Pikmin Bloom has been helping me meet my outdoor walking goals for years

Over the past few years, I’ve developed a peaceful little routine to make up for time spent cooped up inside working on sunny days: after I’ve closed my laptop for the day, I throw my sneakers on, open Pikmin Bloom on my phone, and go for a long walk to clear my head and plant virtual flowers with the ‘min.

Pikmin Bloom was released for Android and iOS in 2021 by Pokémon Go developer Niantic and Nintendo as another “go outside and touch grass” app, and I’ve been playing it pretty regularly since then. Only recently, when the app announced some special events for its 2.5-year anniversary, did it occur to me how long I’ve actually stuck with it. There isn’t all that much to Pikmin Bloom, but that’s part of the charm — it’s more of a walking buddy than a full-on game. You accumulate Pikmin, feed them nectar so they’ll grow flowers from their heads, then pick the petals and use those to “plant flowers” when you go on walks (don’t think too hard about the science of that, it’s Pikmin).

Unlike Pokémon Go, Pikmin Bloom doesn’t require a lot of your attention while you’re walking around, which really appealed to me as someone who likes to stay fully aware of their surroundings while out and about. That, and the promise of being accompanied wherever I go by a horde of quietly singing Pikmin; I just love those weird little guys.

The author's Mii pictured in a screenshot from Pikmin Bloom, with a group of Pikmin standing around itThe author's Mii pictured in a screenshot from Pikmin Bloom, with a group of Pikmin standing around it

I typically get everything set up before I leave for a walk, making sure I have plenty of petals ready to plant. Then I hit the ‘Start’ button and mostly leave the app alone until I take a break or am done with my walk, checking in only here and there to see if I’ve passed anything of interest. You can send your Pikmin on expeditions to pick up fruit or destroy mushrooms that’ll pop up on your map, but you don’t need to be actively walking to do this, as they’ll be recorded on a list you can revisit later. Once I’m back home, I love seeing how many flowers I planted versus how many steps I took (I still haven’t figured out the ratio), and delegating different missions for my Pikmin to tackle.

There are frequent events that serve as motivation for reaching certain step count goals or planting a particular number of flowers, including some with community involvement. And, there’s the prospect of collecting themed Pikmin who wear special decor outfits. Pikmin Bloom is currently teasing some upcoming Cheese Decor Pikmin for next month, and I’m going to work extra hard to try and get them. While the app does have the potential to lure players into in-app purchases, they’re by no means necessary to get the full experience. I’ve managed to make it this far without spending any money at all.

A news announcement from the Pikmin Bloom app announcing the arrival of Cheese Decor PikminA news announcement from the Pikmin Bloom app announcing the arrival of Cheese Decor Pikmin

Pikmin Bloom has an AR component similar to Pokémon Go’s, so you can photograph your Pikmin in the real world, but this feature can be pretty glitchy. What’s better than that, in my opinion, are the postcards your Pikmin will sometimes bring back from their travels — they’ve been known to photobomb landmarks in these pictures on occasion. If you have friends in the app, you can send postcards to them too. Pikmin Bloom also has a built-in lifelog, where you can choose a picture from your walk and jot down any notes and feelings from your day. It’s a nice thing to look back on once you’ve racked up a lot of adventures.

I’ve tried out plenty of apps over the years that attempt to gamify physical activity, but I almost always lose interest in them pretty quickly. For all its simplicity, Pikmin Bloom adds just the right amount of reward to a walk without distracting from the actual activity. Plus, there are Pikmin.

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