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WATCH: Pikmin Bloom trailer, soft launch from Pokemon Go developers

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After Niantic redefined what it meant to “catch ’em all” with Pokemon Go in 2016, the developers have returned with another augmented reality mobile game—Pikmin Bloom. Whether the Pokemon Go craze only lasted a short while in your neighborhood or you still constantly play it, Niantic and Nintendo’s collaborative effort will hopefully make going outside more fun. Set to roll out globally on iOS and Android, here’s a look at Pikmin Bloom and how to play it.

Pikmin Bloom trailer and gameplay from soft launch

How to play Pikmin Bloom

Designed to “spice up daily walks,” Pikmin Bloom features colorful tiny plant-people called Pikmin created by Nintendo. Similar to how Pokemon Go allowed players to catch Pokemon in different locations, whether on the streets or at buildings like schools, players go outside for a stroll and collect seeds for planting in a pot-like backpack. Once grown, Pikmin can be plucked and named, creating an entourage of these plant-inspired characters.

The game uses the phone’s GPS and location data to use the real world environment as the playing field, augmenting the fictional plant pals onto the surroundings. Besides seeds, Pikmin also sometimes collect fruit, which can be turned into nectar. When fed with nectar, Pikmin’s bulb-like head suddenly bloom—hence the game’s title—into lovely petals. These petals leave a virtual trail of flowers wherever the player goes. The longer the flowers, the larger the bonus for growing seeds, and the faster the Pikmin will grow.

Pikmin Bloom vastly differs from Pokemon Go

Unlike Pokemon Go, however, the developers designed Pikmin Bloom to be more like a lifestyle app than a battle-oriented or completionist type of game. Since players’ steps count towards making the planted seeds grow, it ideally promotes physical (and mental) well-being through getting up for light exercise. The game also contains a diary-style element called a Lifelog. It summarizes the number of steps the player has taken and captures one’s mood and memories through the photos in the camera roll, if granted access.

Moreover, the virtual flowery paths help etch “traces and feelings” of people throughout these locations. We can imagine it being especially heartwarming to see some wildlife, even if they are not exactly real, along city lines and endless industrial roads, for example. Ultimately, it would make the outdoor spaces appear more like shared worlds. Not to mention, Pikmin can retrieve postcards from certain locations, adding mementos and further cementing the memory-centric approach to the game.

Compared to Pokemon‘s concept that bursts with exciting raids and rare creatures, Pikmin Bloom exudes the idea of living in the moment and adding more appreciative, memorable elements to daily strolls. All around, the Pikmin Bloom experience is more about pleasantries and accompaniment, exploring and collaborating rather than competing with the community.

Pikmin Bloom tests the waters with global roll-out

But with the pandemic still a threat, outdoors-centric games may not become quite so popular for the time being. Even as the world begins to open up and restrictions are lifted, Pikmin Bloom‘s developers will hope the game can turn out to be as big a hit as Pokemon Go, especially given the struggles faced by other similar titles like Minecraft Earth and Catan World Explorers.

More than getting people to download the app, the key lies in player retention. How many fans stuck to playing Pokemon Go even months or years after the initial hype around it? Even if Pikmin Bloom‘s soft launch fares well, the moment of truth will be weeks and months down the line, to see whether the game still feels novel and entertaining enough—and if external conditions permit, as well.