Detective Pikachu Returns really puts the spotlight on the Pokémon and is full of charm despite being a bit too easy

The wait is finally over as Pikachu is ready to solve another mystery with his good friend, Tim.

Both the game and film of Detective Pikachu really show the flexibility and the possibilities of this global phenomenon. From a turn-based battler, to a photographic simulator and a dungeon crawler, we’ve seen it all in the world of Pokémon.

And Nintendo Switch, in particular, has really benefitted from a range of great games, from two mainline series to remakes and even the first attempt at an open world release.

But this is the one I’ve been excited about. I low key loved Detective Pikachu on 3DS and had been secretly hoping we’d get a re-release of the original on Switch before this one dropped. Now the big day has arrived, I’ve dived right into the wonderful world of the coffee-drinking yellow lightning caster and I’ve just been loving the refreshing change of pace.

Between chatting to other Pokémon, learning about their likes/dislikes, and all the awesome noises they make, they’re also a crucial part of the storytelling and gameplay. In case you didn’t play the original, Tim and Pikachu work closely together to solve mysteries. Tim, of course, can chat to humans, while Pikachu can talk to all of his fellow Pokémon.

Some will warm and receptive, willing to answer any questions. Some evasive. Some just angry for no apparent reason. And some might need some persuasion, whether that’s through evidence or catching them in the act.

But most importantly, some can actually help you in your investigations. You may have got a hint of this through the trailer for the game when it featured during a Direct, but the unique abilities of, say, Growlithe let you sniff out clues and track the scent of other Pokémon or particular things of interest.

You can also punch through obstacles with Darmanitan and peer through walls using Luxray’s X-Ray. Easily the best part of the game, especially as it’s made to offset the fact that the poor coffee drinking Pikachu cannot use their own abilities. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a vital role to play though, between hopping on the back of Growlithe and even having a few sections of his own to work through.

By tapping the right D-Pad, you can even focus on Pikachu in the moment to see what he’s up to, whether he’s cracking jokes, trying to impart wisdom or lounging about on a bed.

This game just oozes charm, and between the infectious, adorable relationship Pikachu and Tim have, you just can’t help falling in love with the world of Rhyme City, laughing at the silly noises some Pokémon make and when a great line of dialogue slips through.

That’s probably the biggest adjustment for most Pokémon players is there’s much more talking and story than you may be used to. In fact, this game borders on being a visual novel at times and is definitely going to be for fans of games like Phoenix Wright and Ghost Trick, particularly with its evidence-based systems.

As you progress through each case, Tim and Pikachu jot down their discoveries in the notebook. If a character has been particularly suspicious or has said something of interest, it gets added as evidence and can later be used to make a deduction once both are satisfied they have all the evidence they need.

It’s all fairly simplistic in that you break down the mystery section by section and when you have all the evidence, have to make a choice that, more often than not, has been pointed out to you clearly in conversation or via a keen observation. But there’s also no penalty for failure, so if you choose the wrong option, you can just pick another, unlike Phoenix Wright’s strike system that can lead to a Game Over.

Detective Pikachu Returns understands its core audience is for younger players who love Pokémon and want to get closer to their favourite characters. The plot is fairly simple, the mysteries are never really brain teasers and you’re often on a one-way track which means you can’t get lost or go too far off the beaten course.

That’s absolutely fine because the charm really carries this one and the plot does hold itself up well for around 10-12 hours. For those who’ve been waiting for the followup since the cliffhanger of the first game, you’ll want to dive right in and get some resolution. Or maybe you’re just here to watch Pikachu drink coffee. Either way, I think you’ll feel pretty happy.

The other thing to note is the game has a lot of little side missions which usually are on your way or just outside of where you’re supposed to be. They never really distract you too much, and they don’t have a lot of substance, but by fulfilling them you get to read more about them in the morning paper and see the benefit and impact you’re having on Rhyme City. Plus you see the relationship between Tim and Pikachu deepen and grow, which is just the best part of the whole game.

While I loved Detective Pikachu Returns through to its conclusion, I will say it’s a game that never really takes the safety off. There’s opportunities to expand beyond the game a little bit, like a crossword in the paper which could have benefited from being an actual crossword or some more challenging quizzes to really test your knowledge of the series. But Detective Pikachu Returns likes to keep it straight and simple and I respect it for that.

The other thing is how glaringly obvious some mysteries are and how long the game can take to get to the point when you’ve probably already figured out what’s happening. Again, this probably leans itself to the game being targeted for a younger audience.

But between the use of Pokémon mechanics, which I think is such a smart, logical inclusion for this series, and I’d love to see it expanded even further, maybe expanded into a game of its own, and just the general back and forth between Pikachu and Tim, as well the charm of its cast, I couldn’t help loving being in this world.

Detective Pikachu Returns really gives players something different in the world of Pokémon while also giving them exactly what they wanted. A living, breathing, interactive environment that gives context, story, purpose and meaning to each individual character, rather than just have you catch them mindlessly without really care or consideration for their cause. While a little on the easy side and a bit predictable, this is a blast from the time you pick it up to when you roll credits.


Detective Pikachu Returns is more of the same from the 3DS original, but with the fun addition of using unique Pokémon abilities to interact with the world and help you solve puzzles, a bunch of side missions to investigate and a continuation of a story that ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. It’s a little bit too easy going and predictable at times, and you feel like some mechanics and concepts could have been flesched out and developed further, but this still feels like such a refreshing insight and approach to the world of Pokémon and one I’d love to see developed and expanded upon further in the future. 


+ Loaded with charm as Pikachu remains an absolute star
+ Continuation of a story with great relationship building between its leads
+ Use of Pokémon abilities is a fantastic inclusion
+ Refreshing, gorgeous look into the world of Pokémon that really broadens the appeal of the series


– A little too predictable and easy at times
– Mechanics could have been developed and built out a little bit more as things do get a little repetitive

Detective Pikachu Returns is out now on Nintendo Switch

Code Kindly Provided by Nintendo for review purposes

About the author

Sally Willington

Sally is relatively new to gaming since a newfound addiction to Nintendo Switch. Now they just can't stop playing, anything and everything. Sally especially loves a good RPG and thinks that Yuna may just be one of her favourite characters ever.
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