A little over a month has passed since Niantic, the mobile game developer behind Pokémon GO and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, launched Pikmin Bloom. This mobile game reimagines the popular Pikmin franchise as a means to digitally enhance the real world with flowers. Let's take a look at this game and see how it compares to the rest of Niantic's offerings.
Pikmin Bloom is not another Pokémon GO
When Niantic launches a new game, I think it's fair to say that many potential players expect an offering that compares to Pokémon GO. Niantic created that expectation, as their games seem to have equivalent aspects that make their games familiar. Pokémon GO has PokéStops from which players can get items, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite has Greenhouses from which players can get items. The comparisons run deep: Gyms are Fortresses, Remote Raids are the Knight Bus, Incense is Tonic for Trace Detection, and so on.
Pikmin Bloom breaks this trend and is better for it.
Yes, there are real-life points of interest that are visible across all Niantic games but Pikmin Bloom treats them entirely differently. The structure of the game doesn't feed into the idea of collecting items and battling and getting stronger the way Niantic's other games do. Instead, Pikmin Bloom takes a more literal approach to the idea of exploring the world than GO and HP:WU. The goal in Bloom is a long-term one: to make the digital version of our world, which mirrors the actual world on its map, more beautiful by planting flowers.
Calming gameplay makes more of a lifestyle app than a competition
Pikmin Bloom is still a game of discovery for me. It's a lot more simple than it lets on, which initially left me wondering if I was missing something. When you're first starting out, the game wants you to walk, feed berries to your small squad of initial Pikmin (cute creatures with variations based on color, which you can earn by leveling up), pluck flowers from their heads, and then use those flowers to plant on your map. Walking can also grow more Pikmin, as long as you have seeds and space to grow them. Later on, you can send Pikmin on expeditions to retrieve nearby items, which is a fun feature as you can see your little buddies take off and even leave the visible map. Sometimes, they can even retrieve an item that is quite far away, and I found it hilarious that instead of waiting for them to return from their long trek, you can actually meet up with them and intercept them. I was playing with my wife while on errands, and she was happy to cross paths with her Pikmin who were returning from a long errand. This type of interaction with the real world, where the Pikmin move independent of the player, is unique to Pikmin Bloom in Niantic's library.
A promising start leaves room for growth in Pikmin Bloom
There's a lot to love about Pikmin Bloom and many ways for the game to grow over time. The fact that it's less of a competitive game than most mobile fare is a strength. It almost feels weird to call this a game. It's fun, but it's as much if not more of a walking tracker, photo journal, and meditation app than a game. Niantic diversifies an already strong library of titles with this new addition, which has a strong foundation and all of the potential in the world to keep growing.