11 years ago, a quirky game made its way to the PSP, where instead of moving your character, you moved the environment and the character moved. Where the characters consist of wacky organisms including hair style monsters, and circular blobs for good guys. This title was LocoRoco, the passion project of Tsutomu Kouno and with a touch up it’s as good as ever.
LocoRoco tells a story which was found by Googling it, as in the game there is next to no text and no talking, at least not in English. The story the game tells is you need to save worlds, by getting from the start of a level to the end, on the way growing bigger by collecting plants. There is next to no story, but that’s far from an issue, as it’s a fun, repeatable puzzle game with a simple but brilliant art style.
The gameplay is simple, you can rotate the stage a few degrees using the controller’s shoulder buttons, and this makes your round character roll around the environment. Holding then releasing them both allows you to jump, tapping circle breaks yourself into as many LocoRocos you have found, and holding it re-joins them into one big ball. The controls have been listed to emphasise how simple the gameplay is, which is fantastic as it means the level design and their functionality shine.
Each of its 40 levels, spread across five worlds, is full of collectables, including 20 LocoRocos, which are found by hitting specific big flowers. Doing so increases your size each time. But collecting them won’t be enough, as enemies can take them away from you and when they have been taken, you must get them back in seconds or that LocoRoco is lost until you restart the level. Collecting the 20 isn’t essential to beat the game, you can get to the end of each level, but not trying to get as many as you can spoils the fun. Each level also has a range of collectables, mostly balls, which can be collected as you go.
Most of the time the LocoRocos and other collectables are in plain sight, or the puzzles clearly lead to something, but there are other ones hidden in the landscape that don’t reveal themselves to you unless you move into the space that the landscape appears to be. These secret areas initially seem random, but once you play for a while you begin to get a feeling for where they may be placed based on how the landscape is designed, other times they are tough as nails. Other puzzles require the reformation by an owl that appears at times where it’s needed who will eat you and spit you out as a long rectangle, or a triangle, which can be necessary. Combat is also almost non-existent, with you being able to stun or beat enemies by bouncing on them or into them with pace, but this can be very difficult to get right, so it’s generally easier to avoid combat wherever possible.
The simple nature of the puzzles and its controls makes the game relaxing to play. If you set out to 100% each level though, you will have a lot of trial and error ahead as you try to find each level’s secret, as sometimes they get obscure. There are also times where you could unintentionally burst into the smaller LocoRocos and fall through a hidden gap to an unexpected secret area. Thanks to its relatively short levels that are only up to 15 minutes at most, replaying them isn’t a major, and there is a lot of replay value in the game, from getting all the collectables to beating the game’s times for each level.
The aesthetic isn’t great, it has a simple style giving a strong indie vibe, which has helped the game age well and does fit its laid-back nature. The objects consist of plain bold colours and relatively simple shapes. There are smooth animations in how everything moves, such as the LocoRocos’ squishing when they collide with objects, which again has aged well. The soundtrack is also very simple and relaxing, as gibberish is sung by the LocoRocos almost always throughout a level.
8.5/10 – LocoRoco is a wonderful puzzle game that is simple, relaxing, but unique. It feels great to play, and has a lot of replay value in trying to find each secret a level holds. Its updated graphics have done the game well to feel, and be priced, as an indie title that could well have come out this year for the first time. It also has three minigames which aren’t worth mentioning, but the rest of the game is amazing.