“Don’t expect a shocking revelation.”
I have a friend who’s been praying for a sequel to Detective Pikachu for years, and his enthusiasm has been infectious because the day Detective Pikachu Returns was announced, I could almost match his excitement. Now, I didn’t play the original on the Nintendo 3DS, but I remember being very impressed by the demo and as a longtime Pokémon fan, I had to give this some attention.
Detective Pikachu Returns is a direct sequel to the first game and even addresses the existence of the movie in a weird cutscene early on in the game.
It takes place about two years after the previous events and all this time, Tim & Pikachu have been looking for his father. With Tim’s unique ability to talk to Pikachu and the latter being able to talk to all Pokémon, they form an impressive detective duo and have been solving case after case. They’ve gained a celebrity status in their hometown but trouble is afoot!
ℹ️ Reviewed on Nintendo Switch | Review code provided by Nintendo, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on X!
That’s some good coffee!
Things I liked!
- The main star | While we have to make do without Ryan Reynold’s voice acting, the gruff-talking Detective Pikachu steals the show in his own namesake game. His animations and expressions are always fun and it’s great to see the main characters interact with all the Pokémon of the world, in a game where everybody goes about their daily activities with their trusty partners by their side. Pikachu is even greeted by the regulars of the café when he goes there to get his daily coffee.
- Funny at times | While I wouldn’t classify this as a comedy title, there are moments where the cutscenes and interactions put a smile on my face. Pikachu even cracks some dadjoke-level puns (which I can appreciate) and there are sketches like the one below that tickle my funny bone (I am easy to please)
- Visually impressive – for the Switch | Detective Pikachu Returns is not going to win any “Best Graphics” awards, but for a Nintendo Switch title that I mostly played in handheld mode, it did pretty well for itself. I even dream of a mainline Pokémon title looking this good. Some of the environments could use some additional polish (especially the last level of the game full of boring corridors) but the Pokémon steal the show and the cutscenes are especially great.
- Ride along | Throughout the game, various Pokémon will offer to give Pikachu a ride so he can use their special skills. Growlithe can use his keen sense of smell, Pangoro can move heavy boxes, Luxray can look through walls and Darmanitan can smash through walls or ice. It offers some nice gameplay variation, but usually only for very short bursts. (and rather easy puzzles)
Smells like trouble!
Neither good nor bad
- Story | There are a lot of similarities between this game’s main plot and the first entry in the series and neither are anything we haven’t seen before. I’m trying to dance around any spoilers, but the truth of the matter is that there aren’t any big revelations to spoil that anyone with half a brain won’t see coming from a mile away. There are several main cases in the game and all of them work towards the final reveal, but even for a ~12-hour game it felt overly long and took too much time to get going. I was also missing some form of epilogue. It’s not bad, just boring, most of the time, and I’d argue that’s even worse.
- Voice acting | Most of the game is voice-acted and that never fails to give some extra character depth to the main cast, but outside of Pikachu himself, the performance wasn’t exactly stellar. I think the main issue is the script which is too simple and doesn’t allow for the actors to put a lot of emotion into their roles.
- Side quests | In each chapter, you’ll encounter some people and Pokémon in need of assistance, usually this is just a glorified fetch quest or a matter of finding a specific pokémon whose skills are perfect for the job. It adds some extra things to do outside of the main storyline and you’ll even be rewarded with a newspaper headline the next day mentioning your efforts.
- No fail-state | The main gameplay consists of interrogating everyone and finding clues, after which you’ll have to deduce what has happened or what the intention of the bad guys is in this case. You’ll be given a few possible conclusions, but there is no penalty for picking the wrong one, other than losing the extra bit of time to more chatter. Less experienced players can just trial & error their way through the entire game, making it very accessible for even younger players.
Poor Lotads about to take a dip in icecold water.
Things I disliked!
- Difficulty | Detective Pikachu is one of the easiest games I’ve ever played and that is saying a lot because I always play games on easy mode when they let me. The game will flat-out hint at the solution of cases right before you’re even allowed to try and figure it out yourself and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know what has happened and how, long before the detective duo does. And then they go and repeat those facts once or twice more. It gives the game a bit of an identity crisis as I don’t really know who the target audience could be. It’s way too easy for most people and I doubt young children are excited about the detective story and gameplay. Even the main plot twist is something you’ll see coming from a mile away, so don’t expect any shocking revelations here…
- Small environments | All of the locations are pretty small in scope and yet the game will force you to walk back and forth all the time, especially if you go for all the sidequests. The last level of the game is the biggest offender with a chain of boring corridors
- Excuse me | If there is one thing that’ll make me cringe in games, it’s repetitive voice lines. Traumas surface whenever I think of Blue Dragon and the “nothing” expression whenever you search a bag or chest. In Detective Pikachu, it was Tim’s “Excuse me” that got a rise out of me. If you have to talk to a person and ask them 4 questions, what’s the point if prefacing each and every question with that voice line. It was almost enough to convince me to turn off the volume altogether.
How long did I play the review before publishing? 15 hours
How long to beat the story? ~13 hours
You’ll love this game if you like these: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Detective Pikachu, Dagonronpa
67/100 ⭐| Detective Pikachu Returns tries to bring a jolt of excitement to the Pokémon universe through great visuals and lively animations. However, its shockingly simple plot and low difficulty might leave more seasoned gamers wanting more.
If Phoenix Wright + Pokémon is a combination that sparks your interest, then be sure to whip out your magnifying glass and detective hat!
Robby lives and breathes video games. When he’s not playing them, he’s talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He’s online so often, he could practically list the internet as his legal domicile. Belgian games-industry know-it-all.