An annoying rich guy threatens to take over a space and reform it in his own image and somehow maintains a good PR machine in spite of clearly being a dumb asshole. But enough about Twitter, let’s talk about Pikuniku.
Pikuniku is a game by Sectordub, where you’re a funny little guy living in a cave that ventures out into a colorful and goofy world. A man named Mr. Sunshine is going around handing out free money, and all people have to do in return is… give him all their resources. It’s a bit of an unfair deal, even without considering what Mr. Sunshine has planned, but as an outsider to the established way of life, the main character sets out to get in his business.
Pikuniku is a chill platformer, though the platforming is mostly just a means of getting around. There’s some more dedicated platforming segments, though if you’ve had moderate exposure to the genre, they’re a complete breeze. There’s also some puzzles, but they’re not serious brain teasers. Everything’s all easy breezy. Really, the most intense stuff lies in an endgame sequence, but with unlimited lives, it’s not a tough hill to climb.
Everything in the game seeks to reinforce this breezy attitude. The character designs and environments are simple and playful, with characters having slight physics in response to you rolling into them and kicking them. The visuals are accompanied by chill goofy beats to listen to composed by bo en, which feels very reminiscent of his work on the first two Lovely Planet games.
The writing of the game is fun and full of goofy NPCs, though, there really isn’t any characters, so to speak, besides the villain Mr. Sunshine. There’s a few recurring characters, but there really isn’t enough to them to make them feel like characters, if that makes sense. Everyone’s fun to talk to, at least.
But enough about fun – underneath the silly writing and presentation, there is a serious story. It’s a story about a corrupt businessman looking to shape the state of the world. He hordes natural resources at the expense of the natural citizenry and basically aims to create super gentrification in the shadow of a natural disaster that he causes. He is a cartoon caricature of the rich assholes that already run things and you’re out to rise against him.
However, in spite of the serious conflict, there’s no real sense of stakes because everything is still kinda silly. Even when Mr. Sunshine partially accomplishes his plan, everyone’s just sorta chill because the aftermath gave everyone fun snacks. No danger at all, everything is fine.
Like, you know what this is? It’s hopepunk. Hell, it’s not just a hopepunk game, it might be the ultimate hopepunk game. Pikuniku is a story about a rebellion where everything is bright and playful, wrapped in optimistic sensibilities. I think how you’ll feel about Pikuniku really depends on how you feel about hopepunk, beecause for me, I wound up being really kinda eh on this.
There’s nothing wrong with happy games at all! But, seeing these serious problems approached in this way feels incredibly naive in a way that sincerely pisses me off. With all the problems we have in real life, I can’t help but view Pikuniku’s attempts at addressing their fictional analogs as some real clown shoes shit.
Or maybe I’m just really depressed. That might also be a contributing factor to why I’m so down on this game. Besides the real life problems affecting all of us, I feel burnt out on my personal conditions. I feel that if a serious change doesn’t happen in my life, I may as well just die, because it feels like the life I’m living is suffocating. I constantly feel too tired to play things, and even when I play things, I feel an obligation to turn my experiences into Content™ so it doesn’t feel like wasted time, and I wind up feeling like shit for different reasons.
Maybe I couldn’t enjoy Pikuniku because of this growing attitude I have toward media consumption.
I don’t know.
Haha, but anyway!
Pikuniku! It is most certainly a game. Though, how you feel about the game really depends on what you think about its sensibilities, because it feels like a game carried by those vibes. And well, it’s pretty short, even if you’re aiming for 100% completion, so if you’re anal about playtime you probably won’t like this. However, while I didn’t plan for this to come out during Steam’s puzzle game sale, it is currently on sale at the time of writing for a mere $3.24, which is certainly better than paying $8 for some dumb Twitter badge, so why not take the plunge?