Adventure Corner ~ Detective Pikachu Returns
Welcome to Adventure Corner, a column where members of the RPGamer staff can give their thoughts, impressions, and pseudo-reviews for various adventure titles that don’t come under our usual coverage. Adventure Corner is aimed at delivering opinions on a wide range of titles including visual novels, point-and-click adventures, investigative mysteries, and so forth.
In this edition of the column we take a look at Detective Pikachu’s return on Nintendo Switch to solve more mysteries.
Detective Pikachu Returns
2018’s Detective Pikachu provided a fun take on the world of Pokémon, examining how humans and Pokémon could live together in everyday life, outside of places where battling is the be-all. Tim Goodman’s mystery-solving adventures in Ryme City with partner Pikachu, who he can mysteriously understand, provided a very enjoyable take on the setting and plenty of charm seeing the creatures fit within their environments. Now, five years later, Tim and Pikachu return in the aptly-named Detective Pikachu Returns to put a wrap on their story and Tim’s search for his missing father.
The game picks up two years after the events of the events of the first game. Tim and Pikachu are being commemorated for their actions in the previous entry, with Tim continuing to act as private detective in Ryme City while continuing his studies. It isn’t long until they are drawn into a new case when a rampaging Corviknight steals Pikachu’s hat, and they act to get it back. After doing so, they are soon hired to investigate a stolen jewel, and in the course of this investigation come across Rachel Myers, Tim’s classmate and the mayor’s daughter, who has something she wishes to discuss with Tim and assists with his upcoming cases as they tie back into both of their families.
Not counting the prologue, Detective Pikauchu Returns covers five decently-sized cases taking place in different parts of Ryme City. Each are condensed into a few locations within the city; there’s not a huge amount of exploration to be done. As its heart, the game is a very basic point-and-click adventure. Each case features event scenes interspersed with clue-gathering and talking to witnesses, both human and Pokémon, that lead to quick deductions to answer questions about the mysteries using the information gleaned. Some sections will see Pikachu enlisting the assistance of Pokémon allies to find clues, such as using Growlithe’s nose to track a scent but even these are very straightforward. There are at least some extra requests within each case that do encourage exploring the areas and talking to those creatures who aren’t directly involved, which adds a touch of much needed interactivity to the locations.
Detective Pikachu Returns’s issues stem from how mind-numbingly easy the mysteries are to solve. Some consideration has to be given to its target audience, which is very much on the younger side, but even then the answer to almost every question is blindingly obvious. There’s almost no way to go wrong; deductions feature a small set of possible answers to each question, and players are more than welcome to select the wrong ones first if they wish before taking the blatantly correct answer. The game at least offers a fitting conclusion to both it and its predecessor’s overall story arc, even if players could have sussed most of it much earlier, but overall it feels like a weaker entry than the first game.
The presentation elements of the game also don’t really impress. There are some good animations to the Pokémon and it is nice to see a new selection of variants and listen to the voiced cries. However, the human characters feel a bit stilted and there’s just not a whole lot going on visually or with the designs. The music is enjoyable enough, but the script doesn’t really give the voice actor much opportunity to emote; Tim gets perhaps the most chances and is fine when they crop up, while Pikachu’s gruff detective voice lends its charm to the game, but by and large it just doesn’t grab attention.
Feelings on Detective Pikachu Returns are going to be very much informed by what individual players are looking to get out of it. For younger gamers, particularly those just getting into the Pokémon series, the game and its predecessor could be a fine fit. However, the more experienced fans hoping for some engaging mystery solving and more interesting examination on casual life with Pokémon are almost certain to find the game lacking in both its storytelling and gameplay departments.