Review Detective Pikachu Returns
Screenshot by Siliconera

Review: Detective Pikachu Returns Is a Charming Pokemon Adventure

Detective Pikachu Returns is the long-awaited sequel to the Nintendo 3DS classic Detective Pikachu, which was originally released worldwide in 2018. The mystery spin-off was so beloved that it got a Hollywood live-action Pokemon movie adaptation just a year later in 2019. However, after years of anticipation for part two to come out, is the Pokemon franchise’s return to Ryme City worth the wait? Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes! Detective Pikachu Returns delivers a charming story that is not only a satisfying resolution to Tim Goodman’s saga but is also a heartwarming adventure that lets players see a new side to many of their favorite Pokemon.

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Detective Pikachu Returns is divided into five cases and an introductory prologue. In each investigation, players are allowed to freely explore a mini open-world level as they track down clues and evidence to solve the chapter’s central mystery. While more on the linear side, I was pleasantly surprised at how much life is bursting from these sandbox areas. This is because each level is filled to the brim with Pokemon that you can interact with. Just like the original 3DS game, Detective Pikachu Returns does a fantastic job showcasing Pokemon having their own unique personalities. It’s a major aspect of the Game Freak franchise that has sorely been missing from mainline titles like 2022’s Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. But in Ryme City, you learn new things about characters you’ve loved for decades as the game goes to great lengths to show how humans and Pokemon co-exist together.

Screenshot of Pikachu cotton funny face in Detective Pikachu Returns
Screenshot by Siliconera

In every case, both Pokemon and humans have side quests called Local Concerns for Tim Goodman and Pikachu to solve. Although completing these missions does not unlock any rewards, you will want to tackle these quests as they really flesh out the world of Detective Pikachu Returns. One of my favorite aspects of the game is that you actually get to see the impact your actions have on the city through local news updates. I just wish the game had more unique side quests, as almost every level has the same quiz-style NPCs and “find however many missing Pokemon hidden in the map” challenges. Still, I really enjoyed the extra content, which gave me a reason to explore the entire overworld. Plus, the side quests are not mandatory and are more of a fun challenge for long-time fans of the series.

One of the stand-out features of Detective Pikachu Returns is the Ride mechanic, which sees Pikachu adorably riding on top of another Pokemon. The gameplay feature involves utilizing another Pokemon’s abilities to help you track down clues. In one of the game’s earlier cases, for example, Pikachu uses Growlithe’s nose to smell the scent of characters that have gone missing in the city. Every level has a unique Pokemon mount that introduces a new ability to the game that will help you solve the case. One of the most interesting implementations of this mechanic is Luxray, who is able to use his powers to see through walls. Every Ride mount is incredibly fun to use and is cleverly integrated into each level’s design as well. So, while you will start to expect the feature in every case, Creatures Inc. does a great job of making it feel fresh every time you eventually unlock the feature.

Screenshot of Pikachu riding Growlithe in Detective Pikachu Returns
Screenshot by Siliconera

At the center of every case in Detective Pikachu Returns is the Notebook mechanic, during which Pikachu writes down every piece of evidence you have collected. In the journal, each mystery that arises in the case becomes a Notes flowchart. After collecting enough evidence for a specific question, you will then be able to enter the deduction phase, where Tim is able to solve the question. Completing each flowchart progresses the main story until you’ve solved the case. The feature is incredibly accessible and allows you to work through each puzzle by giving you a set of goals you need to clear. The gameplay loop creates an interesting brain exercise, as you need to actually prove every answer you want to submit. Some players may find this frustrating, as they will already know the answer to a question but will still need to find all pieces of evidence. However, it makes sense within the story as Tim and Pikachu have to convince others with actual proof. In that sense, Detective Pikachu Returns is, at its core, a puzzle game. You may figure out the answer early, but you need to gather all the pieces first before you can complete the bigger picture.

Although the first case is rather easy and holds your hand a lot, the game becomes much more challenging in the second level. I genuinely was stumped on several occasions and had to sit and think for a few minutes to overcome certain problems. Again, while you can solve most of the questions pretty early on, it’s figuring out all the moving pieces that really is the challenge. By the time you are on the second case, there are a lot of pieces you have to juggle! For younger players, though, the game has a feature that allows you to speak to Pikachu at any time if you are stuck. Your partner Pokemon will then give you a hint on what you should be doing next. Every level is also broken up into different sections, so it’s not just evidence collecting and problem-solving. I really appreciated the quick-time action sequences, stealth sections, and Pokemon Ride puzzles. Detective Pikachu Returns offers a good balance of difficulty and enough variety in its levels to keep you engaged to the very end.

