Review by quarkedcharm
Loco for Locoroco?
Locoroco is a PSP game first released in Europe, and most recently released in Japan on July 13, 2006. The game has garnered much critical acclaim among video game news sites and with professional video game critics but does this game measure up to all of the rave reviews?
For those gamers who fall in love with games that are simple and well executed, Locoroco is a game for you. Other games that fall in this category are Katamari Damacy for the PS2, and Lumines for the PSP. Like those games, Locoroco is a nicely packaged game with simple rules and great execution. The simple controls, the vibrant colors, and catchy soundtrack all come together to create a lighthearted and fun game that will turn heads on the subway.
You won't find any epic storylines here, just a bare-bones storyline to push forward the core of the game, which is the gameplay itself. However, sometimes simplicity is the best solution, and the relative lack of a storyline makes this game extremely import-friendly. There are not many lengthy explanations, and the menus and controls are so intuitive that there is no need for lengthy explanations. The player takes the role of a planet that is trying to save its peaceful inhabitants (the Locoroco) from the invading Moja. As such, the job of the player is to guide the Locoroco to safety by tilting the landscape left or right, causing the Locoroco to roll downhill. The stages vary from grassy meadows to creepy castles and dark, gloomy forests. I think one of the best features of this game is the way that the stages come together to give just the right feeling for every stage.
The simple controls are one of the major draws for Locoroco. The L and R buttons tilt the ground, causing the Locoroco to roll downhill. Pressing the L + R buttons bounce the ground underneath the Locoroco, causing them to "jump" in the air. The O button zaps the Locoroco with thunder, causing them to split up into smaller pieces, which is used to get them through tight spaces. Holding the O button causes them to roll back together to form a single Locoroco. That's it. The rest of the game is left up to the wonderful design of the levels. Roll the Locoroco into a gnarled claw in the forest stages, or ramp them to higher places with a U-pipe on the ice stages. The controls are one of best qualities of the game, and are very intuitive, making this game easy to pick up and start playing immediately. I would say that this game's controls are right in between Katamari Damacy's controls and Lumines' controls.
The graphics are, simply put, stunning. The vivid colors make the LCD on the PSP shine. The color scheme puts the player in the right mood for each level: cheerful reds, yellows, and greens for the grassy levels; dark blacks, deep browns, gloomy greens for the castle and forest levels; icy blues and whites for the ice levels; earthy reds and browns for ruins and desert levels. The graphics are yet another airtight fit for the overall presentation of Locoroco. Few games look as at home on the PSP as Locoroco.
The soundtrack for Locoroco is one of my favorite parts of the game. The songs are all catchy, and there are certain "themes" for each new race of Locoroco that you encounter. From just the songs, you can tell that the Pink Locoroco is meant to be French, and the Red Locoroco is meant to be Indian. (This brings up a minor tangent: although this might be simply innocuous Japanese racism, there is not a little bit of racial profiling in Locoroco, and some players, myself included, might find it a little bit insulting.) However, tangents aside, the soundtrack makes up the last third of an amazing game. The songs are catchy, and hearing the Locoroco sing just makes you feel happy! A nice touch is that the number of voices increase if you split your big Locoroco into individual Locoroco. A single voice can become a duo, trio, or full-blown 20-member chorus. The Locoroco's mouths move in synch with the voices on the soundtrack, and you can pick out how many Locoroco are singing each individual part! I think this is the coolest part of the game, and I've often found myself purposefully splitting my Locoroco just to hear the different harmonies in each track.
Play Time and Replayability: 7/10
The game is a relatively fast play, and if you aren't interested in finding all of the hidden items in each level, the game can be finished in just a few hours. However, for the perfectionist gamer, there are tons of niches and hidden areas to explore, each one cleverly hidden away, but easily accessible, and intuitively placed.
There is also a different type of "sub-game" in Locoroco, which is the LocoHouse. The LocoHouse is where your Locoroco hang out, and in something reminiscent of Rube Goldberg and Lemmings, you can place hundreds of different parts in your LocoHouse and set your Locoroco free to roam. Each level has hidden parts that can be collected for your LocoHouse, and there are additionally 3 minigames which offer LocoHouse parts as prizes. You start with a small LocoHouse and one minigame, and when you collect more Muimui, three of which are tucked away in secret locations in each stage, larger LocoHouses and more minigames become available. Within the LocoHouse itself, a random LocoHouse part is randomly placed in one of about 5-8 predetermined locations, and you can make it a goal to guide the Locoroco to grab each LocoHouse part.
The LocoHouse and the minigames add some replay value to the game, but one of the few critiques I have of the game lies with the LocoHouse. The positions of each part in the LocoHouse are predetermined, and although they cycle randomly, there are only a few spots within the LocoHouse where they will ever appear. This makes it very easy to construct a house where every spot can be reached by your Locoroco, which takes away the incentive to change the layout of your LocoHouse. Also, the prizes in the game proper, and the prizes in each minigame are only more parts for your LocoHouse. After collecting hundreds of parts for your LocoHouse, it makes it a little difficult to celebrate when you get another see-saw for your LocoHouse. This gives players little incentive to go and find all of the hidden items in each stage, and can cause a player to quickly lose interest in the LocoHouse itself. But, aside from that minor complaint, I found Locoroco to be a great game and very fun to play.
Final Rating and Recommendation: 8/10
To recap, the main draws of this game are the solid gameplay, the design and feel of the levels, and the beautiful graphics and engaging soundtrack. Locoroco is very import friendly, so buyers shouldn't hesitate before importing it either from Europe or Japan. Importing games is one of the biggest advantages to the PSP, and Locoroco is one of the best reasons to import.
Aside from the sub-stellar LocoHouse sub-game, and maybe some harmless yet somewhat stinging racial stereotypes, Locoroco is a good investment for your PSP library, and I would recommend that you import the game, or wait to get it when it is released in the United States.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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