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PSP Review: LocoRoco

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LocoRoco is a sugar coated platformer with heavy puzzle elements. Or it could be the other way around. Either way, the LocoRoco are cute little gelatinous blobs that sing and bounce around the game world.

Everything about this game is infectious, especially the music, which thankfully did not get lost in translation.

Sony released a demo of this bright and colorful game back in May. Many people, myself included, have been playing that single demo level over and over again.

Now with the full game — 40 levels, a LocoHouse, and three mini-games — my final thoughts are unchanged from my initial play through.

Exclusively for the PSP, (something I would like to hear more often) this crazy game was developed by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan. It is innovative, oozing with personality, cheerful music, and blindingly bright visuals.

In short, it seems that Sony has created a Nintendo game. The vibe is very Katamari Damacy-like, yet with a much simpler control setup.

Where LocoRoco would have been somewhat average on the Nintendo DS, it is exceptional on the PSP. Seeing as Sony's handheld has a distinct lack of consistent white-hot games, this fills the void nicely.

All you need to know about the back-story of LocoRoco is that you, the LocoRoco, are the latest target of the evil Moja Corps. You must defeat these critters by bumping them, in true platformer fashion.

Each stage is setup with a labyrinth to hop, skip, and jump through. Eating red flowers makes you grow, and finding MuiMui (these little blue guys) nets pieces for your LocoHouse — more on your house in a moment.

Also found are pink and orange flowers, and hidden LocoHouse pieces. This is a completionists dream come true, or nightmare, depending on how you look at it. You have 20 LocoRoco to find in every level, plus three MuiMui, and a set of a couple hundred flowers per stage.

Instead of moving the LocoRoco, you move the world around it. Using only the L and R triggers, you tilt the world left and right. To "bump" the world, or jump, just press L and R together. The genius is in the simplicity.

In many areas of the games you must break apart into your individual parts to squeeze through tight crevices. Breaking apart and forming one massive LocoRoco again is all handled with the Circle button. Tap once to break apart, and hold to coagulate again.

After you perfect a stage, you unlock a time-trial for that stage. Here you just want to finish as quickly as inhumanly possible. The game has plenty to do for those looking for it.

The game is perfect for short bursts of game play. Most stages can be completed in five to seven minutes. The levels are all pretty uniform in difficulty, unfortunately. World 5 ups the ante a little, and the last stage can easily take 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

But if you are not blazing through the game, and you want to find all the hidden secrets there are, you could spend an extraordinary amount of time in the levels. I finished the game in just under 10 hours, but I am a very exploration-heavy gamer.

I still have plenty of collectables to find, which extends the game a lot. If you blaze through the game, just to get through it, expect only about five hours of play. That would really be a shame however, as you would be missing the point of a game like this.

During your journey, you will find five more colored LocoRoco that all have different voices and actions. As your LocoRoco perform the soundtrack to the game, changing LocoRoco changes the music.

One nice touch is when your LocoRoco are broken apart, they each sing a different part of the song, complete with lip sync.

Another downer for some, along with the lack of difficulty, is the repetitive levels. While you will find differing game play mechanics as you progress stage-by-stage, the stages are all one type or another. Each world has an ice stage, for example.

It is a shame that a lot of people will get caught up on this fact, as it does not detract from the game one bit.

The pink flowers you pick up are used as currency for the mini-games. To play these games, you must spend 100 of them. The end goal of Chuppa Chuppa and MuiMui Crane is to collect more pieces for your LocoHouse.

Chuppa Chuppa has you gauging how much power to use to shoot a LocoRoco through a winding stage without hitting an obstacle. One hit and it is game over. MuiMui Crane is like those crane games at the arcades where you move a mechanical crane to grab the best prize.

Chuppa Chuppa is a lot more challenging, and fun.

The third "mini-game" is a lightweight level editor. Unlocking this will take some time, but is well worth it in the end.

The LocoHouse is not exactly a level editor, but more of a Rube Goldberg machine. There are three sizes of houses, two must be unlocked. You must create a contraption for a LocoRoco to travel through. Placed in different spots in the LocoHouse are more pieces. So building by trial-and-error is the name of the game here.

Additionally you can share your LocoHouse with up to 15 other people locally. Also supported is game sharing, where you can send levels of the game to someone else.

The use of mostly solid, all 2D graphics are used to their fullest potential. Transparency is used liberally, and well. The art style is unique, and sets this one apart from the rest.

There is one glaring issue with some of the stages. Reds and blacks bleed and cause ghosting. If the stage is all red, or all black, this is very noticeable.

Looking at the demo, and now the final game, you can see that most of the ghosting that was present in May is now gone in the final game. This is great, but I guess red and black ghosting could not be helped.

More than the graphics, the sound and music make LocoRoco what it is. Using a made up language, a choir of mostly children perform each track in the game. Each is distinct, with the scary Halloween sounding one being a personal favorite.

This game has charm in spades, that coupled with the new and innovative game play makes for a (devilishly cute) face for gaming. LocoRoco is by far one of the best experiences that can be found on the PSP. You could not ask for a better puzzle/platformer for on-the-go entertainment.

LocoRoco is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

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About Ken Edwards