Detective Pikachu Review: A Charming Fresh Take on the World of Pokémon
Ever since I saw Pikachu dashingly sporting his deerstalker hat, leading up to the 2016 release of Detective Pikachu in Japan, I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the inquisitive electric mouse here in the West. That excitement only grew more fervent at the announcement of a Detective Pikachu movie to come out in 2019, penned by Guardians of the Galaxy and Gravity Falls writers Nicole Perlman and Alex Hirsch. Now alongside a giant Amiibo, standing just over 5-inches tall, Detective Pikachu has made its way to the west packing nearly 3 times the content of the original release.
The story of Detective Pikachu follows a young man named Tim Goodman, who traveled to Ryme City after his father, Detective Harry Goodman, has gone missing for an extended period. Ryme City is a busy European inspired metropolis, with a surprising mix of Pokémon and humans inhabiting the city streets. Nearly immediately after arriving in the city, Tim is knocked off course from his mission by a mischievous gang of Aipom, who steal his map and the necklace of a nearby young girl. During the struggle with the Aipom, Tim stumbles across the star of the game, Pikachu. Upon discovering that Tim is the only one that can understand him speaking, the two hastily decide to team up and track down the fleeing Aipon.
The gameplay of Detective Pikachu is simple yet remains enjoyable throughout. Almost like what could be expected from the investigation phase of an Ace Attorney game, Detective Pikachu plays out as a point-and-click adventure as the duo solves mysteries throughout the games nine chapter run. Since Tim can understand Pikachu speak, the two join forces to question humans and Pokémon alike to uncover leads. As an adult 20-something, I hardly ran into a situation where I was stumped by the game’s puzzles or unclear about what to do next. Yet, I can see the puzzles serving as a satisfying challenge for younger players. What I find more important is how the game managed to keep me engaged, despite its lack of difficulty.
The Pokémon Company pitches the game with the tagline, “a new side of Pikachu” implying that we’ve never been exposed to this grizzled raspy-voiced persona. Which is true, but what makes this game special is that it’s a new side of Pokémon in general. Through the 20+ mainline additions to the franchise and the handful of spinoffs, never have I experienced a Pokémon world that felt so wholesome and honest to real life. After years of playing Pokémon, I’ve found myself less likely to read Pokedex entries unless it was a staple within my party. So, when I was playing Detective Pikachu and saw Pokedex entries brought to life in a practical sense, I couldn’t help but smile. From scientist using Shuckle’s juice making ability to brew new antidotes, or Garbodor as a sustainable way to eliminate waste. Interacting with Pokémon at their jobs or family-lives was like the realization of a childhood dream.
When I was first exploring the streets of Ryme City, my face was gleaming at the sight of humans and Pokémon interacting as we would in our own world. Taking a step back from the usual gym battles of ten-year-olds on their quest to be the best there ever was, or even Pokémon pageant shows. Detective Pikachu showed me a fresh yet believable life of Pokémon. Such as a middle-aged businessman sitting outside of a cafe feeding Pidoves as if they were pigeons. Something that might raise a reaction of, “yeah, of course, that happens” but to see it in action in a Pokémon game was such a delight.
While Detective Pikachu’s puzzles and mysteries aren’t the most difficult challenges, the gameplay still manages to be fun and engaging. On top of that, the new way the game allows players to interact with the Pokémon world makes Detective Pikachu something I don’t think any Pokémon fan should pass up.