For reasons that are not entirely logical, I still enjoy playing Pikmin Bloom. 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 complete my steps. I often fail. Sometimes I earn too many steps by driving with my phone in my pocket. I sometimes go out of town, and have to wait weeks for the items I discover there to find their way back to me. But every day, several times a day, I check in. I feel like I’m accomplishing something.
I’m not. I’m making the numbers go up. And I’m still trying to figure out the appeal of it all, because it goes against a lot of the things that I usually like in games.
On a mechanical level, there aren’t many games here. You have missions to do, which sometimes take a bit of strategy to complete. And there are ways to optimize your squad. But in general, it’s about walking. You walk to find seedlings, walk to make them grow, walk to find food for them to eat. In a typical game, this will lead to something. Evolving more Pikmin will unlock different playstyles or new stories to discover. Here, you grow flowers and fight mushrooms, but there is no challenge to either. Basically, you build your team to continue building your team.
I imagine a big part of that is that Niantic needs to make money, and the more it makes you think about the numbers, the more likely you are to spend money to make those numbers go up. This is weird in a game built around walking, since you’re essentially deceiving yourself, but it’s done responsibly – the game doesn’t retain key features if you’re not paying and I still haven’t spent (or feel like I need to) a dollar on it.
Without the typical challenges I look for in the game, I find that a lot Pikmin BloomIts appeal comes from something that sounds pretty boring on paper: it’s gratifying to see new technology in action.
Games set on real world maps aren’t new at this point, but there’s still something fascinating about seeing you in two worlds at once, and Niantic’s technology has evolved to the point where it’s all all work smoothly. In this case, you’re essentially playing the role of a postal supervisor, and it’s still fun to take Pikmin out and see them come back over and over again. Even the smaller details, like the way the app uses vibration, feel so subtle that playing it seems to enjoy the potential of what games might be in the future.
I also like the passive cooperation of all. Unlike Pokémon Go and Intrusion, Pikmin Bloom There is no competitive element. I recall the developers of Trip talked about a point about removing features that allow players to negatively impact each other online, and it looks like Niantic has taken a similar approach here. You can plant flowers with other players and team up with other players to fight mushrooms faster, but the design restricts you from doing anything that might ruin other people’s experience.
It reminds me of Noby Noby Boy or Curiosity: What’s Inside the Cube?in that you’re all working together towards a common goal, although I suppose in the second case everything falls apart (and arguably wasn’t “shared” in the first place) .
I wish all my time had led to something a little more concrete. Not just items to collect, but also things to do. One game over. However, as I always remind myself, doing so contradicts the idea that this is a companion app for exercise, if not more than a game. And perhaps more importantly, sadly, it also means I’ll have to stop playing.