The LocoRoco LocoMotion Chugs On
In 2006, a little celebrated title known as LocoRoco tumbled onto Sony's Playstation Portable with a tiny amount of fanfare. A Playstation 3 spin-off aside, it's been a little under three years since the original rolled its way into many PSP owners' hearts, and now a sequel, LocoRoco 2 skids into retail. For those who have played the original, is there enough to warrant this sequel, and for the prospective newcomers, will they want to roll over to LocoRoco 2?
The LocoRoco are a species of small, amorphous blobs with a passion for singing. Like Heinz ketchup, they come in many varieties. Each color, whether it be yellow, red, black, blue, green, pink, or newcomer purple, has their own theme song and personality. However, this is merely for show as no color is better for a level than another, so there's no advantage from choosing, say, a yellow LocoRoco over a black. As much as the LocoRoco would love to sing and play all day after eliminating the evil Moja army in the original game, the funkalicious foes are back with a vengeance, and once again it's up to the LocoRoco to clean up the black fog polluting the many areas of their once peaceful planet.
LocoRoco 2 plays very much like the first entry of the series, so those who mastered the first game will tilt and tumble with the best of them. Even those new to the series will be able to hop right in with the immediately accessible and addicting gameplay. Rather than use the face buttons, LocoRoco 2 relies on the shoulder buttons of the PSP to tilt the playing field to roll the LocoRoco one way or another. Hit both buttons at the same time, and you jut the level upward to send your beautiful blob into the air-- simulating a jump. Don't be fooled, however. There's plenty more complexity found in these simplistic controls. You'll see your collection of LocoRoco swing from vine to vine, enter inside a shell and roll through otherwise indestructible boulders, bounce across pinball-like platforms, hang from a floating dandelion as it slowly falls, and for the first time in the series, plunder the ocean depths with a little aerobic swimming. Certain parts will call for you to call your ball of LocoRoco apart so your team of colorful creatures can fit through narrow passageways. With a hold of a button, they can reform into one LocoRoco blob. The controls are simple, but some sections will make you want to have something more precise to use than simply sliding around. Overall, however, the set-up is remarkably intuitive and a breeze to use more often than not.
There are over twenty single-player levels to complete. Each has its own theme from icy slopes to lush jungles to tropical waters with appropriate enemies and obstacles to avoid and use. If you just want to breeze through the game as fast as possible, you can do so in about four hours. It's perfect for a rental in that regard. However, you'll entirely miss out on all of the secrets including alternate level paths, bonus levels, and the real final boss of the game, so there's where the "you might want to buy this game instead" line comes in. Each level has 19 red fruit for your LocoRoco ball to gobble up. The biggest challenge of LocoRoco 2 is to pick up all 19 red fruits (for a total of 20 LocoRoco in all) per level, and that is no simple task. Every level has secret passages and areas that are masked well with subtle hints giving away their locations such as a slight curve in an otherwise straight wall. You're not entirely safe and sound either as there's plenty of perils to worry about such as spiked walls and shadowy Moja minions that will put one of your critters in danger of death if not rescued. Some levels can be infuriating trying to collect and maintain all 20 LocoRoco without losing one of the helpless little buggers. In this aspect, red fruits are your lifeline in LocoRoco 2. Not only does gobbling these glorious goodies give you a bigger blob, but it also allows you access to some items located in levels. Only having a select number of LocoRoco at these level sections lets the LocoRoco perform in a quick rhythm mini-game for the locked-up prize where you need to press the circle button as the circle goes over a note on the screen. The rewards from these games range from musical notes that when 100 are collected give the player a level bonus like spike-protection and a map of the level to blue bugs that give prizes.
These prizes are construction pieces that are designed to help build additions to the Muimui house, the most elaborate extra in LocoRoco 2. Building new rooms and expansions for the ever-increasing amount of saved Muimui-- which there are three waiting to be rescued in every level-- occupants can lead to marvelous extras as well as four bonus levels required for completing the game 100%. Other mini-games include a whack-a-mole game, LocoRoco-style, Loco Race where you bet on the LocoRoco that will win the race, and Loco Rider, an event where the aim is to knock your opponents into submission... a set of spikes. Boss battles round out LocoRoco 2 pitting everyone's favorite singing blobs against one of the commanders of the Moja army. These battles are epic in scale, and they give some more variety to the game.
LocoRoco 2 has a very simple but effective art style. The game is bright and vibrant, and every little background and character is full of immense cutesy charm. Objects and plant-life in the background bounce up and down in a jaunty display, flower petals stream down, and creature design is full of simple allure. Certain cut-scenes are just downright hilarious even without any use of dialogue whatsoever. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of original music, but most of which is just remixed from the original LocoRoco. For those not into the quirky, you may have some reservations with the music as something similar to Alvin and the Chipmunks may not be very appealing. Otherwise, you'll either love it, hate it, or have it grow on you like an infectious rash that you can't help but enjoy scratching. The music is interactive, too. In each level, once your ball of LocoRoco reaches ten occupants, the music will add a layer to the song of the LocoRoco singing along. They'd sing to their graves, I tell you.
LocoRoco 2 is an incredibly worthy addition to anyone's PSP library. For those who enjoy the journey, there's 25+ hours of content to plow through before all is said and done. While the difficulty to complete each level from start to finish isn't very large, trying to achieve the best ending LocoRoco 2 has to offer is a far greater challenge as some of the bonus levels are just ridiculously cruel. Add all that to the lovably low twenty dollar price point, and anyone with just a hint of curiosity towards LocoRoco 2 has no excuse to ignore this pleasing and well-put together package.
[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]