LocoRoco Review

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Publisher: Sony
Developer: Sony

Platform: PSP
Reviewed on PSP

The cruel troublemakers of the Moja Corps invaded a distant planet, inhabited by myriad cheerful critters. Only the planet itself can restore harmony and happiness by tilting and swaying in such a way that its innocent inhabitants can be reunited and freed from the Moja Corps' influence.

Kyle Ackerman

LocoRoco is exactly what the PSP needs – an original and unbelievably engaging game that's not smack down the middle of the hardcore alley. LocoRoco's cheerful, colorful graphics, the catchy tunes, and the straightforward controls will reel in the casual gamer. In fact, he or she might snatch the PSP out of a hardcore gamer's hands – it happened to me. Some of what makes LocoRoco so engrossing for casual gamers will quickly lost some hardcore gamers' interest. But that doesn't diminishes the wonder of LocoRoco.

Is It Really So Easy?

The difficulty of LocoRoco is easily scalable, depending on your goals. It's never particularly difficult to get to the end of a level and unlock the next. On the other hand, it can be quite difficult to find all the Mui Mui (tiny, friendly bipeds), eat all the berries (to make the LocoRoco grow) and collect all the Pickories (that can be spent to play mini-games), let alone make it to the end of a level without suffering a few injuries. Many of these collectibles are in hidden caverns, or located well above or below the immediately visible area. Dedicated gamers can enjoy many hours of play searching for all the hidden items. Throughout, players will have to split the large LocoRoco into many blobs, or recombine many tiny LocoRocos to explore every hidden niche.

This is why the hardcore may not enjoy the game as much as a novice. Anyone focused solely on arriving at the end of LocoRoco will easily complete the eight levels on each of the five worlds in a few hours. But exploring and hunting down every hidden item means hours of questing around a pleasingly surreal world. It's good that the levels are easy to complete – it keeps less experienced gamers engaged. Just completing a level isn't the real challenge of the game.

A Novel Experience

The controls for LocoRoco are simple. You tilt the world one way or the other to move its inhabitants, occasionally bumping into the air with a quick lurch. That makes the basic play simple, as you send LocoRoco sliding and bounding about the world. The joy is in learning how to send the LocoRoco lurching into obstacles, or creatures like the Chuppa, that will send them bouncing or flying to brand new locations. Overall, LocoRoco plays something like a cross between Gish and pachinko in a fantastically colorful setting.

Visually, LocoRoco has a remarkable style. Everything is simple and cartoonish, giving it far more personality than a less stylized tilting world might manage. You'll find yourself eating berries in areas that range from deep jungles to ice paradises to the insides of great beasts. In fact, thanks to several beasts' innards, LocoRoco has more cilia than any other PSP game released so far.

Try To Stop Singing Along

If any single factor could be said to contribute more to the wonder of LocoRoco than any other, it would be the music. The catchy tunes are so infectious and cheerful that it's impossible to be sad while playing LocoRoco. Beyond songs keyed to different levels, each colored blob of an avatar has its own theme that it sings to cheer up the mysterious locals or to access blocked areas.

The tunes vary – the blue LocoRoco's melody seems a bit like a soap opera theme; the black LocoRoco sounds deliriously disco; and the child-like tune of the yellow LocoRoco is so cheerful that players might stroll along the street humming and singing it. Unfortunately, one of the lyrics sounds an awful lot to an English speaker like "car bomb, you're dead." While that's not the actual lyric, I strongly warn LocoRoco players to avoid strolling through the grocery stores singing "car bomb, you're dead." It can net you more than just a few strange looks.

The general sound design is simply brilliant. The Moja aren't threatening in appearance – looking like vicious, floating mops – so the tension comes from the horrified whimpers of the LocoRoco and the menacing grunts of the Moja. Everything in this world makes appropriate noises, from the whoosh of fast-moving air to the "boings" you want to hear as the LocoRoco bounce off springy vegetation. The sound makes the play so right that you'll be drawn through level after level.

A Bit More To It

There are a few simple mini-games in LocoRoco, but the main alternate activity to exploring the game's levels is also going to appeal more to casual gamers. You can construct your very own LocoRoco house and watch the little bouncy critters zip around platforms, pinwheels and air currents you've set up. The pieces used in the construction of the LocoRoco house are found throughout the game's levels or in the basic mini-games.

Ultimately, LocoRoco has a more lasting appeal to casual gamers than to conventional hardcore gamers. Because of that, and its style, LocoRoco is different from most other games on the PSP. But whatever sort of gamer you might be, LocoRoco is worth experiencing. LocoRoco is just too cheerful to miss.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 20, 2006 5:10 PM.

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