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LocoRoco 2

LocoRoco 2 is insanely cute. There, it had to be said. Imagine a list of the cutest games to ever grace our beloved culture and right there at the top would be LocoRoco 2 – yes, even above its forebear. If there was a cuteness competition between videogame characters, then yellow LocoRoco Kulche would go home with the trophy without question. Yet when it comes down to it all these statements are simply not enough to convey just how cute LocoRoco 2 is. It’s the kind of game you want nestled in your coat pocket as you walk places in the cold, the kind of game you want to give every family member for Christmas so you can all enjoy its exploits collectively. If you’ve ever felt down this is the game to raise your spirits, it’ll grab your face and put a big smile on it ten times the size of happiness. The game itself may not have changed much from the first game, but who ever said winning formulas needed changing?

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LocoRoco 2 initially seems a little too similar to the original handheld smash. The logo hasn’t changed bar the obligatory ‘two’ at its end, the title screen is suspiciously styled much like the first game; everything feels a little too similar to be unsettling. It’s once you start to play the game that these concerns are quashed, and you realise that this is a totally fresh LocoRoco title, and it’s never been more alluring.

This time, the developers have focused more on a story, with a good amount of cut-scenes and more character development than its predecessor; to give your actions a little meaning. The whole story translates to a lot of generic ‘world is in danger, bad guys have evil intentions, good guys become heroes’, but thanks to the tuneful music, the adorable gobbledygook dialogue and slick delivery of the cut-scenes, you’ll at least watch and enjoy it all unravel. The first game never lost out thanks to its lack of much of a story, so its worth in the sequel is merely a pleasant addition that will interest you but won’t keep you playing if the main gameplay doesn’t appeal – not that it wouldn’t, the gameplay is as infectious as ever.

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Changing RoomsActing as one of the main diversions to the main game, the Mui Mui house offers players the chance to collect and build new rooms and items to occupy the dozens of Mui Mui you’ll encounter in the main game. Often you’ll find it takes a while to collect enough tools to make a sufficient amount, which is a shame, but this only fuels your determination to explore harder when you play the main levels. Certain objects you build have an effect on the whole game, for instance a camera will let you take pictures in the main adventure. Another neat idea is the loading screen, which shows a Mui Mui digging a tunnel – at the end he will find an item, and this is brought back to the house for him to restart his digging, ingenious. It’s certainly a better part of the game than the original’s disappointing Loco House mini-game, it’s undeniably cute.The gameplay works identically to the first game – the aim of the game is to tilt the earth so to get your LocoRoco from point a to point b, all the while trying to find all twenty orange flowers dotted across each level in order to make your blob of love grow. Like the original, there are Pickories all over each level that can be used in mini-games outside the main game. New additions to the collectable army include musical notes that appear from certain objects, which, when collected one hundred of, makes it easier for you to collect said Pickories. Mui Muis return, and when found will return to the ‘Mui Mui house’ (see ‘Changing Rooms’), they’ll also drop a star pickup, which will either be a tool for your Mui Mui house, a stamp sheet, or, simply a stamp. The amount of ‘collection’ in the game is simply fantastic, and it does wonders to making the game last longer than completion, and just killing time generally. And this is even forgetting photo opportunities that fill up your ‘memories’ album, which is possibly the cutest side-dish to the game’s main course.

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To return to the gameplay, everything works much like the original, but with some impressive tweaks and features sprinkled here and there. As you progress through the many themed levels, an incredibly trendy Mui Mui will appear to introduce you to a new move for your LocoRoco. These range from jumping higher to swimming, and they always help you adapt to the level you’re playing through. While the original game was fairly standard fare and on rails in the way of things to do (the objective was often just to bounce your way to the end of the level), LocoRoco 2 gives you more obstacles, more challenge, more contraptions and just a whole lot more variety. Sometimes in a level you’ll come across an object that your LocoRoco can get into and roll in – for instance you’ll come across a ball of Ice, and, once your character gets in, objects that were previously an obstacle (such as ice shards) can now get smashed with ease. These habitable objects can also be used as a key to open new paths.

The game world is genuinely more interesting, too, as in the original game you had felt you had seen all the game had to offer after the half way point. Here, every level is a world of difference from the last. You’ll slip through a Penguin’s body, slide down a tropical waterfall, fly through the night sky in a rocket, bounce metres in a crazy industrial factory – it’s almost an endless amount of things to reminisce on, and this is what makes the game so out and out fun to play. The game world feels more interactive, too, with animals now a more prominent presence, helping your LocoRoco out when it seems all pathways are closed. The developers must be applauded for the ingenuity that the game offers – the moment you initiate the first firework of a certain level is a moment as memorable as any in gaming. Even the credits are highly original, and succeed in making an old, often dull part of games feel new and inspired.

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Mini-games return to the fold, and this time they’re introduced almost as part of the story, but as things you can go back to as much as you’d like. There’s a greater amount of them, too, with some firm favourites from the original game returning. Notable new additions include the ‘Loco Race’ – a gamblers favourite that pits four Locos against each other in a short but sweet race to the finish line, and the shmup-inspired ‘BuiBui BwoooooN!’. The maddeningly addictive ‘Chuppa Chuppa’ mini-game makes a return, and will have you cursing at the screen once again. In the main game there are subtle holes in each level that bring you to a simple benami like rhythm game, and these are few enough that you’ll enjoy it every time it happens.

The visuals retain the charm that made the original such a shining light in a time where grey was the new black, but don’t radically improve on them. They look bright, cheerful, and as dazzling as you would’ve hoped. Certain locations sit immensely well under the PSP’s screen, notably the calming ‘CaloCaro’ level. Unfortunately on cut-scenes certain characters appear slightly pixelated, and while this is an extremely light complaint, it still mars what would otherwise be perfect cut-scenery. Much like the visuals, the music is a world of joy to behold. Each LocoRoco has an individual song to sing, and every one enchants. It’s a shame that more new characters weren’t introduced to the game, as if you’ve played the first game hearing the same songs will never be as good as if you’d first heard them. Nevertheless, you’ll want to buy some decent headphones to fully enjoy the aural sweetness.

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LocoRoco 2 is a game that just keeps on giving. Whether it’s in the immense amount of collectables you’re encouraged to find, the multiple avenues that each level has hidden under its skin, or simply the memory of a particularly captivating area, you’ll be under its spell from the word go. Cute, charming, and an utterly magical joy to play from start to finish, LocoRoco 2 is your new best friend. Now go give it a hug and buy yourself some mittens.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @_Frey.

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