Review by Muchorattler

Reviewed: 12/08/03

Going Lolo Loco

When a person such as myself thinks of puzzle games, amusing yet rehashed titles like Tetris and Bubble Bobble are usually the first to pop into mind. However, these along with the grave majority of puzzle-based games ever released simply feature level after level of spur-of-the-moment moves without requiring any true thinking, ultimately becoming viewed as not worthy of being included in the category ''puzzle games.'' Unfortunately, I often forget about one of the most underrated titles incorporating real brainteasers to come out of the genre, probably due to the current overall disregard of its existence. That game, Adventures of Lolo, is a unique little game indeed, mainly because a title character is normally NOT thought to be an egg-spittin' wonder who waddles about into suicidal conditions without the aid of a weapon. Likewise, the ingenious, one of a kind gameplay is apt to make one wonder just why this sort of thing wasn't thought of earlier—or at least conceived successfully.

As Lolo, the stout hero who looks to be the illegitimate son of Pac-Man, you must make your way through several floors of the Great Devil's Haunted Castle and rescue the pink, bow-bearing Princess Lala from the sinister clutches of her kidnapper. However—for some reason unbeknownst to anyone—the Great Devil's lair is comprised of the most treacherous form of villainy: puzzles. Wait a second... puzzles?

Upon first impression, Adventures of Lolo looks to be nothing more than a standard adventure game wannabe consisting only of pushing blocks. Given further inspection, however, it becomes evident that there is much more to it than that. Each floor (10 in all) houses 5 rooms filled with running, dodging, and puzzling bliss. What they all have in common is a sort of mazelike appearance with many dead ends depending on the formation of trees, rocks, and other natural obstacles within. In order to progress, Lolo must obtain jewels from Jewel Chests; the oddly shaped treasure boxes only to be opened after first collecting the Valentine-esque Heart Framers strewn about every room. As one might imagine, it's a seemingly simplistic premise for a game that's anything but ordinary.

Of course, being the residence of one Great Devil, monsters are expected to lurk around every corner in this castle—and they certainly do. A very original concept worked into Adventures of Lolo is the fact that no matter how harmless an enemy is (such as the smiling Snakey), it can still mean the difference between life and death. How so? Well, few adversaries will stop at nothing to keep Lolo from moving, literally. Groups of stone Rockies will congregate around him in an attempt to cut off any exits, and the fast-moving Leepers will render our blue friend immobile by backing him into a corner and unleashing their most sinister attack: dropping to the floor like a log and falling asleep. If that isn't bad enough, many other monsters nestled in swarms (and some with projectile capabilities) seem to be nothing short of dead—until Lolo finally awakens them by taking all their room's precious Heart Framers. As a puzzling twist, instead of ''solving'' rooms in a generic fashion, monsters all around must instead be blocked or stealthily dodged one by one if the goal is to be reached. At moments like these, it's essential to use the all-important Emerald Framers. Frequently throughout the game, Lolo will have to protect himself with the assistance of these green crates no matter how tedious it may seem. In addition, by carefully surveying the entire layout of the room, the player can also use the minimally supplied Emerald Framers to confine each enemy speedily. As an added challenge, a single wrong move of these crates can also result in an unforeseen death brought about by shutting oneself into an unescapable situation. To add fuel to the fire, only one or two Emerald Framers will commonly be placed in random areas at a time, making the environments all the more deadly and undistracted attention all the more necessary. Clearly there is no room for underestimating your opponents or surroundings here; a mind-set produced by the elements forming a true puzzler.

Despite how helpless Lolo appears to be, assuming so off the bat would be undoubtedly premature. Although he does not wield a sword, Lolo can acquire Magic Shots after taking special Heart Framers, which he can then shoot at enemies to temporarily enclose them inside eggs. In an egg state, an enemy can either be pushed into a river so Lolo can cross, used to block other monsters' attacks, or simply shot at a second time in order for it to fly off the screen momentarily. Other than Magic Shots, Lolo can also be granted bridges (used for crossing rivers when an egged enemy is not available), hammers (used to destroy a single rock), and the ability to change the direction of one-way passes (arrow marks on the ground that cannot be passed if they are facing the opposite direction).

Unlike other puzzle games out there, Adventures of Lolo rarely ever has a dull moment. Every room, or for that matter, every PUZZLE is completely unique and the difficulty continues to rise with every floor. True methodic thinking skills and concentration are crucial for reaching each goal and advancing through the game; therefore, relying solely on luck or rapid reflexes will most certainly not prove effective. Before long, it will be the norm to remain still and take in the complete layout of the latter rooms in order to mentally work your way through them before actually moving, and solving some of the tougher puzzles will feel like a more satisfying accomplishment than one might expect. So, how on earth can you possibly strategize every move while hideous monsters are constantly threatening to head your way? Simply put, no enemy will dare proceed in any one direction until Lolo takes the first step, allowing the player ample time to plan a course of action without worrying—for the time being—about the immediate consequences. There are no impossibilities present; only sensible challenges devoid of cheap frustrations or empty victories.

Like many great games in the past, containing drawbacks is always inevitable, and Adventures of Lolo is no exception. One minor control problem does exist, but nothing that puts a damper on the overall experience. For the most part, Lolo reacts perfectly whenever a move is executed (out of the very small amount that there are), however, on some occasions he does tend to stall. The most noticeable portions of the game where this is apparent is during certain instants when Lolo must cross a river using an egg. At times he will not move in the direction commanded and will simply run across the egg to an isolated island; an unfortunate situation that ends with the player becoming trapped. A real shame when it occurs, but otherwise a very rare and forgettable encounter.

If a game plays almost perfectly, is it possible for it to look just as good? Although the visuals may not appeal to everyone, an enthusiastic ''yes'' would be the answer from many. Vibrant colors are everywhere you look, cheerful enemies stand poised alongside more evil opponents (such as the incredibly ugly, eye-throwing Medusas), an the irresistible Lolo himself waddles to and fro with only his saucer-sized peepers separating him from your average, everyday blue blobs. It's obvious the characters and surroundings do not reflect a typical haunted castle; even the Great Devil himself is anything but intimidating. Of course, this is forgivable since exceptional creativity is everywhere, and things certainly appear that way from the get-go. Aurally, the music is very pleasing to listen to with its same abundance of ''happy'' echoing throughout each floor. Despite this, the single tune does become a bit repetitive as the game goes on, but not to an annoying point as to force the player to lose his or her concentration. As a whole, the graphics and audio fit well into a puzzler that does not depend on anything other than solid entertainment.

Adventures of Lolo, with its addictive, uncommon style straying far from the run-of-the-mill, is one of only a handful of games that really forces players to use their gray matter and becomes more and more engrossing as time quickly ticks by. For those who are convinced that video games rot your brain, this is one of a very few that really sets it to work in the most enjoyable of ways. Sure, puzzle games—or those that pretend to be—may have plummeted in quality in recent years, but when it comes to genuine, enthralling gameplay there is no contest: Adventures of Lolo is without a doubt the most complete and nostalgic puzzler on the NES and one of HAL's best ever ageless titles. So what are you waiting for? Experience the best of the best with the only walking blob worthy. You won't regret it.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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