The original Pikmin for Gamecube was one of those games that mildly ruined your life and caused fights with loved ones while playing it, but when you beat it you felt like some kind of video game savant. Pikmin 2 is, somehow, both more reasonable and significantly harder.
The premise of Pikmin 2 is that Olimar goes back home only to find out that he’s being laid off. That’s kind of an adult and depressing premise for a video game. He can save the shipping company he works at by going back to that planet he crashed on (Earth) and harvesting it for brand-name treasures, like Duracell batteries. Olimar also needs to take the lovable doofus Louie with him because Nintendo wants us to imagine a two player experience without actually giving us one. Back on (obviously Earth) the Pikmin planet Olimar and Louie get briefly separated which introduces the quite useful mechanic of switching between the two captains.
From the outset Pikmin 2 is a much more sophisticated game. Two new Pikmin are introduced: fat purple ones that are slow, but can carry 10x Pikmin worth of swag and smoosh enemies with their bulk; and tiny albino Pikmin who are fast, immune to poison, and poison any enemy who eats them. I love the tiny albino ones with their cute beady red eyes. Pikmin 2 also introduces dungeons where you go underground with a limited Pikmin crew (ie: no switching once you’re down there) to hunt for underground treasures. There is usually a boss or mini-boss battle of some kind and if you give up and escape to the surface you leave all the treasures behind. Even more brutal: all of the enemies you kill underground are turned into coins and aren’t made into Pikmin seeds. The good part is that going underground stops the day passing so you have unlimited time to complete it. The only clock underground is the clock of your own impatience.
Another mechanic they added for Pikmin 2 is “juice”. I don’t know what it’s actually called, but I call it juice and I don’t want to Google it because “juice” sounds funnier. You can harvest berries and get red juice, which makes your Pikmin into killing machines for about 30 seconds, or you can get purple juice, which petrifies the enemy for a tiny amount of time. You can also misfire with the purple juice and start screaming at your television.
As I complained about briefly already, you have two captains, but you cannot play a 2-player main game. There are tho mini game modes that you can have two players for: challenge mode and battle mode. In challenge mode you go through dungeons, which are timed, with a set amount of Pikmin. In battle mode you can have your Pikmin kill each other in a horrifying game of capture of the flag. In battle mode I am such a relentlessly poor sport that no one will play with me because I go ballistic when my Pikmin are Pik-murdered. Seriously. No one will play battle mode with me. I don’t blame them.
While the difficulty level is increased significantly with Pikmin 2, you do have unlimited time to work with, which means you have to use both long- and short-term thinking. You can view an itemized list of how every Pikmin has died with tallies: battles (the only acceptable one), sunset (which means you flew away like a lazy jerk), water, fire, electricity, and poison. You also have access to a monster/plant screen where you can learn more about the things that killed your Pikmin and then throw Pik Pik brand carrots at said things (which is more amusing than you’d think).
Even though I wanted a two player main game, Pikmin 2 is still a huge improvement over the original Pikmin and has held up over time. It’s not a new game by any means, but it is still and excellent game.