It's not even near the busy season yet and we've seen some very decent games released this summer. Pikmin 2 is another great entry. This is not only a good summertime release, this is one of the best Cube games ever released and I don't say that lightly. Nintendo has really stepped up to the plate on this one and hit a homerun. If you like the original Pikmin, you'll pee in your pants with delight when you play Pikmin 2.

For a real-time strategy game, the Pikmin series has developed a control system that is easy to learn and operate while still maintaining a great level of depth. That same ease of control is present in this second installment but this time around there's more things to control and consequently more depth. There's also a lot of new features such as the two-player co-op and verses mode in addition to new Pikman characters, new playable characters, new levels and an extended duration of gameplay that eliminates the 30-day time limit imposed on the original.

Prepare to be blown away by quality. From the opening cutscene to the credits at the end of the game this is one seriously polished presentation. Nintendo has not overlooked any detail. The framerate is steady with a hundred different characters running around at any given time. The sound is presented in Dolby Pro Logic II and visually the game supports progressive scan. The characters all have a 3D quality to them similar to the presentation in Chicken Run though the look is not intended to replicate stop-frame animation. The environments are huge and feature different themes for each area.

Starting where the last game left off, Captain Olimar has fixed his spaceship freighter and has returned to his planet only to find that his company is on the verge of bankruptcy. With the assistant of a new goofy character, Louie, he heads back to the planet of the Pikmin to find enough treasure to save the outfit. With the help of the Pikmin, the Captain and Louie must accumulate at least a hundred-thousand-dollars worth of treasure, most of which will be located in dangerous caves which is where lots of the game will take place.

Pikmin are plentiful. There are hundreds of them. There are different colored Pikmin that have different attributes which can be used in different situations. You can assign Pikmin to do a variety of different jobs such as fight enemies, build structures such as bridges and locate treasure. As in the first game there are yellow, red, and blue Pikmin, any of which can be used for some basic assignments but you will have to make sure that you save some of each color so they can perform their special tasks when the time comes - and it will. The yellow ones are impervious to electricity, the red ones are fireproof and the blue are waterproof. Obviously you'll send in the blue ones to cross a river and the red ones through a wall of flames.

There are two new colors of Pikmin added to this game. White ones are fast and have the ability to neutralize poisons as well as administer them. It will take less white Pikmin to destroy an enemy with poison than it would the traditional way. They are also the only Pikmin that can see hidden treasure making them a very valuable commodity and not one that you would take risking lightly. Purple Pikmin are fatter and more powerful. They do more damage but they also come in handy when lots of weight is needed.

The degree of control options is impressive. This isn't like interfacing with a menu for micromanagement issues. Every decision you're faced with requires some degree of strategy. One decision always affects another but there are so many different variables that the game will, in all likelihood, never be played the same twice. It may be linear but there are so many different ways to complete your tasks that the gameplay always feels open and fresh.

Not only can the Captain control the Pikmin but you can divide control of them up between the Captain and Louie at the press of a button. You can even take the groups in different directions but a lot of times you'll end up accidentally selecting Pikmin from the other character's stash. This is just the nature of the control scheme and it's something you'll have to live with. The same goes for the few Pikman that get stuck in or behind an obstacle when you're moving them around. It's annoying but acceptable.

You can play a two-player co-op or verses mode which adds greatly to the replay value. The split screen mode looks great and doesn't chug the framerate down regardless of how many characters there are onscreen.

Pikman 2 is a must-have for any Cube owner, regardless of their ambivalence toward real-time strategy games. Pikman 2 redefines the genre and makes it not only accessible to the masses, but a whole lot of fun as well.

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System: GameCube
Dev: Nintendo
Pub: Nintendo
Release: Aug 2004
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Stew XX