LocoRoco 2 (PSP) review
"As you work through each stage, you'll find that you don't actually control the slime. Instead, you can slightly tilt the perspective to the right or left using the PSP's shoulder buttons. This simple mechanic works very well, mostly because fleet-footed hazards are non-existent in the world of LocoRoco 2. Sliding about like an egg yolk in a frying pan wouldn't work if Mario-style jumps were required, but that's seldom the case here. Instead, the focus is on general movements."
If there's a perfect audience for LocoRoco 2, the latest release from Sony for its PSP handheld, then that perfect audience is comprised entirely of people who have never played the first game. That's not a knock on the original, which I myself have never played, nor is it an attempt on my part to belittle this generally enjoyable sequel. It's just... well, maybe I should just start at the beginning.
Like its predecessor, LocoRoco 2 is a simple game. It never aspires to be anything more and that's part of its appeal. Your entire goal is to chase invading 'moja' characters away from your friendly planet, since they want to fill the air with despair and rainclouds while you prefer sunshine and fluff. You will accomplish your cheery task by moving various blobs through maze-like areas while negotiating a series of interactive obstacles. Along the way, you'll have opportunities to discover hidden chambers with bonus goodies before reaching your destination at the end of the zone. Such is the life of a blob.
Throughout most of the game, you'll control a single ball of ooze that grows larger as you gobble down special fruit. There are 20 pieces throughout any standard stage. These resemble the rings in a Sonic the Hedgehog game. As long as you have multiple fruit collected, you can take damage from infrequent hazards such as spikes and the moja creatures. This affects the score you get at the end of a completed stage, but it's hardly the end of the world.
Sometimes, you'll have no choice but to fall to pieces. When this is necessary, a stage either does it for you--such as when you slide down a passage and suddenly find yourself hammered down through a bunch of smaller holes that force the split--or you can tap the 'O' button to bring about the divide by way of a bright lightning strike. When the single big blob turns into a bunch of little fellows, it's easier to get caught up by helpful blasts of wind or to ooze through the narrow environments that pepper each stage. Your slimy buddies are never entirely under your control anyway, so it's not a big deal. Besides that, you can call them all back together whenever you like and that mostly goes smoothly.
As you work through each stage, you'll find that you don't actually control the slime. Instead, you can slightly tilt the perspective to the right or left using the PSP's shoulder buttons. This simple mechanic works very well, mostly because fleet-footed hazards are non-existent in the world of LocoRoco 2. Sliding about like an egg yolk in a frying pan wouldn't work if Mario-style jumps were required, but that's seldom the case here. Instead, the focus is on general movements. You'll feel a bit like Little Red Riding hood skipping merrily through the forest on her way to visit her grandmother.
Much of that happy-go-lucky feeling comes from the game's delightful ambiance. You probably shouldn't play LocoRoco 2 if cheery music and visuals make you sick to your stomach. Stages are illustrated with vibrant colors that feel like they belong on nursery walls. Even the dreariest of areas have a fairy tale feel to them, something that is punctuated nicely by one of the most addictive soundtracks in the history of gaming. It's like Katamari Damacy meets Disgaea and I love it. The soundtrack is expansive enough, too, that there's not really time to get tired of one tune. That's probably less true if you're trapped on a long car ride and someone else is playing the game, but I myself didn't have any reason to complain because I was too busy smiling.
Given the apparent efforts to make LocoRoco 2 as inoffensive as possible, you might be wondering if it really has anything to offer gamers over 10. Predictably, the answer comes down to personal preference. If you demand a challenging game, you won't find it here. LocoRoco 2 has plenty of hidden objects to unearth (something that will require multiple trips through each expansive area), plus there are chambers to unearth where you get to play timed rhythm games if you have enough blob power to create a choir, but none of that is hard so much as it is time-consuming. Along the same lines, there aren't a lot of boss encounters to test your mettle, with even the final encounter likely to elicit a response of "That's it?" from the player. The few puzzles in the game can all be solved by oozing into a shell of some sort, so that doesn't really affect the overall product, either. Basically, the level of enjoyment you get from this game will depend on your willingness to embrace its charm and forget about the difficulty level.
One problem players could have with the game--regardless of their personal tastes--is the way things eventually start to feel too repetitive. There are a lot of stages to explore, but eventually the realization that you have another environment to uncover is more disappointing than anything. The game sometimes feels like it's gone on too long. This issue quickly goes away if you play only two or three stages a day (recommended if you really want to enjoy yourself), but people who like to rush through everything all at once will likely ignore my sage advice and thus wind up feeling fairly disappointed by the whole affair.
Sony did include the occasional mini-game to spice things up a bit, but these mostly feel out of place. A horizontal shooting level is kind of neat as you drift through the skies and fire pellets at the moja pilots, for instance, but shooter veterans won't have any trouble with it and casual gamers who like other portions of the game may find themselves stuck by a stage that demands something closer to twitch gaming. Likewise, the ability to customize your house using pieces found throughout the various stages loses much of its appeal the minute you realize how little control you actually have over things
That takes us back to my original suggestion, that the game is best enjoyed by people who may not have experienced the first game. I enjoyed most of the time I spent playing through LocoRoco 2, but those who spent some time with the first outing will tell you that a lot of the experience I've just described could as easily be applied to the first game. In the end, you're probably fine giving either one a shot--probably even this one, since it'll be more readily available and carries an extremely reasonable sticker price--but playing through both seems like it would have some serious potential to turn a good thing into a stale one.
Staff review by Jason Venter (February 17, 2009)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
If you enjoyed this LocoRoco 2 review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!