Detective Pikachu Returns Review

The case of Detective Pikachu has never been fully closed, originally launching with just the first three episodes on the Japanese e-shop, before getting a full worldwide release for the Nintendo 3DS. Yet that 2018 entry still ended with a sequel hook that had long gone unfulfilled. Finally, in 2023, Detective Pikachu Returns, this time to the Nintendo Switch, though not paired with the original story.

In Returns, it's been two years since the R incident (the first game's story), and Tim is now a college student living in a different part of Ryme City (despite a nearly identical apartment). A new Pokemon-focused police force has been developed since, hoping to keep down any Pokemon-related incidents, especially during the newly established Pokemon Friendship Week. Tim's mother and sister have also come for a visit but don't play much of a part in the story.

Having not played the original prior to Returns, there isn’t too much of a need to catch up story-wise. The basic gist of what happened in the last game gets revealed through dialogue and a couple of flashbacks, but we have a new conflict and the mystery around Pikachu is resolved here.I’ve since played a few chapters of the original game, and that experience paints this entry in an even poorer light than it does playing it on its own.

Detective Pikachu Returns is a classic adventure game with some light detective work. An incident occurs, such as a jewelry theft, and you must collect testimonies and examine the scene for evidence. The investigation process involves a lot of back and forth as you return to witnesses and suspects alike once you’ve gathered more information. Overall, getting through each job requires wading through a lot more dialogue than isnecessary. Each case you work on requires multiple deductions to progress through the event or any obstacles in the way. As you collect different information, theories will form up top and you can choose between them. n the first Detective Pikachu, you would need to place evidence in a particular order to come up with the correct solution.This time we get a segment towards the end of each chapter where we lay out the entire scheme of a culprit, or figure out the final puzzle, but being a kid's game there is not really any penalty for failure. Rather than having an easy mode, you can now ask Pikachu for hints personally and any wrong answers will be crossed out after applying them. You can always click on Pikachu to not only get some ideas about the case, but also just to hear silly things, though without any compatibility with the comically large amiibo this time.

Outside of the main detective work, there are some quick time events, but I didn’t see any consequences for the one I messed up. In each chapter, Pikachu will make a new friend with a Pokemon he can ride on and use their special ability, such as Luxray’s ability to see through walls, or using Growlithe’s nose to follow a scent trail. These are little distractions from the regular investigatory grind, but one particular Pokemon’s ability was very slow to use as I had to wait for the animation to completely finish before I could work on destroying more rocks. There are a couple of easy stealth sections, also, though the NPC's patterns are painfully slow. Aside from the usual work, there are multiple side quests that can be picked up when on the job that have no bearing on the main case and are entirely optional. These all generally involve finding other Pokemon, but the most annoying one is the Quiz Master, who will ask you to name a type of Pokemon, that even if you’ve already just met them, you’ll have to travel to said Pokemon, then back to her to say its name.

One of the first things I about this sequel is how it doesn’t look much better than a 3DS game. When comparing Detective Pikachu Returns to the first entry on 3DS , it does falter in some aspects. Now when working on case notes, there’s no colored sketch that develops over time, but instead, at most some renders or a blacked-out cartoon person or substitute doll (to represent a mystery Pokemon), which is significantly more bland and doesn’t go in as nicely with the detective theming. I found the environments to be fine, with a decent amount of detail in them. Seeing Pokemon at their actual sizes for once was a bit surprising (Lopunny is a lot shorter than I expected, for one).

Certain Pokemon looked off, such as Wooper’s open mouth being simply a flat surface despite showing its tongue. We do get to see a lot of Galarian and Alolan variant Pokemon with this entry. Without polish, a lot of these monster designs don’t seem up to scratch. A certain group of characters seemed more like they’d fit in with some earlier Pokemon console spin-offs. In general, a lot of humans and Pokemon alike looked molded out of plastic and were lacking in some aspect of lighting or shading, a problem that didn’t really exist in the first game. There are also a lot fewer animations, where I should be openly carrying or grabbing something but it just doesn’t show it at all, and most of Pikachu’s animations were likely spent on when he’s riding other Pokemon.

I quite liked the soundtrack, which is something I didn’t expect much out of a lackluster adventure game. he music playing when you’re examining objects has a nice funk feel, which oftentimes made me stay on the screen longer so I could hear more of the song. In a couple of exciting moments, there was some good electronica/techno-styled music to go with it. The voice acting was okay at best, with Tim only sounding particularly emotive in one scene overall.

I enjoyed my time with Detective Pikachu Returns, in spite of its lackluster presentation and mediocre meandering. Not just because of some silly scenes like the divorce mac and cheese, but because it’s Pokemon, and it’s always fun to see Pokemon living normal lives around human characters (or without). Nonetheless, Detective Pikachu Returns just isn’t a very good game, it fails to meet the presentation quality of the original despite having better hardware, and the gameplay gimmicks don’t make up for the back and forth that lack any real detective work. At the very least it should have combined the first game to make for a complete experience.