Some games don’t let you interact with your environment — be it move chairs, pet dogs or use fire to your advantage. Some games make everything interactive, such as Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. Pikuniku achieves the perfect level of interactivity by letting you kick everyone and everything.
Basics — Hands-off
Pikuniku is an absurdly charming platforming puzzle/exploration game created by Sectordub, a self-described indie game laboratory. The main character, Piku, is a red, armless oval who moves around by slapping their feet about. The story follows them as they wake up, try to remember what’s going on and dismantle the bourgeoisie by accident.
Controlling Piku is very simple — apart from moving around and jumping they can tuck their legs in and roll, swing on their leg at certain spots and most importantly kick everything and everyone on their path. This allows for a good variety in the traversal options and challenges laid out in front of you, both on the platforming and puzzle side of things. You also end up talking with a bunch of characters with some limited choices — usually one simple choice per discussion.
In addition to all of that there are some items and hats that aid you in your quest, such as a pencil or a watering can. There are also a bunch that do nothing other than flop in the wind or look nice on your head. Completely useless headwear is the cornerstone of the gaming industry these days.
Visuals — LocoRocking my world
The first thing that strikes about Pikuniku is the visual style — the creators went with a very simplistic approach. The whole game is filled with a lot of simple shapes and flat colors. Character detail is also minimal, something very reminiscent of the wonderful PSP classics LocoRoco and Patapon. The style is wonderful and charming now, and it will stay like that forever.
On a similar note, so is the music. All the tracks, created by Calum Bowen, work perfectly with the visuals and add a great deal to show. The multitude of different honks, bells and other sound effects make the experience so much more enjoyable. The character voices, made by a bunch of random sounds strung together in an Animal Crossing-like way, work well too.
Feel — Absurd is the key to my heart
The overall experience isn’t too long — the game suggests around four to five hours for the campaign. And while my playthrough only took me three hours I have not collected every single trophy that can be found. For me, this is a good thing — you can finish it in possibly even one sitting, the story is well paced and it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Difficulty wasn’t an issue either. The majority of the experience was a breeze, and even the boss battles weren’t much of a challenge — I died once and only because of my own mistake. The most challenging parts are the optional gauntlets, and even those have plenty of checkpoints and an easy way out if you want to leave and get back to the overworld.
The game tells a nice story about the rich trying to create a utopia that would work only for them, and how a random variable such as Piku waking up in a cave somewhere can screw it all up by accidentally joining and headlining the revolution. The main side characters Piku meets on their way are funny and likable, and their actions are logical, unlike some other bits.
That is because the game is filled with the absurd. An attempt to fix a toaster sends you into the toast dimension. There’s a compulsory dancing mini-game after you get your swag up and enter the exclusive club. There is a sports game that does nothing, and you can not partake in it at all. The side content in the game is not at all connected, and yet fits in perfectly within the world created by Sectordub.
In addition to all of that, if you have a friend with you then you can both play the co-op mode. It consists of nine long levels that can satiate your hunger if you needed more floppy platforming and puzzle solving. Some of them have mechanics that are never used in the single-player campaign, so it’s worth checking just for those gimmicks — who doesn’t want to ride in a tiny car?
Pikuniku sparks joy. The weirdly charming story works perfectly with its timeless aesthetic and absurd sense of humor. Whether playing the campaign or figuring out the puzzles with your close ones, it is a game worthy of going back to once every couple of years just to enjoy its simplicity. And to kick everyone and everything.
Pikuniku is available on PC on Steam, as well as on the Nintendo Switch.