What’s yellow and round, always smiling and never one to let fruit pass by uneaten? If you guessed Pac-Man, you’re dead wrong; he’s terrified of them ghosts remember? But LocoRoco, now here’s a character that looks evil straight in the eyes, never flinching, never backing off. He and his multi-coloured buddies are the stars of the show here, presenting us with an all-new kind of platformer, where a d-pad, three buttons and a sense of humour is all that’s required. LocoRoco is seriously as unserious as they come.
You will have to guide LocoRoco, a sort of spherical blob creature… thing, through some typical platform fare – ramps, tunnels, trampolines, bridges, and so on. However, you don’t control LocoRoco directly (apart from jumping). Instead, you tilt the 2D world clockwise and anti-clockwise to manoeuvre him through the obstacles and other presenting challenges such as spikes, water rapids and the odd venus flytrap. L tilts left, R tilts right, L+R makes LocoRoco jump, and easy-peasy controls makes everyone happy. The third and final button used is O, and it is just as important as the other two.
Upon pressing that magic button, a bolt of lightning strikes our poor LocoRoco – nooooo! But in keeping with the light-hearted side of things, our cheery hunk of gunk isn’t reduced to a pile of ashes. Instead, he is separated into lots of little mini LocoRocos! You see, as you progress through each stage, eating up berries along the way to grow big and strong, LocoRoco soon plumps up to a size that doesn’t allow him to fit through small gaps. Say LocoRoco ate eight berries. Now LocoRoco essentially has nine lives (you start with one, duh) but yes, he’s a fat blob. Split now, and each of the little LocoRocos that are born can now wiggle through the aforementioned gaps, especially handy during the times when there’s a big neighbourhood spider blocking the way and you think, “if only I could squeeze through the small holes in the floor and roll past underneath it”. Once safely out of harm’s way, simply hold O and all the little LocoRocos will gather together, cry out as if they’re dropping a bomb, and reform into one whole piece again. Hooray!
“LocoRoco is seriously as unserious as they come.”Loco Roco features forty main levels split over five worlds. The difference between them lies primarily in the level designs; graphically, it’s bright, colourful and nearly always cheery, but with little variation between stages. Although conventional platform mechanics are abound, the new-fangled control scheme makes LocoRoco unlike any other generic platformer you have come across before. There’s vine swinging, but the manipulation of gravity is what will get you going like Tarzan here. There’s also plenty of slippery slopes, and again, your ability to tilt the environment favourably will determine whether you slide LocoRoco safely to the next step, or off-shoot him right into a pair of spikes. Although this is clearly a game aimed towards younger audiences, things do occasionally get nasty.
Never fear, LocoRoco will never perish! If you accidentally allow him be snatched by the tendrils of the Moja (bad black blobs), or impale him upon something sharp and typically deadly, you’ll lose a chunk of blobbiness – in other words, one of the little LocoRocos that you gained by eating berries. This makes LocoRoco an extremely forgiving game for the casual gamer who is only looking for some quick and simple fun and games, without ever worrying about death. Well, if you are down to a loner LocoRoco and are hit, it is game over, but that will rarely ever occur here.
As for the more hardcore players, LocoRoco offers quite a challenge to those that aim to surpass that of mere game completion. Each level houses lots of collectibles. There are those berries that count for life and bulk you up, but you’ll also come across a few sleepy friends (wisps of clouds, humongous suns, and all sorts of other weird happy creatures) at certain points and to wake them up you’ll need to sing to them. The more full-bodied you are, the more mini LocoRocos you can split up into, and hence the louder the chorus you can blare out to wake these dozers up. They will then open up new passages where you can collect hidden-away house parts that have a purpose later on in the game (and in this review). However, obtaining all twenty berries in each stage, along with three Mui Mui critters and a whole bunch of miniature flea-like pickories, is much easier said than done. With all the craziness going on in managing the rotation of the environment along with dodging all the hazards thrown at you, it is an extremely tough ride for completionists somewhat akin to Nintendo’s Yoshi’s Island duo of games and its red coin and flower challenges.
“an extremely forgiving game for the casual gamer who is only looking for some quick and simple fun and games”But if you are just playing it for the main game, LocoRoco doesn’t last very long. Whatever your gaming skills are like, four hours should be more than enough to see it through to the end. Although there are boss characters, most disappointingly there are no actual boss fights. How so? Well, you do get gobbled up by some large over-sized animals, then having to work your way out of their guts, but these levels are really no different to the others; the colour palette is changed, some specifically relevant platform devices are introduced such as the uvula and the villi, but it still plays out just like any of the other standard stages. It would’ve been nice to actually go blob-to-blob in some sort of proper duel.
It’s good to see then that there is some (limited) extra content unlocked once you’re all rolled out. Three mini-games don’t seem like many, especially when one is a simple crane game and the other sees you shooting LocoRoco through a series of tunnels to reach the end goal. The last one, however, is a level editor and it’s a keeper. While not on the same tier as the one featured in say Mega Man Powered Up, it is nevertheless a worthwhile addition. You are only limited to one screen’s worth of junk/art, and without a grid-based placement system it makes it difficult to align your bits and bobs in an orderly fashion. But just like how the main game is delightfully fun despite its simplicity, the same goes for your own user-creations should you spend some quality time with it. And you can even put in as many of those gnarly, swirling wind-currents as you want! True bliss.
There are a few things that don’t tip me the right way, though. Six different coloured LocoRocos will be unlocked during your travels. They each come with a different personality and different theme music to accompany them as they bounce along. However, they all play alike. The same can be said for the levels themselves, which just aren’t different enough; one or two new devices will pop-up for a while (like the beach balls that you have to knock along at the same time to help you bridge a later gap), but then never used again. At least the levels are short to maintain interest, but it’s strange how the four ‘demo’ levels included (for PSP sharing purposes) are both lengthy and full of creative flair.. dare I say, better than all of the main game’s levels! Is this a teaser for LocoRoco 2?!
Well at least we know that LocoRoco isn’t just purely a gimmick, that it still has a lot of potential improvement on top of an already sound base. I’m happy and content with what I’ve got right now in my hands, though. It’s a platformer where you’ll bounce upon many a hilltop and roll across a similar number of slopes, catching some turbulent wind now and again to be swept away with the spring flowers brimming with glittering exuberance. This game is truly as happy as I make it out to be, and the peppy musical gibberish serves as a perfect audio backdrop to the joyful scene. Flaws aside, of which I’m sure will be addressed in the inevitable sequel, LocoRoco is happy-go-lucky, a wonderful portable experience, and definitely the gaming equivalent of human serotonin.