Pokémon has spawned numerous spin-off titles in the twenty years since it first took the world by storm, from roguelikes to war games to on-rails photography, but the series’ latest offering, Detective Pikachu: Birth of a New Duo, is by far one of its strangest. Whilst on the surface the prospect of a detective game set in the Pokémon world isn’t that Farfetch’d (sorry), the titular detective is, frankly, bizarre. A deerstalker-wearing Pikachu with an absurdly deep voice, a love of strong coffee and a penchant for chatting up attractive women (yes, really) is the star of the show, solving crimes in a bustling
Intriguing, and certainly a digression from what we’re used to.
Whilst that sounds like the recipe for a gritty reboot of Pokémon, in reality it looks about as light-hearted as ever - far from hunting down murderous Jigglypuffs or shutting down a crime syndicate led by the Squirtle Squad, the first case involves retrieving a girl’s necklace from a mischievous Aipom. There does seem to be a slightly more serious side in the characters’ backstory, however - Pikachu’s old partner, who happens to be the father of his new sidekick Tim, is shown to have disappeared following a car crash, with the two detectives aiming to solve the mystery of where he went. How intriguing, and certainly a digression from what we’re used to.
In terms of gameplay, Detective Pikachu is mainly centred around looking for clues at crime scenes, talking to witnesses (both people and Pokémon) and solving puzzles in order to crack cases, in a similar vein to Ace Attorney’s investigation segments. There are also signs that this will be an episodic series, with the subtitle suggesting it’s the first part of a longer tale and a “To Be Continued” message after the credits seemingly confirming this. There’s no word on a Western release yet, but given it’s the franchise’s 20th anniversary this year it seems likely Detective Pikachu will be among the flood of other Pokémon games we’ll be seeing in 2016.