Illustration: Nintendo

Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?


Detective Pikachu

For a game that seems to exist solely because someone at Nintendo realized how adorable the Pokémon series’ beloved mascot would look in a little Sherlock Holmes hat, I’m having a surprising amount of fun with Detective Pikachu. The new 3DS title—an expanded remake of a Japanese release from 2016—is definitely aimed at kids, with puzzles focused more on simple observation and listening skills than any kind of elaborate brain teasing. But it’s just so dang charming that I can’t bring myself to mind.

A lot of that pleasure comes from the title character himself, a distinctively cranky little oddball who spends his downtime between cases musing on the acidity of his coffee and his appreciation of good jazz, all in the inexplicably gruff voice of a grizzled American character actor. (And yes, it’s exactly as strange as it sounds.) It also doesn’t hurt that this might be the best-animated Pokémon game I’ve ever seen or the best look we’ve ever gotten at what it’s like to just live in this world as a person who isn’t constantly running around and battling for badges. I’ve even caught myself laughing out loud a few times, usually when my adorable little partner unleashes one of his goofily elaborate “bolts of brilliance” whenever we’re close to cracking a case. [William Hughes]

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Kirby Star Allies

Make it a double dose of Nintendo mascot cuteness this week, because I’ve been playing, and will likely continue to dabble with, Kirby Star Allies, the Switch debut of the shape-shifting pink puffball.

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By this point, Nintendo has fallen into a pretty predictable template for Kirby releases: Make the same game, but introduce one radical gimmick that throws a huge wrench into the design. Here, the twist is Kirby’s ability to make friends with his enemies, turning all the same snowmen and knights and eyeball monsters he’s been devouring for decades into members of his four-person crew. A second player can hop in and take control of them, but if you’re going solo, they just follow along, fighting for you, solving puzzles for you, bestowing extra effects to your stolen abilities, and killing enemies you might want to eat or befriend.

That last point is just as annoying as it sounds, and gets at what some of the issues this ally system ends up creating. With Kirby, his three friends, a boss enemy, and all the fireworks each of them are pumping out, the screen can fill up quickly, at times making it impossible to tell what exactly is going on. Worse, there are no real stakes to any of the puzzles or exploration because your AI partners always know exactly what to do and the game seemingly always offers up the powers you need to solve any problems. If the game’s gimmick ends up doing this much damage to the design, I’d rather it not have a gimmick at all. [Matt Gerardi]

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