Detective Pikachu is quite the departure for The Pokémon Company. It’s not a bad departure by any means and although it’s not directly related to the core Pokémon games, Detective Pikachu still manages to be a solid new entry in the Pokémon universe.

Most core Pokémon RPG games have a basic storyline but Detective Pikachu takes things a bit further. Not only does the game feature fully-voiced cutscenes, it has a plethora of detailed, explorable areas and a lot of dynamic dialogue. The story unfolds in “Chapters” where each contains a pretty distinct area to explore and characters to interview. The main character, Tim Goodman, is an aspiring detective searching for the truth about his father’s disappearance. Tim is assisted throughout the game by his father’s Pikachu. This Pikachu is quite different–he can talk (only Tim can understand him), he likes coffee, and he has a deep voice. It’s pretty strange when you first hear Detective Pikachu talk but it grew on me throughout the game. Interview subjects aren’t limited to just humans, Tim can interview Pokémon with Pikachu’s help.

While I initially thought the gameplay would be similar to the Professor Layton games, I now think the gameplay is more analogous to L.A. Noire oddly enough. A key component in that game is gathering testimonies from eyewitnesses which Detective Pikachu uses heavily as well. Granted, you aren’t going to be reading people’s facial cues to tell if they are lying like in L.A. Noire, but you will be talking to a lot of people…a lot. If you don’t enjoy games with a lot of dialogue or games where you have to revisit the same characters many times to see if they have new dialogue, Detective Pikachu may not be for you.

Occasionally I would progress through a chapter pretty quickly and I wouldn’t have to do a lot of backtracking. Other times I would need to revisit NPCs on multiple occasions. Now, the game does keep track of testimonies you’ve gathered (you can review them on the touch screen menu), but there is still important dialogue that can be “unlocked” so-to-speak when you stumble upon key clues. For instance, you may find an item in a given case that proves someone was lying earlier with their testimony. In this case, you’ll have to go back to that person to ask them about it and you may even have to talk to several other people about that evidence as well. One time I got really stuck by exhausting all of the text dialogue with each NPC in the area I was in. It wasn’t until I went around pressing the “A” button around every bush that I discovered some key evidence that unlocked new dialogue for the people and Pokémon in the area. Sometimes a case in a given chapter was worth that extra effort, but other times…not so much.

There are some fun aspects about the gameplay. Occasionally there are sections where you have a crime scene that needs evaluating. The game goes into a “detective mode” sort of like the Batman Arkham games. You can tap on various objects to reveal clues–sometimes clues are underneath items which makes for some fun surprises. The game also features some quick time events (QTEs) where you need to press a particular button at the right time in a cutscene. This made for more interaction in some cutscenes, and thankfully they didn’t feel over-used.

The visuals in Detective Pikachu are top-tier for the 3DS. I think it may be one of the best looking and well-polished games on the system yet. I wouldn’t mind seeing a future core Pokémon game in this art style. There isn’t an option for stereoscopic 3D but I think the compromise is fine for the higher-fidelity visuals.

Fans of story-driven games or fans of the Pokémon series, in general, will enjoy Detective Pikachu. It’s a fun adventure filled with some great Pokémon and interesting cases to solve. The thing I really loved about it was how they incorporated them into various jobs in each of the game’s environments. They really made it feel like this world relied on the Pokémon and the humans coexisted with them in a meaningful way. I hope to see more of those types of details in future games. If you like mystery games and Pokémon, you’ll be in for a treat with Detective Pikachu.