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Loco Roco

Developer: SCEJ | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/05/06 | Genre: Platform

roco2.jpgIf you own a PSP, you need to buy LocoRoco. This is exactly the type of title that could be done on any other platform, but is a perfect fit for Sony’s handheld. It is a little quirky, has fun with itself, and has enough difficulty to allow both “hardcore” and casual gamers to enjoy it. LocoRoco is a platformer that doesn’t know it. I’ve never been a fan of platform games (I am the only one of my peers in this industry that doesn’t look forward to the next Mario game) so it takes something very original to pique my interest.

Unlike most titles players don’t control the character, but instead (much like the Monkey Ball series) the environment is tilted using the shoulder buttons. A simplistic device that allows for more exploration than one might expect. Add to the “side to side” movement players can break apart the LocoRoco to fit into tight spaces.

There are things to collect, traps to avoid, hidden areas to find, many of the trappings of a traditional platform title. What sets LocoRoco apart is not just the visual style but the absolute simplicity of the game. Tilting the game world isn’t the only thing that can happen, players can “bump” the LocoRoco upward to get to higher places, but in the same way that Tetris made the idea of falling blocks interesting, this title uses the simple basic premise (in this case the tilting of the game world) to show an as yet untapped depth of gameplay is going from left to right.

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Since there are things to collect, one would expect some sort of reward, and that is very much the case here. There are some mini-games that are unlocked, and can be played by paying so many berries (the berries are spread throughout each level). One mini-game rewards players with pieces to build a LocoRoco house. More on that in a minute. Another mini-game is much more challenging where the LocoRoco needs to be launched and avoid obstacles in order to get pieces to build the LocoRoco house.

LocoRoco comes with a level editor, which is the third min-game unlocked. While not as deep as the levels that are in the game, the user created levels are able to be shared via the PSP wireless connection. This adds quite a great deal of value, as being able to share levels with friends to constantly come up with new paths helps to keep the game fresh. Also shared is the LocoRoco house – where players take various pieces that are collected either in the game or through the mini-games and, well, it’s like a Pachinko machine in a way. It’s more mindless fun interactivity.

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Visually the game is just… so basic. It’s like some retro pop art that somebody though would make a cool looking game. Actually, it looks more like a Flash based web game. This isn’t said to be a derogatory comment, instead to simply convey that there is a “whimsical” feel to the game’s visuals. The emphasis here was very clearly on building graphics that help to emphasize the gameplay, instead of the other way around.

Mention should be made of the sound. It sounds as if the entire nation of FuzzyCuteness was crammed into a recording studio for the music and effects. This is sure to turn off many players. This game isn’t for them anyway. The game isn’t without its faults however. There is no map function and there is no way to zoom the game camera out to get a better view of the area. It isn’t enough to break the game, but it could have benefited from either of these things.

While short, LocoRoco was meant to be played multiple times through. The game keeps track of how many berries were collected, how many of the LocoRoco were gathered, how many MuiMui are visited (they award the player with a piece for the LocoRoco house), and how long it took to get through the level. One could blast through the game in a few hours, but that would be missing the point. LocoRoco is meant to be a game where one sits back, relaxes, and enjoys a simple game to unwind with.

By Daniel "Monk" Pel... - 10/29/06

Screenshots for Loco Roco

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