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Referred to as an "inventive life simulation," Pikmin is an action-strategy game featuring incredibly life-like environments inspired by Mr. Miyamoto's own garden in Kyoto, Japan. Players control a spaceman named Captain Olimar who has crash-landed on an unusual planet. The goal of the game is to help Olimar collect his vessel's lost parts, which have been scattered all over the planet.

Luckily for Captain Olimar, the planet is inhabited by strange little creatures, called Pikmin. Pikmin are plant-like life forms that come in three different colours red, yellow and blue. Each type of Pikmin has unique strengths, which Olimar must use to his advantage. Red Pikmin can withstand fire, blue Pikmin can survive in water, while yellow Pikmin can destroy obstacles by using bomb-rocks. Players can control the Pikmin sprouts individually, in groups, or in one large Pikmin posse of 100 creatures.

Unlike most strategy games, the basic controls in Pikmin are very simple. Mr. Miyamoto has made excellent use of the new Nintendo GameCube Controller. The main Control Stick controls Captain Olimar, while the C-Stick controls the swarming mass of Pikmin. While you're moving Olimar in one direction, you're free to move the Pikmin in any direction you'd like. Simple one-button action commands are used to control your Pikmin.

Pikmin begin their lives as leaves, but they mature into buds and flowers if you leave them in the ground after sprouting. Accomplishing goals in Pikmin isn't all about hauling items from point A to point B. Pikmin sprouts can also be directed to perform other tasks like building bridges, destroying walls, carrying bombs and -- of course -- fighting.

Directing Pikmin to battle other creatures is one of the most entertaining aspects of the game. The natural enemies are generally many times larger than the Pikmin, so they have to attack in large numbers to be successful. We learned that it's best to attack most enemies from behind. Otherwise, you'll be serving up a Pikmin buffet that's both horrible and hilarious to watch.

The overall artistic direction in Pikmin is what makes it so appealing. A trance-like soundtrack establishes the mood, while Pikmin are blended in a surreal fashion with an otherwise realistic world. These details make Pikmin instantly endearing, but don't make the mistake of thinking this game is simple. Even the most experienced games player will likely do quite a bit of head-scratching while trying to solve the game's puzzles and defeat fierce bosses.

Pikmin is a totally new type of game, which you have to play for yourself to appreciate. Its fresh approach and imaginative presentation makes it one of the most refreshing games we've experienced in a long while.


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