Review by PieingDutchman
Is it Pacman? Or is it a blob of mustard? Who knows, but it's damned cute!!
LocoRoco. A simple game which first started off as a doodle by its Japanese creator whilst on a trip. The concept is simple: make it to the end. The execution is simple too. In fact, nearly EVERYTHING in the entire game is simple!! And it works. It works very well. LocoRoco, probably best described as Pacman after eating some mushrooms, is probably a game best designed for kids and kids at heart. Therefore, I loved it to bits! If youre into blasting the guts out of some guy online in First-Person with a shotgun rather than making your way through puzzles, turn back now, this aint for you.
The story in LocoRoco is very simple, and is almost like a storybook. You are a planet, located far, far away (but not in that far, far away galaxy we all know about), and live a peaceful life. The LocoRoco, little coloured bloblet things who come in various varieties, work with the MuiMui, small men-things, in building, shaping and growing the land. All is peaceful until a Moja craft comes from outer space and the Mojas eat the LocoRoco! Being ever-peaceful creatures, the LocoRoco dont know how to defend themselves, so its up to you (the entire planet) to help them!
The story isnt much, but its enough to get you interested in the game enough to play it, and also sets the theme of the rest of the game due to its childish nature.
Probably my favourite aspect about the entire game is the sound(track). The sound effects themselves are very cheery and light-hearted (helium light, metaphorically speaking). The LocoRoco dont actually talk in any known language, rather this cheery language with simple lyrics and sounds of the mouth. These sounds are used rather helpfully in the gameplay. If you hear your LocoRoco say Canonca, then you know there are some nuts nearby to eat. If it says Boray, then you know theres a bush nearby which you can ruffle to reveal things. One particulary handy one is Moja, which sounds more like Mocha, but when you hear this you know a Moja is nearby, which is of course never good.
The music is my favourite aspect, however. As you play, various pieces of the music join the original tune, and the tune is very childish and fun loving. The lyrics are actually sung by the LocoRoco, however (you can tell my looking at their mouths). The neat thing is that if you have a large collection of LocoRoco together, they will sing together like a choir, which is very nice for me to hear. The various species of LocoRoco also all have different voices and accents, so you can hear the same music and lyrics but the voice is different, even in the menus. Sadly, theres no volume control or on/off switch for the music and sound as was present in the demos.
The graphics can be summed up in one and a half words: Flash-like. The graphics are 2-D and involve no shading whatsoever, making it look flat and Flash-like. This works to LocoRocos advantage in the gameplay aspect as youll see later. The best part however is the liquid-like effects applied to the LocoRoco and other objects in the game. Its like ragdoll physics for semi-liquids. As the LocoRoco get bigger (explained later), they turn from a small blob like chewing gum and into this large mass that swells about as you move and hit walls. Certain levels, like the ones where youre inside the body of something, and all the walls move and resonate about as you hit them and it all looks very fluid and great to look at.
Level graphics are neat as well. They dont use an entire colour set in any level, they just pick a few and stick with them. They all fit well too, the ice levels have whites and pale blues, the Jungle levels have greens and browns (and blue for water of course), and the Moja areas have blacks, greys and dark purples. This all combines for a very pretty environment to jump around in and explore.
The gameplay for LocoRoco is, for me, simple yet great. As mentioned earlier, you only play as the game world. So how on Earth (pun not intended) do you help the LocoRoco? Well, you use L and R to tilt the level about to the sides to make LocoRoco roll off to the sides to progress. If you have some obstacles in the way, you can press L and R at the same time to jolt the world up and launch LocoRoco into the air for a little bit. As you explore each level your main goal is to get to the end, but also with as many LocoRoco as you can. You get more by eating these red berries scattered throughout the level, making LocoRoco grow by one, erm, LocoRoco. When you press Circle, youll make a lighting strike, giving the LocoRoco a fright and causing it to split into as many LocoRoco as you have.
