out what to do next. Along with the main storyline, there are also short side quests that can be found and complete. These are usually very short stories that task you with finding a certain Pokemon or item somewhere in the area. These don’t usually take long and are completely optional, with no real reward besides being able to 100% complete the game. Overall, the gameplay of the game is overly simplistic for the most part and can get fairly repetitive over the games runtime.
The game takes place in Ryme City and its surrounding areas. Unfortunately, the visuals of the game are one of its biggest shortcomings. The game looks dated compared to most other games on the switch and looks more like the original detective Pikachu despite being on stronger hardware. The facial animations to be an area where this is most noticeable, the human characters aren’t very expressive. The Pokemon models themselves however look fine, a strong point in the game’s presentation. Detective Pikachu himself has some charm to him with his model and animations. The environments also can look dated at times with the lighting often being not great.
The soundtrack on the other hand is great, fitting the vibe of the game well. This boosts up the presentation a fair bit, with the visuals still being lacklustre, the soundtrack is good and has some catchy songs playing while you solve the game’s mysteries. The game also features voice acting which is also good for the most part. Overall, the game’s presentation isn’t great, with disappointing visuals that make it difficult to get invested in the game, however the soundtrack and voice acting are better, particularly the soundtrack.
Overall, while the story of Detective Pikachu Returns can be entertaining at times, the shortcomings of the game are difficult to ignore, with disappointing visuals and gameplay that feels way too simple, even for a family title. I find it difficult to recommend to someone who isn’t either a fan of the original Detective Pikachu or intending to play the game alongside younger children.
A decent story hindered by poor visuals and slow and overly simple gameplay