Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tech: LocoRoco review

"LocoRoco," a game developed by Sony for its PSP handheld video game system, seems at all times like the answer to some kind of twisted game designer bet - "Could you make an engaging game in the year 2006 that uses only three buttons?" Surprisingly, for the most part, the answer is yes.

You control a small blob, or, more precisely, you control the world the small blob resides on. The shoulder buttons tilt the playfield left and right, you can "jump" the blob by holding and releasing both shoulder buttons. You can also press a button to split up and rejoin the blob, a la the T-1000. That's it. While "LocoRoco" is ostensibly a platformer, there's no run function, no weapons, no gizmos - the game is refreshing in its simplicity. At times it'll feel a bit like pinball, at others, pachinko, and at still others, Pitfall.

The worlds you'll be traveling through are charming, to say the least. The sharp, cartoony levels pop with detail, and the ever-present musical score can be either upbeat, ethereal, or even a bit spooky. The cute art style might turn off some, but even the most jaded gamer can appreciate the super-sharp sprites and a good framerate.

Given all the game's strengths, it's a huge disappointment that the play mechanics and blob physics aren't used for more puzzles and platforming challenges. In general, the game is a cakewalk to complete, although that difficulty rises quite a bit if you decide to unlock all the hidden items and get the highest score. And before the end, you'll find yourself a bit surprised that the core gameplay doesn't change much from level 1 to level 40.

Rating: 76/100


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