This move is used most often purely to progress to the next segment in the level, but these are usually cool to watch. Its sort of a mix between factory production lines of bottles and newspapers combined with a rollercoaster. Often your individual LocoRocos will be going through gears, traveling winds, and making their way through slippery narrow areas at high speed. The disadvantage to splitting your LocoRoco at any other point in the game and making your way through it like that is that often, in fact, ALWAYS, your LocoRocos will fly off in all directions and go for runners and get hurt. To solve this, all you have to do is hold down the Circle button and your LocoRoco will jump together and fuse back into one big one again.
One neat subtlety in the game is that, when you split your LocoRoco into little bits and leave them static, theyll start jumping about and playing together and talking to each other. This is actually kinda neat to look at and Id imagine itd be a nice screensaver.
The level design in the game is quite neat, and youll often find yourself in various puzzles to figure your way out of. While the game doesnt introduce new puzzle elements into the game after the first set of levels, the way you have to solve the puzzles with what youve got is never often the same. Youll have things that shoot you like a gun (though not with any of the violent things guns are associated with), slippery half-pipes, little gear things that move your forwards, vines, sticky walls and ceilings, bounce-balls and other elements to play around with.
The levels are, in classic platforming style, all themes, with ones like Jungle and Ice, a red palm tree theme, the Moja theme, and a flower theme just to name a few. The levels are peppered about and randomized however, and each world (or rather, section) of the game never has enough levels to include all of them (apart from the Moja theme, which is always last). Mojas themselves are both simple and hard. They look like they are thick dread-locked things, and all you need to do is give them a quick jolt by jumping and their out of the way. However, if you miss, or you dont hit them with enough force, theyll bite you and pull out a LocoRoco from you and start to devour it, and youll only have a few seconds to knock the Moja and free your LocoRoco bit. This is easier said than done, because often the Moja will drag you up into the air, and when a LocoRoco will be pulled off, youll have to jump a bit high to knock it. This makes Mojas both simple yet a bit frustrating to deal with.
Other opponents include a spiky thing called Burrs, which are a bit more annoying than Mojas. One slight touch and a LocoRoco will split off in a tremendous fright and jump away rapidly. You have to chase them down and touch them to get them back, but after a short five seconds their gone forever. This can get increasingly annoying when you come across clusters of Burrs, as when you get hurt youre flown up into the air, most likely onto the original or other Burrs, and so you lose more LocoRoco. The final few enemies are more simple to avoid, and include a fly-trap sort of plant, a fake berry which if you eat too much will then eat YOU, and a tunneling whats-it which is unavoidable for me and will take a LocoRoco, so you have to hit it before it eats its prize. Two half-opponents are these shouters, which split your LocoRoco, and these brown owl things which chew your LocoRoco like gum and spit them out in different shapes, from Triangle to a tall oblong (thats a rectangle).
Throughout the levels youll find two other things. The first is the previously mentioned Mui Mui. Like the Chaos Emeralds in Sonic (except much easier to find), these little guys will, as you collect more and more, unlock content such as bigger houses for your LocoRoco and music tracks for it (explained later). When you do find one, you get whats called a House Piece Pickorie, which you can use in the Loco House (also explained later). Scattered throughout the levels are three other varieties of Pickorie, and these guys serve as the games currency to pay for two of the three minigames (once again, explained later).
Another thing youll come across in levels are sleeping characters. These are rarely in the way, and if theyre not in the way, theyll give you a Loco House piece. Depending on what it is, they take a certain amount of LocoRoco to wake up. Simple things, like waking up a block or a Mui Mui sleeping in its house only need five, moving a big block required 10, but waking up a Sun or Moon (which are never in the way) requires a big 15 LocoRoco.
When you complete a level (marked by tall red reeds), a house will spring up for the LocoRoco to stay in, and the progress screen shows up. Your LocoRoco amusingly drop from the top of the screen and into a glass jar, and your Pickorie and Mui Mui count is also shown, along with your time to complete the level. When you complete a level with the maximum 20 LocoRoco, you unlock a Time Attack option for the level, plus a Loco House piece. Time Attack is just what it says, ignore all side-areas and dash (er, I mean, roll) your way to the finish within a set time. If you manage to do this, youre rewarded with 1,000 Pickories.
