Seven years after the series debut, the great Detective Pikachu and his partner Tim Goodman are back on the case in Detective Pikachu Returns. Developed by Creatures and published by Nintendo and The Pokemon Company, the new installment follows up the 2016 release Detective Pikachu, which reflected the events of the feature film by the same name.
The sleuthing duo managed to crack the case and save Ryme City from the R incident in the debut title. However, Tim’s father and Pikachu’s original partner, Harry, remains missing in the sequel. It’s up to you to piece the clues together as an all-new mystery unravels in the city where people and Pokemon coexist. As a longtime Pokemon fan, myself, I was certainly excited to put my knowledge to the test.
Detective Pikachu Returns Review: Hot on the Case
Much like the original entry, Detective Pikachu Returns offers up a series of stimulating cases to solve as you lend a helping hand to the people and Pokemon inhabiting the city. Combined with Pikachu’s characteristic bolts of brilliance, Tim has matured quite a bit in the years since the original title. Together, the pair is now better equipped to track down Harry and tackle a new phenomenon overtaking Ryme City.
Both Tim and Pikachu’s efforts are duly recognized during the community’s Friendship Week Ceremony in the game’s first chapter. Though, the celebration is cut short by a new threat looming over Ryme City. Just as Mayor Myers honors the detective duo, an unruly Corviknight swoops in, taking Pikachu’s signature hat along with it.
There’s no time to spare as you must put your heads together and begin investigating the scene. This chapter sets up the new entry’s storyline, and it’s chock-full of how-to tutorials. For those who may not be familiar with the series or mainline Pokemon titles, these step-by-step guides come in handy. However, longtime players can easily skip this phase if they’d rather dive right into the action. This is a huge plus, in my opinion.
Right off the bat, Detective Pikachu Returns masterfully features Pokemon introduced throughout the franchise’s nine generations. Among the first Pokemon you meet are Xatu, Pidove, Applin, Alolan Exeggutor, and Aromatisse. Even within the game’s tutorial phase, you’re tasked with utilizing the unique skills of these Pokemon and others to solve the case at hand. Franchise fanatics will greatly appreciate the inclusion of lesser-known Pokemon that finally have their chance to shine.
Following the same formula as the series’ 3DS debut, Detective Pikachu Returns places the case file in your hands. As you become familiar with the city’s Pokemon and their abilities, you’ll exercise your own sleuthing skills as well.
If you’ve played past Pokemon spin-offs or mainline titles, then you’re probably equipped with enough background knowledge to seamlessly follow clues. That said, the new entry is notably beginner-friendly. Those unfamiliar with the franchise’s 1,000+ species of Pokemon are adequately accommodated with fitting introductions to the city and the Pokemon that call it home.
Moreover, all testimonies and deductions are recorded in your case log. You can even reference recent conversations with people and Pokemon to jog your memory. This helps to smooth out gameplay, as not all mysteries are quickly solved.
My first play session extended over three hours, and I hadn’t yet managed to finish the first main case. This was a happy surprise, to say the least. In general, this is a fair estimate of case length. However, there are plenty of minor problems for you to help Pikachu and Tim solve on the clock. From locating a lost Lillipup to answering each of the Quiz Professor’s questions, there’s a lot of ground to cover in Detective Pikachu Returns.
The game’s endless puzzles and mysteries are both compelling and easy to follow. Though, at times, the straightforward controls can seem a bit too easy. If you prefer mainline entries over spin-offs, then the art style and overall flow of play may throw you off. That said, this spin-off may not be every Pokemon fan’s cup of tea. Or coffee, in Pikachu’s case.
Pokemon species are easily recognized throughout Detective Pikachu Returns. However, characters like Tim and Rachel don’t share the same look as those featured in mainline games, which are traditionally developed by Game Freak. They also bear little resemblance to the heroes of the beloved anime.
This stark difference in art direction may seem counterintuitive to some longtime fans, as the Detective Pikachu series is, in fact, canon. However, its look isn’t the only element that sets the game apart from mainline titles.
Trainers who prioritize Pokemon battles won’t see this feature practiced in Detective Pikachu Returns. That said, hands-on battles were also absent from the series’ debut, so you can’t exactly dock points for this unique contribution to the franchise. Just don’t expect to get lost in a competitive play-by-play as you attempt to solve a case.
Detective Pikachu Returns – The Bottom Line
- Smooth and compelling gameplay
- Impressive case length
- Masterful implementation of Pokemon species and lore
- Simple controls
- Vastly different art style than mainline entries
- Absence of mainline staples like Pokemon battles
All things considered, developer Creatures has done a bang-up job at solidifying Detective Pikachu‘s niche in just two entries. What’s more, the new installment optimizes the signature real-world atmosphere with a clean image on Switch systems. Those looking to explore the world of Pokemon through a new set of eyes will surely appreciate the clever twists and turns of Detective Pikachu Returns, now available to play.
[Note: Nintendo provided the Nintendo Switch copy of Detective Pikachu Returns used for this review.]
Detective Pikachu Returns Review: Hot on the Case
Detective Pikachu Returns is a seriously stimulating spin-off for Pokemon fans, both new and old.What Our Ratings Mean