How often can you say this about a videogame: It made me smile? Well, LocoRoco made me smile. It's that kind of videogame. There's something infectious about it that makes you keep playing it, smiling the whole time. It's not hard, it's not long, it's not going to change the world or anything, but it's a breath of fresh air and it can easily be enjoyed by anyone. Guys, you can safely tell the clerk at the counter that you're buying it for your sister/girlfriend/wife and get away with it. And you know what? They will play it too and they will love it.
LocoRoco is above all else, a quirky game in the same vein as Katamari Damacy. The two games feature absurd throw-away plots to try and give the levels a semblance of a thread, but at the end it doesn't really matter, does it? Both games also take simple principals and build upon them. In Katamari you roll your ball along picking up stuff, in LocoRoco you roll your jelly blob along trying to get to the exit. In both cases, the controls are simple yet different from anything else out there. In LocoRoco you are in fact not controlling your jelly blob, but the horizontal pitch of the environment around it. Try and wrap your brain around that one.
I've often been made fun of for moving my controller around wildly while playing Madden games or racing titles. In my defense, I feel that the action gets "helped" along if I'm moving the controller about. My wife thinks I'm crazy. So imagine my surprise when I caught her playing LocoRoco and doing the same thing. And that's the first part of the fun. Over the course of 40 levels (5 worlds of 8 levels each) you'll have to shift the horizon in a way to nudge your jelly blob from the start to the end. You'll notice right away how perfectly the blob actually moves about; like a giant water balloon that folds slightly before crumbling to one side or the other. Along the way you'll be able to roll over (or into) flowers which will help your jelly blob (yes, I do realize they're called LocoRocos) get bigger and move along at a faster pace do to logical gravitational forces.
The controls for LocoRoco couldn't be easier. The ground (horizon, world, whatever you want to call it) gets tilted left and right (up to a certain point) by pressing the left and right triggers. When you hold down both triggers and release them, your jelly blob tries to bounce as high as it can. Smaller blobs are a little easier to bounce (bigger ones are more fun though) but larger blobs reach higher locations. The only other thing you can do with your blob is split it up into smaller blobs (by tapping the square button) or re-combining them by holding down the square button. You'd think this would get old, but the real fun is really trying to find all the plants on each level, avoid all the traps or enemies, collect all the berries (which are a quasi-currency in the game) and discover all the hidden areas before finishing each level in the fastest time possible.
And that's really LocoRoco in a nutshell. What can't truly be expressed in writing is the amount of fun that ensues when trying to finish each level (each with its own theme). The concept is ingenious, the levels are fun to navigate, the LocoRocos are always entertaining to watch and the music is hands-down addictive. While you'll never understand the language in any song, each LocoRoco you find (varying colors) has its own basic theme and "friend" jingle when you run into various friends on a level. And while you'll never be able to sing the songs, you'll probably find yourself substituting your own world for the Loco-Speak in the hopes of carrying these with you throughout the day.
Graphically, LocoRoco is very bold, well animated (like a cartoon), bright and uncluttered. On the PSP's screen, the game looks very crisp and playing it for short lengths of time in public places will generally draw a crowd. The game is as fun to watch as it is to play and that's saying a lot. It's also a good thing since you'll generally have to fight with sibblings/spouses or friends to see who get the next level.
While the game's 40 levels can be completed in under 4 or 5 hours, there are numerous items to collect and secrets to find (as well as records to beat) in each level that make alternate plays possible. You also collect currency (berries) to play the Mui Mui Crane game (like the one at the cineplex where you can never pick anything good up) and Chudda Chudda "golf/pinball" where you'll be controlling a power gauge to launch your blob into the level. The mini-games are fun time-wasters but don't really have enough substance to be anything more fulfilling. What may hold your attention a little longer however is the level editor (with the capability to share your stages) and the LocoRoco house builder (which is really just a novelty that you'll populate with pieces you've collected throughout each level) which may entertain you for a bit.
While certainly not the longest or deepest game, LocoRoco will hold a truly special place in any PSP owner's library as that perfectly quirky title that can please anyone and be replayed endlessly. It's also the only title I know of that made me happy while playing it. How often can you say that about a videogame? LocoRoco: videogame therapy recommended for everyone. A must own title.