As you progress through the game, youll find other species of LocoRoco. These are simple varieties of the yellow one you see around a lot and are themed well, with the child yellow one, the motherly pink one, the African-American blue one (offensive content sold separately at no places whatsoever), and my personal favourite grunge cave-man like one. All the LocoRoco have different voices, and some are clearer and more fun to hear than others depending on your tastes. The neat this is that when you find a LocoRoco, you arent restricted to just that one in the levels, you can choose and type of LocoRoco youve found so far. Also cool is that the menus, which feature little LocoRocos, are also affected by this change, and subsequently the menu music and loading screens, which is a bunch of your selected LocoRocos jumping about and playing together. The menus are actually like little levels in themselves. The title screen has about six or seven LocoRoco bouncing about trying to touch the four circles present in the logo.
The final neat feature is that, when playing the game or during a Loco House simulation, you can press Select to capture a screenshot and save it into a gallery, which you can view later on. Once in the gallery, you can choose to save the image itself onto your Memory Stick in the pictures area (obviously) so you can view them outside of the game itself and also set it as your wallpaper.
LocoRoco is, aside from getting to the end of the levels, all about unlockables. The fisrt is the Loco House, which is a small area that is bare, but you can use House pieces youve unlocked to brighten it up a bit. You cant tilt and play the level, its more like a simulation, like this old computer game I used to have called The Incredible Machine (or TIM, for short), where you construct a level using various pieces and press Go to simulate what happens and achieve a goal. The Loco House works in much the same way, except theres no goal (except probably to make it a loop).
The House pieces are all various pieces already found in the game and a few Special ones, from the basic land bits to the complicated wheel pieces and you can even have letters to form sentences for the LocoRoco to jump across when you press Start to simulate it. This sort of thing is purely optional, but if you want to see if you can get something to work, it can be quite fun to see what you can come up with. As you collect Mui Muis, you unlock music tracks from various levels to play in your house and bigger houses for more room.
When youve completed your house, you can save it to your Memory Stick as a separate file. Then you can trade house plans with others who have them via Wi-Fi. Building and sharing a Loco House is much like one of the three minigames, which is the Loco Builder. Essentially its a small room where you can lay out pieces and the like, but its not very versatile for building something with challenge. Still, you are able to trade these as well.
The other two minigames are unlocked with a certain amount of Mui Mui. One is Mui Mui Crane, which is essentially a 2-D version of those Crane games you see in arcades to pick up soft toys. Here though, you pick up blocks and grouped LocoRocos. The blocks have the liquid physics the LocoRoco have, and this can make them hard to pick up, but once you do, you earn a Loco house piece, and its rarity is shown with the amount of stars on it. The LocoRoco will, once collected, play in the Loco House when you simulate it.
The other one is Chuppa Chuppa. Using a gameplay element called the Chuppa (that gun-launcher thing), you have to launch a single LocoRoco though various obstacles to get to a Loco House piece. This is difficult and a bit frustrating to play, but if you like the Learn how to do it while youre failing type of gameplay, youll like this one.
The final Wi-Fi feature is that you can connect to a PSP and send two levels to your mate so he can try it out. You are also able to play the chosen levels separately yourself. This is handy because I own the demos of the game and my friends oft ask me to have a go, so I can send two levels for them to play on their PSP so I can get back to what I was doing. This also encourages them to buy the game themselves.
Despite all of these features, LocoRoco actually has little to make you come back to it once youre done. All this stuff turns out to be a bit shallow. However, this is not so if youre young, because youll find this stuff so much fun and charming that youll be stuck on it for days on end.
LocoRoco isnt for everybody. Its childish and simple nature may detract for those who would like to do more in their games and the music may be annoying for some. However, if you do take to this game, youll take to it FAST, and itll be a great ride. It also happens to be quite unique in its gameplay in a way Ive never seen before for a puzzle game.
= Lovely and charming graphics
= Unique style of gameplay
= Charm will drag you in
= It isnt for everybody (but probably deliberately so)
= The unlockables tend to be a bit shallow
= Difficulty spikes a bit after a while to a degree that makes it frustrating for its intended audience.
9/10 if you fall for it
6/10 if you dont
FINAL Final score
8/10 (rounded from 7.5)
(oh and just so you know, the LocoRoco count for this review totals to 60)
(Im not kidding)
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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