Sony’s Japan studio managed to bring them selves to the fore of the development huddle with their initial release of Locoroco. The game was unlike anything else on the market and represented a return to simple puzzle/platform mechanics not really seen since the early Amiga days (it reminds me of a title called Bob’s Bad Day – google it). To say that I was a big fan of the first title would be a HUGE understatement. The game just made me smile from start to finish and always managed to put me in a great mood. The one thing I thought after finishing the game was “I hope they never try and do a sequel to this”. So it was with MUCH trepidation that I loaded up Locoroco 2.
Luckily this is more like Locoroco: Final than a fully realized sequel. The initial game was criticized for being more like a glorious tech demo. I felt it was more than that myself but whatever. The basis premise with both games is that shit happens in the world of the Roco’s and an evil invasion is started. This time all the color is taken from the world and you must remove the stains from the plants to free the planet and rid it of the invasion. OK so the plot is 100% Japanese and so is the music a visual style but it melds together. You control the environment around you small Locoroco and use the PSP shoulder buttons to tilt the world left or right. You can also press both shoulder buttons in to make your Roco jump. Simple as that really. And that, to be honest is the beauty of the title; more on that later though.
The PSP is basically a hand-held PS2, and thanks to titles like God of War, Syphon Filter and Daxter we know how well it can chuck around 3d environments. Locoroco shies away from these obvious 3D worlds though, employing instead a gloriously colorful 2D environment that moves and wobbles with pinpoint efficiency. Sure you can not exactly say “Wow, look at those graphics!” but the style is clear, clean and colorful and does exactly what you want it to do for a game of this type. Once again all the little Roco’s and Mui-Mui are wonderfully cheerful and cute. The enemies are all suitably goofy and cartoon like and it will all just make you smile.
Sound design was another thing that set the first game apart from the crowd. Endless cheerful songs of utter nonsense words all in a weird kind of J-Pop style. I know it sounds dreadful when written or spoken about but after a short while playing the either of the games you will find yourself mindlessly humming the music at any point during the day (I recommend not doing it in a public loo though!). Spot effects are great but limited; this does not really matter as it is all masked by the wonderfully catchy tunes and weird singing of the LocoRoco horde that you control.
Game play is basic to say the least. The game is basically a platformer with a smattering of puzzle game slapped in for a laugh spread over about 10 levels. The general idea is you start at point A with a single Roco character. in this game they have fleshing things out a bit more and all of the Roco’s have names and descriptions: Kulche – Energetic Youngster (yellow) Viole – Confident Tomboy (purple) Budzi – Loose Cannon (black) Pekeroné – Exuberant Geek (red) Chavez – Cool Speed Freak (green) Priffy – Style Princess (pink) Tupley – Voracious Fella (blue). You make your way around the levels traveling from A to B and collecting red flower bulbs, Mui-Mui and extra Rocos on the way. Your Roco grows in size with each one you find and sometimes you have to control them as a whole and other times you need to press the O button to split them in to individuals to fit through small gaps etc. The whole mechanic works very well, the controls respond as expected and the level design is similar to the first game but more in depth. The first title was a very simple affair that could be beaten in only 4 or 5 hours max. The sequel employs this same rapid play style but adds harder puzzle elements and elusive collectables to the mix to make you go back time and again and try and improve your score or find that last remaining Mui-Mui.
The longevity of the title depends on your need to complete objectives and obsessively collect2 all the items. I just enjoy playing the title as a breezy little de-stress toy. I can’t recommend the game highly enough for the software barren PSP. Sure it’s cutesy and you need shades for the odd level but it is a fun and well designed game that surpasses it’s predecessor in all ways.
For a final recommendation this title was one of the reasons I did not EBay my PSP 6 months ago; that and Resistance: Retribution.