Review - Loco Roco

[Originally posted on 1Up.com]

Well I was planning on writing a review earlier seeing as I've had the game since the beginning of July, but I just haven't gotten around to it. However, since it's released in North America today I thought this was a good opportunity to write it.

Hailed as one of few titles for the PSP that brings something new and fresh to the table, Loco Roco has gotten a lot of good press and has raised many disgruntled PSP-owners hopes that this is the turning point for the PSP. These are some big shoes to fill, and like you probably already know Loco Rocos don't have feet. They are however fairly good at filling up most any space.

The first thing that strikes you about Loco Roco is just how vibrant and happy it is. Rarely has such bright and colorful palettes appeared on the system, the greys, browns and dark shades of blue and green that usually fill the screens of PSPs are nowhere to be seen, instead replaced by vivid pastels of orange, purple, greens, blues and pinks.

Secondly, the sound is enough to bring a smile to your face, as soon as the game boots, you are literally greeted by the carefree singing of the Loco Rocos, in their child\Smurf-like voices their cheerful sing-a-long singing to the game music is enough to melt the most hardened gamer.

Once you start playing you notice the third distinct aspect of Loco Roco, the physics. Built around the idea that the Loco Roco are like water balloons, rolling them around the environment and seeing how they react to it is a big part of the fun of the game.

An interesting thing is that you don't actually control the Loco Rocos themselves, you control the planet that they're on. By tilting the landscape right or left using the trigger buttons, you make the Loco Rocos roll in that direction, and by pressing both triggers at the same time you jolt them into the air so that they effectively "jump", the fourth control available is generating a lightning storm by hitting the O-button that splits big Loco Rocos into small ones so that they can traverse narrow passageways or wake a sleeping giant with their chorus. Hitting the button again, pulls them back together.

The aim of the game is to navigate a single Loco Roco through a level, eating fruit along the way to grow it in size, for each fruit eaten the Loco Roco grows in size by one single Loco Roco and when split into single Loco Rocos you will get as many as the amount of fruit eaten plus the one you started out with. There is a total of 20 Loco Rocos in each course, and for the completist finding all of these, plus all bonus items in each level will be the ultimate goal.

Getting at least one Loco Roco from start to finish is a very easy task which your seldom or never fail to do. The courses are easy to follow and never leave you stuck, not knowing where to go. There are also very few enemies or dangerous terrain, the few "Mojas" as they are called are easily defeated and the few spikes you encounter can be avoided or passed without too much hassle. However, as I mentioned, there are 20 Loco Rocos to collect in each level, and often 2 or 3 bonus items that can be used for constructing your own obstacle course for the Loco Rocos in the Loco House. There are tons of hidden areas to find and some hard-to-get-to places that will really test your control of these water balloon-like creatures.

At first this seemed like a master-stroke to me. The game has a completely step less difficulty setting, leaving it up to you to decide how difficult you want it to be, depending on how many Loco Rocos you want to complete each level with. You are given points based on how well you do and each level can be re-played when ever you want to improve your score or to beat a friends, but you are never hindered or penalized for not completing the course with all or several Loco Rocos, one is enough for you to move on. This makes the game playable for everyone from the newbee to the hard core gamer.

There is however a problem with this system, too much freedom can be a bad thing, at least if you're a lazy guy like me who needs both a carrot and a whip to progress in a game. To start with the three pillars of the game, it's graphical style, the music and the physics-based gameplay where enough to keep me going, to want to explore and experience each level. But about 3/4 through the game the novelty started to wear thin, and there just wasn't enough variation to keep me intrigued. So without there being a concrete challenge, there wasn't much to keep me going. I'm definitely not the completist type, I never go for the 100% complete goals of games. This was a big reason behind me never finishing Super Mario 64 or Metroid Prime, both highly acclaimed games, but both based on the idea that players want to go back-tracking through already explored sections in search of treasures for the 100%-complete goal.

The game is still worth getting and playing, but it doesn't quite go as far as I would have liked with it's ideas. What it does it does with 100%-competence, it just doesn't do quite enough for a 10/10 score. It kept me playing for about 80% of the game, so I feel that this also seems like a logical score. Here's hoping for that perfect sequel though.

My Score: 8 of 10

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