Detective Pikachu Returns is a captivating spin-off that brings a unique angle to the immensely popular Pokemon franchise. While not the first appearance of Detective Pikachu—a character who even inspired a successful Hollywood film—the Nintendo Switch release stands out as a bona fide sequel that also welcomes newcomers to this particular offshoot of the Pokemon world.
The game is an investigative adventure featuring a loquacious Pikachu and his human ally, Tim Goodman. The narrative picks up where the original Detective Pikachu game for the Nintendo 3DS left off, but playing the predecessor is not a prerequisite for enjoying this sequel. Tim teams up with Pikachu to find his missing father, and in the process, they tackle a series of enigmas that not only challenge their detective skills but also deepen their friendship.
However, the game’s execution leaves something to be desired. While Tim and Pikachu can communicate with each other, this conversational ability is not extended to other Pokemon, limiting the scope of their interactions. Tim is the primary investigator when it comes to human sources, while Pikachu takes a backseat. Together, they solve a range of mysteries, some of which are disappointingly straightforward and lack complexity.
The core narrative is engaging enough, featuring Pikachu collaborating with other Pokemon to aid in investigations. However, the side missions offered are less compelling. Often revolving around simplistic tasks like finding a missing Pokemon, these missions lack the depth and satisfaction one might expect. They serve primarily as a means to flesh out the game’s world and its inhabitants, although the main storyline already does an adequate job of immersing players in this universe.
Detective Pikachu Returns, while an upgrade over its Nintendo 3DS predecessor in terms of technical aspects, does not fully leverage the capabilities of the Nintendo Switch. Frequent loading screens disrupt the game’s pacing, and the presence of invisible walls limits the player’s ability to freely explore the game world. On the positive side, the visuals are well-executed, featuring a charming cartoony art style that performs well in both portable and docked modes.
The game’s narrative resumes in Ryme City, nearly two years after the events of the first installment. Those expecting connections to the Detective Pikachu film will find none here. The story kicks off with Tim and Pikachu receiving accolades from the city’s mayor for solving a significant case involving Pokemon posing dangers to humans. However, their ceremony is interrupted by an attack, propelling them into a new investigation.
The gameplay primarily involves Tim collecting evidence by scrutinizing the environment for clues. Objects can be interrogated to glean insights into the case, all of which are meticulously recorded in a casebook. Once the player has spoken to all relevant characters and examined pertinent objects, the casebook is consulted to deduce the likely suspect. The gameplay here is straightforward, lacking the intricate cross-referencing of facts and statements found in more complex detective games.
However, the game’s simplicity is not necessarily a drawback. The primary allure of Detective Pikachu Returns lies in its intellectual property, and the game features numerous cameos from fan-favorite Pokemon. For those who enjoyed the original game or the Hollywood adaptation, the world of Detective Pikachu Returns offers a delightful experience. The game occasionally shifts gameplay dynamics by allowing players to control Pikachu, introducing brief segments that involve simple stealth maneuvers, quick-time events, or mini-games.
Detective Pikachu Returns is a commendable game that offers a concise yet fulfilling experience. Completing the main campaign along with the majority of side missions takes just over 10 hours, making it a game that respects the player’s time without overstaying its welcome. While the game doesn’t offer much in terms of replay value, it serves its purpose as a one-time, engaging adventure. For those seeking a laid-back gaming experience that combines elements of adventure and investigation, Detective Pikachu Returns stands as a worthy option.