Handson: Pikmin Bloom is a delightful way to get your steps in, even if you’re not a Nintendo fan

When Nintendo announced that their next collaboration with Niantic Labs was going to be Pikmin-branded, I was surprised. The Pikmin brand isn’t well-known outside of deeply passionate circles of Nintendo fans. But I think that’s about to change with Pikmin Bloom, the latest Nintendo mobile game that hit the App Store today in the United States.

Pikmin Bloom isn’t quite like Pokémon Go. It’s not one of those hyper-engaging games that requires hands-on attention. In essence, it’s a health and wellness app disguised as a Nintendo game and that’s not a bad thing. Pikmin Bloom’s main mechanic is simply walking in the real world. Like Pokémon Go, you’re required to walk to unlock certain features of the app. In Pikmin Bloom, you need to walk to plant flowers, collect items, and find more Pikmin to join your squad. As you do more of those things, you level up.

The world of Pikmin Bloom looks similar to that of Pokémon Go. It’s a 3D map of the world with various special locations plotted on the screen. But instead of gyms, you’ll see sprouting plants. You’ll also discover mushrooms that you need to get your Pikmin to take down. The gameplay is extremely simple and fun.

Pikmin Bloom integrates with Apple HealthKit so your steps are logged in the app whether you have it open or not. There’s a simple dashboard that shows your step count, a map of your day, and a calendar that you can log information in.

Tapping on a day lets you see your step count, the flowers you planted, even photos you’ve taken that day. Pikmin Bloom can effectively become your activity app if you want it to be. Flowers that you plant throughout your usage also stay there in-game. Your friends will see them on their map, and the more you and other users play, the more alive the world of Pikmin Bloom becomes.

The Pikmin themselves are as expressive as ever. They’re goofy little plant-like creatures that follow the sound of your whistle. Feed them nectar and flowers will grow on the tips of their heads. You can collect the flower petals to plant more flowers along your walks.

To earn more Pikmin, you need to walk a lot. It’s very similar to Pokémon Go in that way. But instead of battling random encounters, you gather seedlings that you need to plant and grow, much like eggs you need to hatch in Pokémon Go. Niantic and Nintendo have done an excellent job taking many of the same mechanics in Pokémon Go and applying them to Pikmin in a way that feels natural.

But taking a lot from Pokémon Go also means that Pikmin Bloom has adopted some of that game’s worst traits, namely the shop. Pikmin Bloom has a store with in-app purchases and a special coin system for buying items, petals, special packs, and upgrades. The prices appear to be nearly the same as the ones for items in Pokémon Go, so they’re not astronomical. But you need to be careful not to overspend.

Once you really start playing the game you’ll start to level up. As you walk more, as you collect more Pikmin and items, your in-game character will grow in level. The app gives you a set of ways to level up, and it’s fairly straightforward. You can also earn badges, both for Pikmin-related tasks and for exercise.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Pikmin Bloom is that it’s fast and fluid. Unlike Pokémon Go, which is very janky and frequently drops frames, Pikmin Bloom is incredibly well designed. Animations are smooth, buttons are nice and bubbly, and the app loads quickly.

Pikmin Bloom is free on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. You can download it today. It requires you to create an account, but you can use several different methods to sign in. If you try out Pikmin Bloom, let us know how you like it in the comments below!

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