Once again we boldly go to other planets in search of tiny little dudes who'll do what we tell them in Pikmin 3. While the adventures of Captain Olimar and his crew are typically known as single-player affairs, Pikmin 3 comes bearing a heapin' helping of multiplayer, which we got our hands on during this year's San Diego Comic-Con.
After selecting from a handful of levels, you and your multiplayer buddy will engage in a fast-paced, score attack version of the standard Pikmin game. You'll search high and low for Pikmin to call your own and use these little guys to pick up things like giant fruit, gold, and the occasional drawbridge and take them back to your ship for points and prestige.
Certain objects require more Pikmin to carry, and the more Pikmin you send out at once, the more quickly the job will be completed. There's also the occasional alien critter to deal with — nasty beasties who'll slaughter your Pikmin when you're not looking. After you pile on enough Pikmin, you get points for them, and the Pikmin collect some kind of spirit energy which levels them up individually, making them tougher in combat and capable of doing harder/better/faster/stronger work.
There are several type of Pikmin at your disposal. In the multiplayer demo we checked out, we found the standard, everyman Pikmin, dark, hard-headed Pikmin who were good for cracking through crystals holding hostage precious goodies, and flying Pikmin who could retrieve things the others couldn't. The acquisition of these different types of Pikmin added some nice variety to the multiplayer affairs, as well as some strategy. You could spend your time focusing on clearing out the early areas for quick, easy points or try to gather up additional specialized Pikmin to get to the harder-to-reach, but more valuable, treasures in the distance. No matter which strategy you go with it's chaotic fun, with both you and your partner/rival hurrying to grab as much stuff as you can before the time runs out. With the standard multiplayer options like Death Match and Capture the Flag clogging up so many modern titles it's nice to see a game that breaks away from the pack to do multiplayer its own way.
It's easy enough to maneuver Olimar and his space-faring companions around, but commanding the Pikmin does take a little bit of getting used to, as you need to use the Wiimote to aim where you want to throw them to. Fortunately, the controls are quite sensitive; like a high-quality lover, they encourage you and figure out what it is that you're trying to do and help finish it for you even if you weren't doing it very well. [Alrighty then... —Ed.]
If Pikmin 3's single-player action is anywhere near as good as the multiplayer gameplay, consider us sold. It's fast, it's cute, it's unique, and, most importantly, it's just a whole lot of fun.