If there’s one thing that all gamers will agree on with LocoRoco, it’s that there’s nothing else quite like Tsutomu Kouno’s masterful concept.
It’s simple, but not too easy. It’s technical, but accessible to even the youngest of gamers. It looks easily made, but would actually be a logistical nightmare to design.
The original LocoRoco was a resounding success, and therefore it makes perfect sense that its sequel hasn’t reinvented the wheel. LocoRoco 2 is basically more of the same – and that’s music to the ears of anyone who enjoyed the original. All too often developers try too hard with sequels to keep things “fresh” and “interesting” but only end up fixing something that wasn’t broken in the first place.
It’s a pleasure also to see a game that’s built to take advantage of what the PSP has to offer rather than the fiddly, thrown-together also-rans that are FPS and 3rd PS on the handheld console. As in the original, three buttons is all you’ll need to play LocoRoco 2 – L and R plus circle will do everything you need to do in the game. The beauty of its apparent simplicity is ever present once again.
The LocoRocos are a collection of blob-shaped creatures, varying in shape, colour and personality. They, along with the tiny Mui Mui care greatly for the well-being and harmony on their planet. The Moja are a race of evil flying aliens whose sole purpose in life seems to be the destruction of every living thing on the LocoRoco’s lovely planet.
Having been defeated in the original game, the Moja army retreated to its home planet. The Moja boss, Bonmucho creates a song that drains the life-force from anything living. This spells bad news for the LocoRoco as the Moja launch another invasion on their planet. It’s up to the LocoRoco once again to drive them out. While it’s fair to say that the story does take a distant backseat to the gameplay itself, it’s there nonetheless and does serve to gel the whole experience together.
Exactly the same as the first game, the gameplay is split between the inventive platforming/puzzler element and the need to collect everything along the way by discovering all the hidden areas. Longevity kicks in here as you’ll find yourself replaying levels over again in an attempt to find those elusive last berries or Mui Mui. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of a level only having found one Mui Mui – it’ll do your head in trying to think back as to what you missed and where.
Collecting berries is paramount, this makes your LocoRoco bigger and able to complete different tasks that require either mass or individual numbers. Just as before, pressing circle will cause your LocoRoco to split into a number of small LocoRoco, allowing them to pass through cracks and small gaps. Holding circle makes them huddle together and join back into the larger mass.
There are some new characters in the sequel, some there to help you like sea otters, penguins and specialised characters such as Nyokki who perform specific tasks. One even lends your LocoRoko his afro hair so you can smash through barriers, yeah I didn’t get it either, but this is a land where weird things are the norm.
Then there are other characters who are there to harm you like Bui Bui (some kind of anti-Mui Mui), angry bees, pufferfish, carnivorous plants with long tongues and of course the ever-present Moja, who, funnily enough, are probably the easiest enemies to defeat.. It’s a treacherous world out there for an innocent LocoRoco. Coming into contact with an enemy or spiky object causes you to lose one LocoRoco and unless you can quickly gather it in again before it disappears then it is gone for the rest of the level.
The level design is once again a work of art. The more LocoRoco you play, the better you will get at finding the game’s secret areas. It’s a satisfying feeling when, while you’re being whisked on a gust of wind to another part of the level, to catch a glimpse of a platform or area and then backtracking or replaying the level to find out just how to get to it. Your LocoRoco can now dive underwater too, which allows for some below the surface action in a shipwreck, but not too much to make it an over-used feature.
The levels range from the stark and gloomy so the bright and surreal. One even takes place in the bowels of a giant penguin. Well let’s face it, the long narrow tubes are ideal for a LocoRoco level and when you find yourself swinging from what can only be described as polyps, then you know you’re playing a game like no other and are entering the mind of the imaginative (and probably quite sick) level designer.
There’s a lot more to collect in LocoRoco 2, meaning you’ll be replaying levels more often than the original game. There’s stamps, which you can then use to complete scene cards templates, or even create your own. There’s the obligatory nuts, seeds and objects that can be used to build at the Mui Mui house, which makes its return in what seems to be exactly the same format. It’s a novelty to build different rooms etc for your rescued Mui Mui, but not essential to the main quest. In fact I completed the original LocoRoco game without even looking at the Mui Mui house once.
There are also a couple of mini-games thrown into the sequel – but neither are worth writing home about – in fact they’re downright stupid. One is a Whack-a-Mole type affair and the other has you picking which LocoRoco will win a race – the winner of which is chosen completely at random, so success is nothing but pure luck.
The music follows the style of the first game. It’s original, strange, annoying, beautiful and infuriatingly addictive all at the same time. But without the music, LocoRoco would be nothing – the gameplay and the music are symbiotic. There are times when you will come across a sleeping creature which needs to be woken to proceed. This prompts a kind of mini-game where a cursor will follow a series of notes around the screen and you must press a button in time to the music as the cursor passes over the top of the note. It’s a clever inclusion that doesn’t seem out of place due to it being tied in closely with the musicality.
LocoRoco 2 is designed with the nature of the PSP in mind. It’s not a game that you sit down and play for three hours straight – although there’s no reason why you can’t. It’s a game designed to be picked up for a ten minute bash and then put down again. Ideal for that bus trip to school or work or a quick blast in your lunch hour. These are the types of game that should be smothering the shelves for the PSP.
LocoRoco 2 isn’t better than the original and it’s certainly not worse. It’s more of the same, with a few tweaks here and there – and that’s just perfect in my books. I’m not sure whether the series has a third game in it, not without bringing something new to the table, however I wouldn’t say no to another ‘expansion’ a year or so from now either.