Review: Livin' La Vida LocoRoco
LocoRoco is like no other video game out there because it's really out there. The goal is to maneuver a blob through 2D mazes full of puzzles and platforms, but with the catch that you never actually control the LocoRoco blob. Instead, you roll, bounce, bump and tilt it to the end of each level by manipulating the environment. To match this whacky premise, the game's presentation is full of artistic objects, vibrant colors and beautifully crafted level designs. Although everything, including the challenge, is so simple, it's an elaborately creative concept that could only come out of Japan. At the same time, however, LocoRoco can be enjoyed worldwide by anyone who loves imaginative video games and wants one on the go.
The once peaceful planet inhabited by the LocoRoco has been overrun by evil outer space creatures known as the Moja. These void-of-color invaders are not only unwelcome guests, but have been going around the pastel world capturing the innocent blobs. Tilting and bumping your way out of trouble, you must reach safety using only the L and R shoulder buttons. Holding down one of these buttons tilts the environment in the corresponding direction so that your LocoRoco slides to that side of the screen. Holding down L and R at the same time bumps your blob into the air, while varying how long you hold one and tap the other bounces you in a specific direction. Sometimes, you forget that you're manipulating the landscape instead of the blob, but the concept definitely looks believable and feels innovative.
On the way to safety, eating fruit increases the size of your LocoRoco. Conversely, it complicates sliding through levels, which often contain narrow passages, while whole. Pressing the circle button disassembles your LocoRoco into smaller blobs so that you can bypass tight spaces like a lava lamp. Less important is the fact that eating fruit increases your hit count in case you land on spikes or meet up with a hungry Moja. Since you, more or less, move from beginning to end with ease, the game isn't complicated enough to ever need health.
LocoRoco may be extremely unchallenging, but it's charming enough at every turn that it doesn't leave you bored. Lively colors fill the levels and jiggly animations make up the LocoRoco personality. Put those two together and you're watching a blob sail through neatly laid out levels, and it can be a real sight to see. The music is also something you'll want to hear. It's nothing familiar because it's just as inventive. Sounding like a score that belongs in the Lion King, you'll actually hear the LocoRoco sing as they bounce along. The presentation packs in a lot, so even if the challenge is limited, the look keeps you in the game all the way through the 40-plus levels.
Completing a level from start to finish is a piece of cake. Collecting everything within each level is as challenging as can be. There are 20 fruit flowers, hundreds of pickories and a handful of house parts to find in each level. The location of certain fruit flowers is hidden behind false walls, while others aren't fully grown. In the latter case, you have to bump into them twice in order to make the flower bud. It's very easy to miss a couple of fruit flowers the first time through, which makes exploration a top priority the second time around. After that, if you're really determined and in love with the game, then you can always attempt to best your lowest completion time and increase your high score. The time and high score statistics would've been perfect for an internet ranking feature to see who could finish each level with the most items collected in the shortest amount of time.
Aside from somehow saving the world by running and hiding, a trio of mini-games extends the replay value of LocoRoco just a little bit. A 2D version of the crane game allows you to actually win prizes, while the thorn-filled mini-stage featuring Chuppas fires you from their long snouts and away from danger. There's also a house that you can build from the parts collected in the main game and as prizes in the crane game. It sort of acts like a confined level editor, but proves interesting nonetheless.