PAX Prime 2010: ilomilo
ilomilo is based on the simple premise of separation and reunion. The title characters start each and every stage separated and the goal is to reunite the pair, on adjacent tiles. Of course the reunion is easier said than done, as both ilo and milo need to be utilized in conjunction to facilitate the progress of one another.
During my time at the Microsoft booth I was able to run through ilomilo’s four tutorial stages and a pair of the earliest levels. Prominently featured in the tutorials and even in the actual levels was the Napoleon-like Sebastian, who has a house in apparently every stage that looks like a cube with a lamp on top. Strolling over his residence triggers Napoleon to fly out of his geometric abode aboard something eerily similar to a Catbus. Sebastian provides background and at least at this early stage in the game alerts the player about the various mechanics of ilomilo. Amusingly his dialogue is voiced in a sort of gibberish, which I have a soft spot for thanks to games like Klonoa and Okami.
The most important core mechanic of ilomilo is the ability to switch between the two at any point. Whenever I wasn’t immediately sure what to do next it became very natural to quickly switch characters and see if a puzzle made sense from a different place in the level. Having this alternate, but necessary perspective seems like the perfect way to alleviate some of the frustration one feels when they run into a puzzle they can’t solve. If you can’t see the solution as ilo then try milo, maybe there’s something totally different with the other character that needs to be done first.
During my time with the game I got to see blocks that could be deployed to create platforms and bridges, a block that would have a monster jump out to block your way and magic carpets that allowed you to walk on certain walls. Playing with the deploy piece was intuitive as it allowed one character to create bridges either for themselves or the other. The carpets served as an early introduction to the somewhat mind bending nature of the puzzler, as many surfaces can be walked upon during certain levels and chances are if you’re allowed to there’s good reason for it. A good example is the monster block, if ilo is adjacent to it, it will pop up to impede his way. If you leave ilo there, the monster will remain out, allowing milo to pass by the same cube on one of its other three traversable surfaces. Admittedly it’s quite straightforward, but there’s something elegant about the simplicity.
Some people might be turned off by ilomilo’s adorable design but the whole presentation is absolutely refreshing and was the main draw for me in the first place. The game has a surreal feel and looks truly unique, which is saying something based on the wealth of originality seen in the downloadable space. The closest comparison I can make is it has a sort of hand crafted quality to it, which is somewhat reminiscent of LittleBigPlanet. Thankfully the setup was fitted with a pair of nice headphones too and I can say the sound design really compliments the quirky puzzler.
Admittedly iloimilo was already somewhat on my radar before checking it out at PAX, but seeing it in motion really drew me into playing it. At this stage it’s beautiful, fun and remarkably intuitive to play, simply put, it was the most fun I had with a title at PAX this year. ilomilo drops into XBLA – as well as our hearts – later this year.