First Impressions: You spin me right round, baby.
Let's face it; most of us gamers are big nerds for anything that comes from Japan. Now granted, not all of us love Gundam, J-Pop, and Pocky, but most of us will perk up when we hear about those crazy niche games from the Land of the Rising Sun. Now granted, it wasn't always like this. Quirky titles like Mister Mosquito and Gitaroo Man may have all fallen by the wayside, but these days it seems videogame fans are starting to take note of the more innovative ideas coming from our friends from the East. We saw it happen with Katamari Damacy, and it's bound to happen again this September when Sony releases it's very strange, very colorful, and most of all very fun game titled LocoRoco for the PSP. Already deemed a sleeper hit by many publications, LocoRoco promises to give everyone a good dose of strange visual appeal mixed with innovative gameplay that we've come to expect from such niche titles.
The story itself is odd right from the start. The LocoRocos' planet is a peaceful one until one day it is invaded by evil big-like aliens known as the Mojas. The Mojas have a natural inclination to just eat any LocoRocos lying around, so it is up to you to help the LocoRocos get to safety. LocoRocos aren't the only inhabitants of the planet, though. Along the way they will be helped by many of the planet's other inhabitants such as the MuiMui- tiny humanoid creatures that are willing to give you advice so long as you save them first.
Playing like a cross between a platformer and a puzzle game, LocoRoco doesn't exactly let players play as the titular heroes- the LocoRocos. Instead, players actually control the entire world around the lovable yellow blobs by rotating the playing field. The world can be tilted 45 degrees left or right by pressing the L or R buttons. Also, the LocoRocos can be split apart or merged together using the circle button. The merging and splitting of LocoRocos plays a role in how they will escape from each level.
Some areas are small, and of course, a giant LocoRoco won't be able to make it very far if that is the case. The downside to being split apart is that the LocoRocos are much more vulnerable to attacks from the Mojas as well as simple environmental hazards such as the wind. Let too many LocoRocos get away and they will start to turn pale and die. The LocoRocos aren't completely defenseless, though. While they are very stupid creatures that won't move to save their lives, players can press both shoulder buttons at the same time to launch a giant LocoRoco into the air to attack Mojas.
MuiMuis and Mojas aren't the only things to keep your eyes out for in LocoRoco. The LocoRocos' planet is full of fruit that when eaten will cause the LocoRocos to balloon in size. Also, each stage is filled with hidden areas that can only be accessed by certain LocoRoco formations. Use large LocoRocos to smash through walls and small ones to squeeze through tight corridors.
Visually LocoRoco is just downright crazy. While the game looks in no way real, it features an art style that grabs you by the corneas and doesn't let go. Levels feature very vibrant colors such as bright green grass and puffy white clouds. The animation on the LocoRocos themselves is outstanding. As one would expect, the LocoRocos fluidly bend and stretch, happily flowing along in the game world. The LocoRocos aren't the only things moving, either. The background is full of animation with moving gears and windswept vistas.
When it comes to audio, LocoRoco is an aural feast of perky sound effects and cheery addictive music, much like that of Namco's Katamari Damacy. The music even features a choir of young Japanese children singing, much like Katamari. The songs aren't necessarily annoying, but they will definitely have you humming them all day.