Detective Pikachu Returns is the breath of fresh air I needed with so many big games releasing this month

A Detective Pikachu amiibo next to a Nintendo Switch with Detective Pikachu Returns on the screen
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Welcome! This column is part of a series in which members of the Tom's Guide staff share what they're playing and enjoying right now, with the goal of helping you find great games that you may have missed. Be sure to check out our previous entry, where we talked about Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

From Assassin’s Creed Mirage to Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, this month has seen a lot of big game releases across a number of different genres and if you’re like me, it can be hard to keep up.

Even though I’m currently working on a review of Super Mario Bros. Wonder, I’ve decided to take a break from more fast-paced games this weekend and reacquaint myself with an old friend: Detective Pikachu.

While I missed Detective Pikachu’s first crime-solving adventure game on the 3DS, I’m a big fan of the 2019 movie and before the Super Mario Bros Movie earlier this year, I really think it was one of the best video game adaptations we’ve seen so far. Now though, Detective Pikachu is back in a brand new outing on the Switch and I’ve been working my way through the first few hours of the game after Nintendo sent over a review code.

I just finished the game’s first case after completing the prologue and even though it’s a little slower than some of the other best Nintendo Switch games, I’m really enjoying my time in Ryme City so far. Likewise, a slower-paced adventure game is just what I need to reset before my next big game after playing through Tears of the Kingdom on my Switch and Starfield on my Xbox Series S.

If you’re a Pokémon fan looking for something a bit different than Pokémon Scarlet and Violet or you enjoyed the movie with Ryan Reynolds just as much as I did, here’s everything you need to know about Detective Pikachu Returns.

Picking up not quite where the movie left off

A screenshot from Detective Pikachu Returns showing Detective Pikachu and Tim

(Image credit: Nintendo)

While the Detective Pikachu film was well received and a sequel is apparently now back in the works, it has been quite a few years since the movie’s release. Fortunately, as the movie was based on the original game after all, Detective Pikachu Returns feels like it picks up almost where the film left off.

The biggest difference though is that, unlike in the film, Tim hasn’t found his missing father yet. Instead, he and Detective Pikachu are still out making a name for themselves by solving cases around Ryme City. There are some references to the chemical “R” though which is made from Mewto’s cells and causes Pokémon to lose control and temporarily become violent.

A screenshot from Detective Pikachu Returns showing Tim referencing the Detective Pikachu movie

(Image credit: Nintendo)

At the beginning of Detective Pikachu Returns, there is a pretty fun reference to the movie that takes place between Tim and his sister Sophia. Just like in the real world, in the game’s universe a movie was made about Tim and Detective Pikachu’s work solving the “R” case. However, Sophia wonders why her and Tim’s Mom didn’t appear in the film. In fact, they were left out entirely as Tim was portrayed as an only child with a mother who passed away in the Detective Pikachu movie. This was a nice touch and really helped clear up the discrepancies between the first game and the movie, especially for someone like me who missed out on playing it on the 3DS.

Partners in (solving) crime

A screenshot from Detective Pikachu Returns showing Pikachu riding Growlithe

(Image credit: Nintendo)

What’s great about the dynamic between Tim and Detective Pikachu is that, while Tim interviews the people of Ryme City in the cases they’re investigating, Detective Pikachu does the same with the city’s Pokémon. Besides asking them questions though, many of the Pokémon have special skills you use to help you in your investigations. For instance, in the screenshot above, Pikachu and Growlithe team up as this fire-type Pokémon is an excellent tracker as he has a keen nose that can follow all sorts of different smells.

Tim and Detective Pikachu’s relationship is as strong as ever in Detective Pikachu Returns and its opening sees the pair of detectives receive a medal from Ryme City’s mayor for their work solving the “R” case in the previous game. However, Tim is still perfecting his craft and Detective Pikachu is always there by your side in case you need a bit of help during your investigations.

Playing Detective Pikachu Returns on the Nintendo Switch with the Nitro Deck controller

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

From what I’ve played so far, a big part of the game involves exploring all the different areas in Ryme City and tracking down clues as well as witnesses to make progress in your cases. From talking to different people and Pokémon to looking for secret areas, there’s quite a lot to explore and just like in the film, it’s great to see Pokémon and people coexisting instead of just battling it out.

A screenshot showing how you do deductions in Detective Pikachu Returns

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Once you do gather all the clues you need, it’s time to begin making deductions. This involves pulling out your journal by pressing X and all of your clues will appear under the question you’re trying to answer. It’s quite easy and younger gamers won’t run into any hang ups as you can keep trying if you guess incorrectly. In order to solve a case, you’re going to need to perform several deductions successfully. 

While I’ve only scratched the surface of Detective Pikachu Returns, it’s been a really enjoyable experience so far. It’s not the most difficult game by any means but sometimes, that’s exactly what you’re looking for, especially if you just want to play something a bit more relaxing and less action packed.

More Detective Pikachu is exactly what I wanted

A screenshot showing Detective Pikachu and some Magikarp in Detective Pikachu Returns

(Image credit: Nintendo)

After seeing the movie in theaters and rewatching it several times on the best streaming services, this new game has really scratched my itch for my Detective Pikachu. Sure, he’s not voiced by Ryan Reynolds but I actually prefer the game’s voice actor as his version of Pikachu has a deeper and more gruff-sounding voice. This Detective Pikachu also doesn’t come off as overly cute like he does in the film.

I’ve had a lot of fun during the sections of the game where I’m controlling Detective Pikachu like when Growlithe let him ride on his back. I hope there are more sections like that one as they help mix up the gameplay a bit.

Getting advice from Pikachu in Detective Pikachu Returns

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

At any point during your adventure, you can use the left arrow on the D-pad to get hints from Detective Pikachu. Although you might not need them if you’ve been paying attention, I found this to be a useful feature even for me at times when I had to put the game down and forgot what I was doing the last time I played. It’s also perfect for younger gamers that might need a bit of help here and there.

A screenshot showing Detective Pikachu giving some of his Detective Tips in Detective Pikachu Returns

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Meanwhile, pressing the right arrow on the D-pad lets you chat with Detective Pikachu. It’s here where his personality really shines through and I love the little “Detective Tips” speeches he gives to Tim. In the screenshot above for instance, Detective Pikachu elegantly explained that good coffee will taste good even when it’s cold while bad coffee will still taste bad even if you heat up. As a coffee lover myself, I really like how he’s always looking for his next cup of joe while trying to solve cases. 

The perfect palate cleanser before my next big game

If you’re jumping from one big action-filled game to the next, you’re going to get burned out fast. This is why I like to take a break in between larger RPGs like Persona 5 Royal or even Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and play something a bit lighter. Detective Pikachu is perfect for this and I’ve found, like with Animal Crossing New Horizons, it’s great for playing in short bursts before turning in for the night.

While Detective Pikachu Returns is clearly aimed at younger Pokémon fans, older fans of the series will still appreciate seeing their favorite characters all around Ryme City. It’s also the perfect length for completing relatively quickly at around 13 to 17 hours depending on your pace. I plan on spending my weekend working through a few more cases alongside Detective Pikachu to hopefully find out what really happened to Tim’s dad Harry once and for all.

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Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.