I’d love to know who came up with the concept for the LocoRoco IP. A species of musical blobs, the titular LocoRoco, must repeatedly save their planet from the evil Moja Corps, tentacled blobs whose own variant of music withers away life on LocoRoco planet. Along the way, they multiply by eating berries and rescue the MuiMui, strange industrious creatures that live in a giant nut. Thankfully, the actual premise means little thanks to the fun (if sometimes frustrating gameplay) and excellent presentation that should have all but the most cold-hearted monster smiling at the vividly coloured environments and humming along to the soundtrack.
The story is conveyed through entertaining cutscenes, with the “dialogue” and singing consisting of Sim-like incoherent babbling that does a great job of capturing the feel of each scene. The antagonist from the first game returns to claim the planet, launching an attack by a Moja-infested meteorite that lands on one local wildlife. After saving this creature and beating him back, the story gets weirder still as his mother arrives to charm – by way of kissing - some of the local MuiMui, turning them into evil red BuiBui. It's strange stuff but sufficient to provide a little context to the gameplay.
More games need to introduce the former antagonist's mom as the new villain in the sequel.
You take control of the planet itself (I think) allowing you to tilt the environment using the bumpers and roll your LocoRoco horde left and right while tapping both bumpers will make them jump. For the majority of the game, gaining momentum and timing your jumps is everything, regardless of whether you’re trying to get up a steep ramp, hop over a dangerous obstacle, crash into a Moja at high speed, or land on the weak point of a boss. Before long, you’ll be swinging from branches, riding air currents, dodging LocoRoco-eating wildlife, or swimming around underwater (it’s not great but it’s far from the worst underwater mechanics). Some puzzles require you to split up your LocoRoco mass into individuals in order to fit through tight spaces and then recombine on the other side (which involves some questionably horrific-sounding screaming).
The world is broken up into several distinct zones around the planet, each providing several themed levels that may involve simple traversal, mini-games or boss encounters. As the game progresses, you’ll move back and forth between all of them with new mechanics introduced at a regular rate. You’ll also unlock new variants of LocoRoco that don’t change up the gameplay but provide a fresh “voice” and alter the style of music. It ensures the relatively simple core gameplay never gets stale and the scenery and music are constantly changing.
The rhythm mini-games are simple but always charming.
Getting from the beginning to the end of a level is never too challenging. Consuming large berries scattered through each level will grow your LocoRoco blob - through some terrifying form of mitosis – to a maximum of twenty and these effectively represent your total number of “lives”. The challenge comes in going out of your way to collect all the berries, clear away all the Moja smog, find every hidden MuiMui and trigger every song. There are various creatures in the world that can be awoken via a simple rhythm challenge but require you to have collected a sufficient number of LocoRocos to trigger them.
Hunting down all these collectibles, in an attempt to 100% each stage, introduces a risk-reward mechanic as you’re just as likely to lose LocoRocos in the attempt and it’ll push the limit of your patience with the deliberately imprecise control scheme. On more than one occasion, I found myself spending ten minutes mastering a jump only to receive a trivial reward for a mini-game. That said, it’s a great option for skillful gamers who want more challenge from their experience.
Although the core game can be completed by inexperienced gamers, hitting 100% on each stage is going to take a lot of skill and patience.
Talking of mini-games, there’s plenty to distract you from the primary quest of driving the Moja Corps off LocoRoco planet, again. You can take part in a whack-a-mole style challenge, bet on LocoRoco races, catapult your LocoRocos through a hazardous obstacle course, or expand a giant nut house for your rescued MuiMuis, crafting items using collectibles found in other stages. With 25 main levels, dozens of hidden collectibles, and numerous mini-games, there’s no shortage of content here to entertain newcomers or veterans (and presumably more skilled) gamers.
The simple 2D stylings of what was originally a 2008 PlayStation Portable game, now look great on modern full-HD displays with few issues. With relatively simple geometry, the game instead relies on its art design, vibrant colours, animation, and soundtrack, all of which still hold up today. Watching your gelatinous RocoLoco blob spring across and squeeze through deforming terrain remains a thrill, especially as it’s all complemented by appropriate background tracks for each themed stage. It all looks and runs incredibly smoothly on the modern console. The only visual issue is the pixelated cutscenes that the developers have clearly struggled to upscale from the PSP’s tiny 480x272 native resolution.
All things considered, the underwater levels control fairly well.
If you’re looking for an accessible, light-hearted platformer with music and rhythm-based challenges, LocoRoco 2 is packed full of content and can be played by just about anyone, regardless of skill. The quirky controls will frustrate you if you’re hunting down every last secret but, overall, the core experience is still just as entertaining and fun as it was in 2008, and it’s all paired with amazing presentation.
Enjoys games with awesome stories and characters, along with new and interesting hardware. Dislikes day-one patches and driver updates.
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4 December 2017
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