A grumpy, coffee-drinking Pikachu is everything I didn’t know I needed in my life until it was sitting right in my hands.
Detective Pikachu, designed for the Nintendo DS family of consoles, gives players the satisfaction—more than any other Pokémon-themed title from Nintendo has fully achieved in the past—of what would it be like to live in a world with Pokémon, all while on a mission to solve different cases.
The overarching mystery is a bit ominous. Instead of trying to be the best that no one ever was, players explore Ryme City as Tim Goodman. His father, Detective Harry Goodman, has been missing for two months, so it’s up to him (you) to find out what’s been going on. Coincidentally, there have also been a few strange disturbances happening in Ryme City that Tim’s father was looking into. Suspicious.
In the game, you’ll wander different locations throughout the metropolis, interact with different people and their Pokémon, and develop a strong bond with cheeky Pikachu… But he’s not the Pikachu you remember!
Just going off of the cheery “Piiii-ka, Pikachu!” sounds from the TV show, I had no idea what to expect the first-ever talking Pikachu would sound like, which is why I burst out laughing when he first spoke and had the voice and an attitude of a middle-aged man (and what the Internet hoped was Danny DeVito).
This gruff, spunky Pikachu can hang. He loves coffee more than anything, is sharp as a tack, and will interrupt your investigation to tell you a joke. He can’t use any moves and prefers to walk on his hind feet. Tim and Detective Pikachu have a special bond, because he’s the only one who can understand the iconic yellow Pokémon.
Soon after you meet Pikachu, you both start to investigate Tim’s dad’s disappearance and all of the mysteries of Ryme City. You’ll mostly be trying to find out why friendly Pokémon are suddenly becoming violent and attacking other people, Pokémon, and their surroundings. You and Pikachu make a pretty solid sleuthing team, since you can talk to the humans and Pikachu will talk to the other Pokémon.
There are nine chapters in the game, and in each one, players get closer to figuring out what Tim’s father has been investigating that ultimately led to his disappearance. Each chapter plays like a case, in which players will investigate crime scenes, gather testimonies, uncover information, and interact with other Pokémon. Three to four sub-cases will also pop up, so each chapter can take from 45 minutes to more than an hour to complete.
To crack each case, players will collect evidence by talking to Pokémon and humans. If your detective skills are not up to par, don’t worry. The important information will be highlighted in red, and the important information will automatically go into your Case List. Players can also turn on “easy mode,” where you can hit a blue lightbulb for a hint for what to do or where to go next. Pikachu will also call your name from time to time, and will either offer some advice or just provide some silly comic relief. There are also a few interactions that require hitting the A button multiple times, or pressing it when an moving circle reaches a marked spot, kind of like maneuvering a Poké Ball in Pokémon Go.
The gameplay is simple enough for a younger audience, and it really doesn’t require that much deducing, up to the point where I wished I had a little more freedom. Following multiple cases in one location can also feel tedious sometimes, especially when you have to talk to the same people/Pokémon over and over again.
Along the way, players will meet an array of super fun and interesting characters, like Professor Fridge, who pronounces laboratory like Dexter from Dexter’s Lab, and Pedro, the coffee connoisseur. The graphics are pretty impressive and makes watching the cutscenes enjoyable, it feels like watching a miniseries. There are more than 150 cutscenes in total, whether Pikachu is just bugging you to be annoying or giving you helpful hints.
Players will enjoy the fun nods to classic Pokémon themes, including an adorable scene where Tim confuses Ash’s Pikachu for his Pikachu (come on Tim, your partner has a hat). The two Pikachus end up talking, and Detective Pikachu tells the other and his partner to “be the best like no one ever was,” and you realize it’s Ash’s Pikachu instead of a rando. Cue my cold heart sobbing for a bit.
The story is fun and weird to follow, but adults will probably figure out everything that is going on early on in each of the cases and in the game. (For everyone complaining about this, please remember you are up against 7 year olds playing this game). My biggest complaint is that the game ends without you actually finding out what happened to Tim Goodman’s father, but that just leads me to believe that a sequel may be in the works—and a potential expansion of the franchise overall, with a movie in the works of the same title to debut next year.
Detective Pikachu is a fresh, charming new introduction for kids in the Pokémon series, and millennial magic for kids who grew up with the franchise.