A new installment in the Pikachu series is not expected to be the next God of War. But there are limits: despite some nice moments, Detective Pikachu Returns feels so sloppy and its mechanics so off-putting that you wonder who this game is intended for.
Published yesterday at 9:42am.
The concept of Detective Pikachu was a decent success when it was first released in 2016 for the Nintendo 3DS, earning it a film in 2019. Far from being a masterpiece, “Detective Pikachu” received a rather positive reception in this daring category of films compared to video games.
So here we are, seven years later, choosing The Return of Detective Pikachu, the English title chosen for Quebec, while we chose The Return of Detective Pikachu in France.
The story takes place in Ryme City, a city where humans and Pokémon live in harmony despite some disturbing incidents involving these scary animals. The hero Pikachu here has the personality of a gruff detective from the noir novels of the 50s, who always wears his Sherlock Holmes hat and is a big coffee lover. He teams up with his early partner Harry’s son, who goes missing.
The son in question, Tim Goodman, is the only one who understands what Pikachu is saying in his gravelly voice, while the other people only hear “Pika!” Pika! “. Our duo is therefore led to carry out one investigation after another, starting with the theft of a precious jewel. Tim questions the humans, Pikachu the Pokémon, and the clues are compiled into an investigation booklet. Pikachu can sometimes rely on that sniff out a trail from his fellow creatures, break through obstacles or see through walls. Once you have accumulated enough, you can make deductions and solve the puzzles.
The premise is promising. On the graphical side we are treated to the very colorful aesthetics and simple animations of the Pokémon series. It should be noted that from time to time we are even entitled to real dialogues, in English or Japanese, with French subtitles. According to our test colleagues, a French audio version was also offered in France.
And we take some joy in embarking on the investigation and beginning to gather clues to complete it.
Well, the first reservations arise with the observation that investigations are really, really easy to solve. In fact, we cannot miss the conclusion, firstly because the signals sent are crude and secondly because we are always guided, even if we make a mistake. Even an 8-year-old child may not find the challenge challenging.
The graphics are pretty, but give a strange impression of unreality. The characters nod their heads, have vague and expressionless facial expressions, and give the impression that they are avatars stuck in a computer in sleep mode. We actually feel like we’ve stumbled upon an unfinished demo.
And that is the crux of the problem. The entire course of Detective Pikachu’s Return involves the constant reading of the characters’ lines. The text scrolls click by click. The detectives and witnesses interviewed are verbose, there are a lot of lame jokes and irrelevant comments. We waste a lot of time moving from one room to another and waiting for the furnishings of a new room to appear. While sleeping. From time to time we have to frantically click to get our detectives out of a dead end, but there is no danger: they always succeed.
We’re wondering who this game is intended for. The level of complexity of the investigation is childish, but the child in question must want to have these long dialogues, which are often not very edifying. The Pokémon fan does not have access to the franchise’s gigantic catalog, but only to a few dozen copies, only a few of which demonstrate their abilities. We imagine that a player who is a model of patience could find what he is looking for. That wasn’t our case.
Detective Pikachu returns
- Developer: Creatures
- Publisher: The Pokemon Company, Nintendo
- Genre: Adventure
- Age rating: from 7 years
- Release date: October 6, 2023
Rating: 5 out of 10
Tried on a Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by Nintendo