Devolver Digital is continuing to kill it with its Switch releases. Last year's Gris was a gorgeous platformer full of interesting mechanics and beautiful environments, and new game Pikuniku is following in that trend - sort of.
It has the interesting mechanics, but they're used in more of a physics-y way. And it's beautifully, but in its simplicity and silliness rather than its attention to detail.
It's also hilarious in a charming, low-key way, with brilliant writing and tons of fun to be had with its simple controls. It has its drawbacks - doesn't everything? - but Pikuniku is a brilliant platformer to kick off 2019 with.
Be the ball
Pikuniku has you playing as weird-ball-thing Piku, who has just awoken in a cave and is now wandering the world trying to understand… well, the world, really.
The story at first feels light and flimsy, and you'll spend a good chunk of your time wandering around wondering what the heck you're actually supposed to be doing.
And then suddenly you're embroiled in a grassroots rebellion against capitalism through the use of exploding pinecones, and it all gets a bit weird.
Piku itself only has a few ways of interacting with the world. You can jump, turn into a ball by retracting your legs, and kick things. You can also chat with people and enter buildings, and there's some context-sensitive actions involving the hats you can unlock. That's essentially it.
What this means is that the entire world has been designed to react to your minimal interactions - essentially, if you can't jump on it or boot it across the screen, there's probably nothing you can do with it.
It makes for some clever puzzles and fun platforming sections as you try to work out how exactly your moveset is going to help you get around the next obstacle, if indeed you actually can.
Beyond that, it feels a bit like a Metroidvania of all things. You need to wander the world, picking up items which work in areas you've seen before, and using rewards from seemingly unrelated tasks to ultimately keep making progress.
It can feel a bit meandering at times, and without any clear direction you'll just end up wandering the world feeling confused and slightly put out.
But you can make your own fun. Kicking everything you see literally never gets old, and may even end up being the solution to all your problems, which is surprising and rewarding in equal measure.
The inhabitants of Pikuniku's world are also a joy to talk to, thanks to some supremely silly writing that radiates a warm, gentle humour - and at times hides a darker secret, which is also a nice surprise.
But the game truly shines in its co-op mode. Set completely aside from the main-game, this is a series of puzzle-platformer challenges which require another person to complete, with them controlling a colour-swapped Piku named Niku.
These levels are tightly designed specifically for your core moveset, with no extra frills added on as in the main game. What this leads to is some inspired puzzle design and hilarious moments as you and your friend just boot each other around the screen, desperately trying to work out what to do next before stumbling across the solution.
It's super smart and buckets of fun - it's just a shame that there aren't more levels to play. With only nine levels in total, you and your friend could quite easily blaze through them all in a few hours with a little dedication and elbow grease.
Overall, Pikuniku is a seemingly simple game packed full of clever ideas and smart design. It does a lot with very little, and makes for a delightful puzzle-platformer in doing so.
It's single-player mode can feel a bit meandering and frustrating at times as you struggle to make any meaningful progress, and its co-op is brilliant but just a little too short.
But despite all this, it's a game that platformer fans simply must play. It's sheer brilliance wrapped in a silly, cute package, and it's by far one of the smartest platformers on Switch to date.