Whether it's podgy Italian plumbers or space-travelling foxes, few developers can match Nintendo when it comes to creating unique and loveable characters. Yet even by the developer's quirky standards, the Pikmin are positively quirky. A race of walking, plant-like creatures, the ultra-cute Pikmin first appeared in a pair of intriguing strategy games for the Nintendo GameCube way back in 2001 and 2004. It may have taken an entire generation of consoles for them to return in Pikmin 3 for the Wii U, but you know how the saying goes - it's better later than never!
Despite the franchise spending years in the wilderness, Nintendo has stuck to the gameplay that won its predecessors legions of fans first time round. Sure, the excellent Wii U controllers provide you with a few cool new moves, but ultimately the tasks remain relatively and pleasingly familiar. You star as the leader of the small alien (possibly original hero Captain Olimar this time, but possibly not, as he's not shown in the demo) and it's your task to use different coloured variations of Pikmin as they overcome obstacles, collect goodies, and trick their way through a host of monster-infested levels. Think Lemmings meets Mario in that unmistakeable Nintendo style.
At this year's E3, Nintendo were proudly showing off two different stages - a 'Trial Course' set in a gorgeous summery garden, and a 'Boss Level' against a big blue centipede. In the former, you command your Pikmin armies as you retrieve pieces of fruit, which then need to be returned to your spaceship within a strict time limit. While you begin the level armed with Red Pikmin, you'll soon encounter the game's new addition - the rock hard (literally!) 'Rock' Pikmin, who emerge with typical Nintendo quirkiness from inside a floating jellyfish.
Suddenly, new types of puzzles expand the joy. In one example, a golden strawberry is trapped inside ice that your standard Red Pikmin can't break, so you use your Rock Pikmin to hammer through the ice instead. Likewise, your granite-skinned newcomers can also be used to defeat any baddies that are shielded behind what once seemed to be impenetrable shells.
This is very much the case with the end-of-the-level boss battles, which require oodles of thought and strategy as well as controller-wielding dexterity. The blue centipede nasty we saw was ably protected by glass armour that only your Rock Pikmin can break. So you lob your little hard buddies at it, before sending in your Red Pikmin to finish off the job. It's easier said than done, of course...
Pikmin remains one of the most innovative, distinctive and deliciously cute series around, which is of little surprise considering it was created by the genius mind of Shigeru Miyamoto, the same man who gave us Mario, Donkey Kong and Legend Of Zelda.
While there doesn't appear to be anything especially groundbreaking with Pikmin 3 compared to its predecessors, as the other saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". This game looks to be a whole bag of fun, which will appeal to both new generations of Nintendo gamers who prefer brain over brawn, as well as those that were hooked to the franchise a whole decade ago.