Screenshot of Slowpoke in Detective Pikachu Returns
Screenshot by Siliconera

As far as its story goes, Detective Pikachu Returns is incredibly charming and heartfelt. While the novelty of a talking Pokemon may not have the same surprise it once had, the relationship Tim and Pikachu have in the sequel continues to be adorable and hilarious. Most of the plot revolves around the detective duo and their friend Rachel, who are thrown into another mystery plaguing Ryme City. However, at its core, the game centers around Tim and Pikachu discovering what has happened to his missing father, Harry. While the 2019 live-action movie took a certain approach to the story, fans of both the film and Detective Pikachu will find a lot to love here. Detective Pikachu Returns is filled with mystery with many twists and turns while also touching on some pretty deep themes involving authority and free will. Most importantly, it also gives a satisfying resolution to Tim Goodman’s story, which genuinely had me getting emotional during certain key points in the plot. Detective Pikachu Returns also has one of the most epic climaxes in a modern Pokemon game and is the ultimate fan service that will have long-time players of the Game Freak franchise geeking out for months.

Something that might become contentious for certain fans, though, is the game’s graphics. Although Detective Pikachu Returns absolutely nails the Pokemon models, some may find the human characters look a bit stiff at times. It’s definitely a very specific art style that doesn’t animate as well with human faces. At the end of the day, though, Pokemon are the star of the show. And in that regard, the mystery sequel does an incredible job with its presentation. Every corner of Ryme City is bursting with color, and this is the best I’ve seen Pokemon represented in a long time. If I had any complaint about the overall game, it’s that I wish Pokemon spinoff titles would have unlockables. For example, why couldn’t Detective Pikachu Returns have a special Pokemon you can send to Pokemon Home if you 100% complete the main story and all side quests? One of the main themes of the detective thriller is the bond humans have with their Pokemon. I just wish players were able to take something along with them from this adventure into future titles.

Screenshot Rachel and Tim in Detective Pikachu Returns
Screenshot by Siliconera

Detective Pikachu Returns is a charming Pokemon mystery adventure that is anchored by a heartfelt story. While its cases are accessible and just mildly challenging, the game’s puzzle-solving and level designs are incredibly fun. Where Detective Pikachu Returns really shines, though, is how it shows off the unique personalities of every Pokemon in a way the franchise has rarely done before. Ultimately, the long-awaited sequel is a satisfying conclusion to Tim Goodman and Pikachu’s saga. But the spinoff is worth diving into regardless if you’ve played the original, as you will get to see your favorite Pokemon fleshed out like you’ve never seen before.

Detective Pikachu Returns comes to the Nintendo Switch on October 6, 2023.

Detective Pikachu Returns

Unravel a series of mysteries across Ryme City with a tough-talking, coffee-loving Pikachu and his human partner, Tim Goodman. When a jewel theft occurs, the case sets this great detective duo down a path filled with mystery. Why did Tim’s father, Harry, go missing? What is causing the Pokémon-related incidents around Ryme City? Answer these questions and more by searching for clues, investigating scenes, and using your case notebook to make deductions.

Detective Pikachu Returns is a charming mystery adventure. The long-awaited sequel to Tim Goodman's saga was worth the wait.

Food for thought:
  • The Ride Pokemon mount feature is a great addition to the story, and adds a lot of variety to every level.
  • Players should go into Detective Pikachu Returns thinking of it more as a puzzle game. It's not about discovering the answer, but figuring out how to prove it.
  • Although the game has a pretty set story, I think the game could really benefit from having a few extra cases added as DLC.
  • It took me 17 hours to beat the campaign, including all side quests. However, quicker players may be able to finish the game closer to 12 hours.

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Brent Koepp
Based in California, Brent is an Editor at Siliconera and has been a journalist since 2010. When he's not playing JRPGs or catching 'em all in Pokémon, you can find him spending time with his wife and two dogs.