Having only recently been treated to the Wii port of the original Pikmin, it's odd to see the sequel (which took the best part of three years to make) appearing just three months later. At this rate we'll have Pikmin 3 by next week, in which case you might want to hold onto your cash.
We're joking, of course. There is no Pikmin 3. However, Pikmin 2 will keep you plenty busy until such time as Nintendo decides the market is ripe for a proper Wii Pikmin revival, and if you managed to resist the urge to splash £30 on the remake of the first game, this is definitely the one to get.
Pikmin 2 is a proper sequel - the kind of game where you can tell instantly where all the development time went and that it was time well spent. It's a huge improvement over a very good original. The core gameplay is the same, as are the Wii-specific pointer controls, but everything else has been polished, improved, expanded or, in the case of the annoying 30-day time limit, removed entirely.
This time Captain Olimar isn't stranded on the planet of the Pikmin. After returning to his own world at the end of the first game, he's sent back by his boss to plunder the place for valuable salvage and earn the cash needed to save his haulage business from the administrators.
Consequently there's not such a rush. You still have the day-night cycle that means any Pikmin left stranded outside after dusk will be consumed by wild monsters, but you can play at your own pace. Venture as far as you dare, clear a few routes through the beautiful garden landscapes and scurry back to the ship while it's still light. As you grow in confidence you'll stay out later and explore the huge underground caverns that form the bulk of the game.
And once you've earned the 10,000 Pokos needed to save the company, you can carry on and collect any bits you missed.
Two new Pikmin types, purple and white, provide super strength and poisonous power to your army, and the addition of a second commander, Louie, means you can split the Pikmin into two active groups, switching between the leaders to keep an eye on things.
The leaders are decent fighters themselves, which is one thing we're not so keen on - if you can't face losing some of your rarer Pikmin to the tricky but weak little enemies that infest the caverns, you can leave them out of harm's way and do the dirty work with Olimar and Louie.
They're useless against bigger enemies though, and Pikmin 2 has some astonishingly gross creatures lurking in the subterranean depths. The horror when you stumble across a new one, and the sheer joy at figuring out its weakness and carrying its carcass back to your ship - that's the magic of Pikmin 2.
New creatures are added to the Piklopedia, a virtual zoo where you can observe them at rest in their natural habitat and throw carrots to try and goad them into action. Items of salvage are similarly, if less actively, displayed along with amusing notes from Olimar. It all adds up to a world that demands to be explored and rewards you amply for doing so.
There's also a challenge mode that's packed with specially designed levels and tight time limits. You have to organise a preset squad of Pikmin to plunder an area of randomly placed salvage and escape with as many survivors as possible. A second player can join in here, and also in a versus mode that sees the two commanders vying for control of precious marbles on a set of battle maps.
It's a great value package, particularly considering the GameCube version remains scarce enough to command high prices on the second-hand market. The addition of Wii controls doesn't make the game worth buying if you already own it on GC, but if you missed out in 2004 this is one of the best Nintendo games of recent years.