For some not quite logical reasons, I still like to play Pikmin Flower. It’s been almost six months since Niantic’s walking companion app launched, and my routine hasn’t changed much in that time. Every day I try to take my steps. I often fail. I sometimes gain way too many steps while driving with my phone in my pocket. I occasionally go out of town and have to wait weeks for the objects I find there to come back to me. But every day, several times a day, I check. I feel like I’m accomplishing something.
I’m not. I make the numbers go up. And I’m still trying to figure out the appeal of it all, because it goes against what I generally love about games.
Mechanically, there’s not much play here. You have tasks to accomplish, which sometimes require a hint of strategy. And there are ways to optimize your team. But usually it’s about walking. You walk to find seedlings, walk to grow them, walk to get food to feed them. In a typical game, that would lead to something. Cultivating more Pikmin would unlock different types of gameplay or new stories to explore. Here you plant flowers and fight fungi, but there is no challenge for either. You’re basically building your team to keep building your team.
A big part of that, I imagine, is that Niantic needs to make money, and the more it can make you think about numbers, the more likely you are to spend money to accelerate those numbers. Which is weird in a game built around walking, since you’re basically getting it wrong, but it’s done responsibly – the game doesn’t retain key features if you don’t pay, and I haven’t spent yet (or I feel like I need to spend) a dollar on it.
Without the typical challenges I look for in games, I find a lot of Pikmin FlowerThe appeal of comes down to something that sounds pretty boring on paper: it’s satisfying to see new technology working well.
Games on real-world maps aren’t entirely new at this point, but there’s still something fascinating about seeing yourself in two worlds at once, and Niantic’s technology has evolved to the point where it all works. good. In this case, you’re essentially playing the role of a post office supervisor, and it’s still fun to send out Pikmin and see them come back, again and again. Even the smallest details, like how the app uses vibration, feel refined to the point that playing feels like a taste of the potential of what games can be in the future.
I also love the passive collaboration of it all. Contrary to Pokemon Go and Entrance, Pikmin Flower does not contain competitive elements. I remember the developers of Journey talk at some point about removing features that would allow players to negatively influence each other online, and it looks like Niantic has taken a similar approach here. You can plant flowers alongside other players and team up with other players to fight fungus faster, but the design prevents you from doing anything that would spoil someone else’s experience.
It reminds me Noby Noby Boy or Curiosity: what is inside the cube?in that you’re all working together towards a common goal, although I guess in the latter case it all sort of fell apart (and arguably wasn’t “shared” to begin with).
I wish all my time spent would lead to something a little more concrete. Not just collectibles, but things to do. A final game. Still, as I keep reminding myself, that would defeat the whole idea that this is a companion app for exercise as much, if not more, than a game. more importantly, it would also mean, unfortunately, that I would have to stop playing.