Somewhere between putting on a demon mask to bark at villagers and jumping into a toaster to confront a sentient slice of bread, I began to realise that Pikuniku is a bit… different.
Developed by Sectordub and published by Devolver Digital, Pikuniku is probably best described as a side scrolling dystopian puzzle platformer, but even that does the game a huge disservice given the constant, surprising variety of things to see and do.
By the time the credits roll you’ll have overthrown a shady conspiracy, won a dance off with a robot, and playtested a worm’s new video game. Every ounce of this game is designed to make you smile, and it constantly succeeds. Think WarioWare crossed with Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and you’re getting kind of close to what Pikuniku is.
You’ll play through this whimsical adventure as a small, red creature with two gangly legs. You can bounce around, kick various objects, and even roll around like a loose Tic-Tac. After waking up in a cave, you’ll eventually arrive at a village populated entirely by bizarre characters who seem convinced you’re some kind of ancient, evil beast (you aren’t, to be clear).
Before long you find yourself embroiled in the plans of some brave resistance fighters who are working against an evil mastermind who wants to destroy the island you live on and replace everyone with robots. As far as video game narratives go, it’s hardly God of War, but it gets us from A to B and paves the way for some entertaining “boss” battles, which I won’t spoil here.
The brunt of the game sees you exploring the island’s three main areas and helping out the residents in order to progress. While the world is admittedly pretty small, it’s densely packed with memorable characters.
Even if an NPC doesn’t have something specific for you to do, they always have something entertaining to say, and I never came away disappointed by an encounter. This is thanks some brilliantly written dialogue, and a deliciously meta sense of humour that permeates throughout the game.
Much like Undertale, this is a game that’s well aware it’s a game, and it uses this knowledge to embrace the inherent ridiculousness of the medium. This allows for such insane segments as the aforementioned toaster showdown, an encounter which is summed up brilliantly by the only witness with: “Huh, I guess I won’t be eating toast for a while.”
When you’re not wandering around the game’s residential areas, you’ll be getting stuck in to a spot of good old fashioned puzzle platforming and exploration. Your characters legs can be used to grapple across certain obstacles, or to kick blocks and barrels onto switches to unlock doors.
It’s all fairly lightweight stuff, but the game seems content to let you know that the focus is really on interacting with characters and engaging in bizarre side activities. If anything, I found myself rushing through the platforming sections of Pikuniku so that I could see what strange scenario the developers wanted to throw at me next.
If you’re looking for a little more in the way of puzzle platforming there’s a few more hours of fun to be had in the game’s multiplayer mode, which throws up some inventive (and bizarre) challenges that actually make smart use of having two players.
I was admittedly disappointed that the game was over in a matter of hours, if only because I was selfishly expecting a bottomless grab bag of surprises and jokes that I genuinely never wanted to end. To have it reach a conclusion quite so soon was a real kick in the teeth.
Even now, days after having finished the game, I can’t stop thinking about this intoxicatingly imaginative adventure that looks and sounds like an old Cartoon Network show come to life. An impressive feat, given the relatively short amount of time I spent with it.
If you’re looking for your next dose of hardcore puzzling platform action, or an epic yarn, Pikuniku isn’t it. What it is, is an inventive, entertaining, and genuinely funny adventure that is guaranteed to leave you thoroughly charmed.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.