While my dream is for Pikachu to one day be voiced by Danny DeVito in a series on a streamer, the video games and movies will suffice until then. The original Detective Pikachu came and went on the 3DS, and by and large, the spin-off by Creatures was well received. After several years and a successful live-action movie, Nintendo is back with Detective Pikachu Returns. The sequel was revealed this past June at a Nintendo Direct and was a welcome surprise for fans.
Serving as a direct follow-up to Detective Pikachu, the sequel provides an overview of the events several years ago, how protagonist Tim Goodman is still searching for his father and how Detective Pikachu is somehow tied to the mystery. For those who’ve skipped Detective Pikachu, it shares similarities with Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. You and your partner must solve a series of cases and are given set periods to collect your thoughts and evidence to provide a resolution. You can gather clues about various cases; however, things are never as easy as they appear, and you will have work cut out if you’re to solve the cases presented to you correctly.
Return to Ryme City
Tim and Pikachu find themselves embroiled in an exciting investigation tasked with unravelling the intricate web of a jewel theft that has sent shockwaves through the heart of Ryme City. One of the earlier cases is one of the standout cases because it presents you with a perfect slice of what the series is and what to expect compared to the mainline entries. With promising leads, the mismatched duo set out on a quest for truth, the first thread of their inquiry drawing them toward a particular creature whose telltale feathers were discovered amidst the crime scene. Simultaneously, the steel-type Pawniard is a Pokémon of interest, and it is left to Tim and Pikachu to figure out how the creature ended up in a place it doesn’t belong, with some excellent deadpan humour that main series feels like it is missing to match.
Upon their arrival at the terrace, an imposing window, its vantage overlooking the very heart of the criminal act, beckons their scrutiny. Armed with the knowledge that Pawniard frequents this terrace for its rigorous training regimen, the investigative trio embarks on a meticulous examination of the surroundings, their keen eyes scouring for any trace of evidence. Amidst the verdant foliage, the discovery of cut leaves and drifting Whimsicott cotton offers hints. Still, the pièce de résistance emerges as weathered rock marred with indelible blade-like marks—a compelling clue that elicits a surge of excitement within Tim and Pikachu. In a bid to coax Pawniard into revealing itself, a pivotal decision beckons, with choices ranging from Pikachu’s mellifluous serenade, a patient stakeout, or a daring ascent upon the enigmatic rock.
The puzzles presented within the game exhibit a certain degree of simplicity, and the fluidity of navigation, unfortunately, falls short of an ideal standard. At times, a weird occurrence develops, where one might inadvertently pass through characters or even observe Pikachu engaging in doing the same thing. The dialogues shared with fellow characters and Pokémon often failed to captivate my attention, prompting a temptation to skip through the text without genuine engagement hastily. However, amongst these shortcomings, a singularly redeeming feature emerges in the form of meticulously crafted cutscenes. Here, the Pokémon cast takes center stage, weaving their interactions seamlessly into the game’s environment. The pinnacle of this visual experience is accentuated by impeccable voice acting, with Detective Pikachu’s raspy and rugged vocal performance standing out as an endearing juxtaposition to his outwardly adorable appearance.
Detective Pikachu Returns Expands And Enhances The Core Experience
As the scene unfolds, Pikachu’s fierce yet endearing musical talents on full display serenade the terrace, and the dynamic duo exercises unwavering patience during a painstaking stakeout. Through this meticulous process, a pivotal realization takes hold—Pawniard, a warrior-like Pokémon renowned for its formidable blade-like appendages, has a deeply rooted attachment to the rock. The moment Pikachu ascends the rocky precipice, the elusive Pokémon makes its dramatic appearance, heralding a captivating encounter between the enigmatic Detective Pikachu and the blade-wielding Pawniard.
In the wake of this memorable interaction, a critical revelation emerges—a testament to the nuances and intricacies of Ryme City’s Pokémon inhabitants. The narrative takes an unexpected twist as the evidence surrounding Pawniard’s involvement in the crime crumbles, for witnesses had reported a forceful punch to the back of their heads—a feat rendered nearly implausible by the Pokémon with blades for arms. I find these encounters from the early chapters of Detective Pikachu ReturnsI as the most poignant encounters with the city’s diverse Pokémon populace. Most, if not all, encounters are filled with hijinx and mystery, offering a keen glimpse into the multifaceted world of Ryme City’s inhabitants.
Like its predecessor, Detective Pikachu Returns is a slow-paced experience that allows you to explore various city areas. The gameplay loop follows a pattern that sees you explore an area, look for the relevant clues and then speak with the persons of interest before trying to hypothesize the relevant solution.
In Detective Pikachu, you only played as Tim and would explore Ryme City to gather clues. In the follow-up, you can now play as both Tim and Pikachu, each handling differently than the other. Pikachu, for instance, can speak and interact with various Pokémon like Growlithe. This gameplay shifts to a new perspective for players as it allows you to understand what the various Pokémon say now, like in the Mystery Dungeon series. That leads to some humourous situations Pikachu must work through, which means you can see things unfolding from two sides.
Later, you start to meet several new Pokémon including the likes of Bellossom, Cutiefly, Corviknight, Lickitung, Meowth, Slowpoke, Venonat, and, in particular, Luxray, the final evolution of Shinx. See, Luxray introduces a new investigation mechanic that allows you to analyze scenes by seeing through walls. This skill is handy during later investigations. One of the best things about Detective Pikachu Returns is how it re-contextualizes how Pokémon cohabitate with humans worldwide. Instead of simply using Pokémon to battle, we see a world beyond the hopes of a simple trainer looking to become the best. That reason alone is why I particularly enjoyed the movie based on the spin-off series and why it always feels like the series is at a standstill – the more incredible world is always kept at bay for the sake of focusing on the trainer aspects.
Adding QTE events and some off-handed mechanics break apart the investigations, and they provide a welcome reprieve. Pikachu can ride various Pokémon to help him in his investigations.
Something that I want to note is that while the new gameplay additions are welcome, you will need to backtrack several instances and it comes with the territory of having to return to the scene of the crime, as it were.
The last few Pokémon games, including Scarlet and Violet and the first DLC expansion for the ninth generation of games, The Teal Mask, performed abysmally. I don’t think I’ve had a worse time with the series in nearly three decades of games, and the issues persist nearly a year later. Despite this, Detective Pikachu Returns runs better but still feels like it could use polish. Especially playing on the Switch OLED model, you can see many blemishes. It’s hard not to think these might be the same models from the 3DS title uprezzed for the Switch, which is a bit of a disappointment when you have New Pokémon Snap available on the same system.
Detective Pikachu Returns is an excellent follow-up to its predecessor, expanding the world around Tim and Pikachu. However, the sequel mostly plays it safe by giving you more of the same experience. However, that issue isn’t as bad as it sounds, given that you can now see things unfold from the eponymous hero’s perspective, allowing you to control and experience things from a new and often hilarious perspective. While the mainline series continues to spin the same wheel, it’s exciting to see developers like Creatures be given the time and support to focus on the broader strokes of this world that we don’t regularly see.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: Switch
Review: Detective Pikachu Returns
Detective Pikachu Returns is an excellent follow-up to its predecessor, expanding the world around Tim and Pikachu. However, the sequel mostly plays it safe by giving you more of the same experience.
The expanded Ryme City feels more lived in
The continued partnership between Tim and Pikachu
Loads of charming interactions between characters
While humourous at times, I don't enjot the dialogue at times