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Pikuniku

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Pikuniku Game Poster Image
Short, cute puzzle adventure with positive themes.

Parents say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Themes of acceptance and rebellion against an evil corporation fill an otherwise simple story about exploring the world and offering help. Multiplayer promotes positive social experiences by local cooperative and competitive play with a friend.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Piku spends most of his time helping people with requests that range from fixing bridges to scaring away pesky birds. He solves problems without violence for the most part, though he's a bit obsessed with kicking things.

Ease of Play

The controls for movement and actions are straightforward and intuitive. Some puzzles require a bit of experimentation to figure out what needs to be done, but never veer towards frustration. Concepts of "dying" or even "losing" don't really apply, meaning kids are unlikely to get angry if they don't succeed.

Violence & Scariness

Piku can kick stuff, including objects and characters. This tends to just mildly annoy people rather than seriously injuring anyone. There's not really any combat, save for a few short boss battles that are more focused on puzzle solving and avoiding incoming attacks (such as bursts of water) than actively fighting back.

Language
Consumerism

What parents need to know

Parents need to know Pikuniku is a downloadable puzzle adventure game for the Nintendo Switch and Windows PCs with little in the way of any sort of iffy content. Players control Piku, a little round fellow who jumps about and kicks stuff as he explores a strange world, stopping to help characters in need. Others are initially scared of him, believing he's a famed "beast," but through his actions Piku proves himself to be not just un-beastlike, but actually kind and very willing to lend assistance. That quickly changes people's opinion of him, making them accept and appreciate him. He spends most of his time completing tasks for others, many of which are either directly or indirectly related to rebelling against an evil corporation intent on harvesting and profiting from local natural resources. Multiplayer encourages friendly social play by letting pairs of kids work together to solve puzzles and face challenges.

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What's it about?

PIKUNIKU is a side-scrolling puzzle adventure focused on a hero named Piku, a little red ball with expressive eyes and stretchy, kicky legs. He begins the game waking up in a cave, then ventures out into a colorful world in which people are initially afraid of him. But they soon come to appreciate that he's a good guy who just wants to help and participate however he can, whether that means practicing baskick (a soccer/basketball mashup) or playing hide and seek. As people get to know Piku, players are introduced to a company intent on getting rich off the locals' land. It uses a big grey ship to harvest corn while dropping money to distract and appease anyone who might object. It soon becomes apparent that this corporation is the real antagonist of the story, and Piku is the only one standing in its way. Players wander around the world looking for things to do and people to help, with activities taking the form of puzzles and creative tasks, such as drawing a picture of a face using a pencil hat and putting it on a scarecrow to get rid of some pesky birds. There are also a couple of multiplayer options outside the main story that allow pairs of players to work together or compete with one another in races, as well as quick games of baskick.

Is it any good?

Quirky design and surprisingly funny moments create an appealing, welcoming vibe that's hard to ignore. Pikuniku quickly captures your attention with its odd looking, spindly-legged hero, then slowly sinks its hooks in with weirdly satisfying kicking mechanics (it's worth it to try kicking everything, from rocks to characters). It's also got a strange cast of side personalities, who look like Uglydoll rejects and often react to Piku's kicks, prods, and actions with giggle-inducing responses. Add in some simple but enjoyable puzzles, along with overarching themes of social acceptance and environmental stewardship, and you have an unusually upbeat and pleasant game that turns its dogged inoffensiveness into an unexpectedly appealing asset. It's hard to imagine anyone playing this game without having at least an occasional grin.

Which makes it a little sad that it's over almost as soon as it begins. It's nice to see a winning idea taken to its full potential, but that doesn't quite happen here. The developers could have done more with the hat mechanic, for example, giving Piku additional abilities by donning even more hats -- sort like in Super Mario Odyssey. And while we get to use Piku's kicking power in some fun ways, including swinging from little footholds and breaking stuff to reveal surprises -- it feels like it, too, could have been further exploited. They say to always leave the audience wanting more, and Pikuniku succeeds in this. But it's also important to leave them satisfied, and there could have been a little more meat on this particular bone.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Pikuniku is a relatively short game that some players could potentially finish in a single sitting, so if you enjoy a game, would you rather make it last longer by playing it in shorter sessions over a few days rather than all at once?

  • What sorts of things can you do while playing with friends that you can't do playing alone? Is there anything you can do playing alone that you can't with a friend?  

Game details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love puzzles

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