Screw You, Pikachu.
Appearances would have us believe that Pikachu is an unassuming, innocent yellow rat. Little did we know that Pikachu actually has evil machinations involving a deliberate plan for world domination. You think that epileptic seizure fiasco in Japan was an accident? Behind those black eyes and rosy cheeks lies a world of deception. Who knows what his "pika pikas" really mean? Perhaps, even now, he's out to brainwash the children of the world...
Okay, chances are he's really just a dumb yellow marketing ploy, but sometimes it truly does seem as though he's out to take over the world. After all, kids love him. In yet another coup on the lives of children everywhere, Pikachu has another game.
Hey You, Pikachu! is a voice recognition game specifically aimed at everyone under the third grade. This is a game for children who have basic mastery of the english language and have patient parents to play along. Very patient parents. Isn't it just funny how the target audience for this game probably won't even know what's going on without some parental guidance? With this in mind, the game is smartly conceived and perfect for brainwashing little children along with their parents. If you're over the age of 10, avoid this game like a plague of cooties.
Here's the premise. You have Pikachu. You have a microphone. Pikachu runs around in different environments in the game. You talk, yell, and scream at Pikachu and he responds to you, sometimes in ways you want to, often times in ways you don't. This game, interestingly enough, works without strict objectives - it's more like a big playground for you and your little buddy (read: enemy).
Included with the game is a Nintendo 64 microphone. Wonderful, another little accessory that will likely never be used again. Unless, of course, there's a sequel called "Whas' Hapn'n Rankletoodle?" or a "How You Livin' PoogleyDoogleyPuss!"
Hey You Pikachu's speech recognition is severely limited for a game that relies so heavily upon it. The game provides you with keywords with which to instruct Pikachu. Then, Pikachu listens for the exact phrase/command and basically ignores everything else. This unfortunately rendered all of Ben's pickup lines on the yellow rat completely useless. Or maybe Pikachu's standards are too high, I dunno.
Another Pokemon native you'll find is the wily Professor Oak. At the beginning of each day, Oak will give you information on how to play with your Pikachu. Lessons include new keywords that Pikachu can understand and how to manipulate objects within your inventory. Suffice to say, there's a whole lot of hand holding throughout this game.
Your environments are just the same old N64 hash you've seen before. These worlds won't blow your mind - they're just colorful and cartoony. The problem lies within the interface through these little worlds. It's a plodding, slow first-person view with extremely limited controls. You can take things out of inventory and hand them off to Pikachu or just interact with a few things here and there. Immersive it ain't, but kids won't care, since they'll just be looking at Pikachu.
And that's what this game's all about - Pikachu. As an animated character he works really well. The big issue is how much you can stand him. Still, he's really well animated, and there's nothing quite as funny as pissing him off and watching him get all upset.
Pika, Pika! And more Pika Pika! Yeah, this game's filled with that noise. Some love it. By now, most hate it. To a bright-eyed kid, however, it's perfect to complete the whole Pokemon experience. Other Pokemon make their cameos here and there, and each of them have accurate sound bites.
Hey You, Pikachu is a game clearly targeted for a specific and direct market - namely, the little tykes in the family. But a deeper Pikachu AI and a stronger level of voice recognition could have made this game much more interesting. If there were some kind of branch progression throughout the game that allows you to train your Pikachu instead of just playing peek-a-boo with it, this game might have been a little more tolerable.
What makes this game a bit intolerable, though, is the obscene price tag. Hey You, Pikachu's MSRP is $89.99...almost the cost of the N64 itself! It seems that Pikachu isn't satisfied with invading our homes and brainwashing our children, since he's also stealing our wallets as well. Someone call an exterminator.
So, to most of the GR readers, I'm warning you to stay away. It's the video game equivalent of going to the library and reading a Golden Book instead of Tolstoy. But if you have a really young sibling or even a child of your own who definitely likes Pikachu and can bear all his long term annoyances, there might be a possible Christmas present there.
Of course, you could always blow the 90 bucks on a few Pokemon videos and a copy of Pokemon Snap. I wonder if Pikachu can understand inflation?