LocoRoco 2 is the type of Japanese what-the-hella-balloza that makes writers scratch a thousand metaphors onto index cards with a gnawed-off pen out of inspiration, a desire to be absolutely clear, or just to relieve themselves of insanity. So if you would be so kind as to be my therapist for a while, please listen to this analogy: LocoRoco 2 is like a bungling bubbly babble of babies being tickled with the cute stick of roly-poly-ness, and then in a cloud of billowy happiness, are magically transformed into sunshine yellow slimes that break into a gushy ABC Family musical about hopes, dreams, and large, colored marshmallow puffs. If that’s too long-winded for you, then let me put it this way: This is where you can frolic in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.
[image1]LocoRoco 2 is also the type of game that makes writers want to disregard the traditional review rundown of the story, the graphics, the sound, the gameplay mechanics, and the presentation (and whatever dry, sectioned-off paragraphs you can add thereafter). I could go into detail about how the sequel is based on the black tentacle-beast Moja infecting the planet’s adorable inhabitants with an evil color-fading, soul-sucking song, or how the controls are about tilting the planet and making the LocoRoco jump, but I
already did won’t.
All you need to know is that you’re an energetic glob with eyeballs, several fruit-top-inspired spikes of hair, and as much ability to retain your plump shape as a lava lamp droplet. The Moja might want to conquer your planet and gobble you up, but that just gives you an excuse to do what a LocoRoco has always wanted to do: sing, play, eat, and roll. The only difference is that you have to leave the comforts of your backyard and bounce around the other unexplored areas of the world, rescuing your friends and singing uplifting chants as a cheerleading squad of cute slimes.
The point of rolling around your LocoRoco of choice (there are six other “cousins”, if we’re to speak in His Majesty’s Royal Rainbow tongue) is to reach the end of the level, which is as before an easy-breezy task that’s well-suited for its “E for Everyone” audience. Given the gentle approach to the controls and the sparse number of enemies and traps, getting through the somewhat short adventure is not a problem. Each level takes at most twenty minutes to finish, a well-paced and compact chunk of time that’s perfect for boring bus trips or well-prepared bathroom breaks. (I’m not speaking from experience... of course.)
[image2]Finding everything a level has to offer, however, is a much more precarious challenge, one that will compel you to slip and slide through each level multiple times. Hidden crevices, which will induce you to bump into every unusual bump in a wall, lead to additional areas that hide fruit that make your LocoRoco grow larger - as well as blue MuiMuis who want to find a way home, pink pickories that are used as in-game currency to play mini-games, and special parts that can help expand and refurbish the MuiMui house. Simply finding and obtaining all the fruit while dodging all of the thorny obstacles and the Moja without making a single mistake is worthy of a miniature speed run.
A part of the frustration is not your fault. Tilting the world clockwise or counterclockwise requires you to hold down the shoulder buttons while jumping requires you to hold down the shoulder buttons and then release them. So a few obstacles that have you both jump and tilt tend to be slightly unintuitive and unwieldy, making you wish that jumping could have been assigned to, say, the ‘X’ button. Then there’s the trouble with the camera, which consistently resets to the center position and has no option to remove this automatic centering. Now imagine that your LocoRoco has to bounce off a moving trampoline that moves left and right, and you can understand how your PSP might become a metal LocoRoco rolling down a staircase.
Thankfully, unlike the original LocoRoco, you won’t mind replaying each level over again, since each is jam-packed with design quirks that keep you interested. Nearly every nook and cranny has some twist and turn, whether it’s being blown by the wind, shot out of a rocket, sucked into a rock-crushing stone, or forcefully squashed into small LocoRocos and then knocked around like mini-pinballs.
Beyond the usual change of scenery, from a wintry penguin icecap to a totem-filled temple and a jungle sprawling with vines, some of the rules that you might have taken for granted will change. Suddenly, a level might be flopped on its side, the stage is completely underwater, the height of your jumps increases, or an owl changes the shape of your LocoRoco to fit the rectangular holes in a wall. These are only a few examples of the playful ingenuity that though may not be as logically intense as that of Braid, match the title’s ebullient and carefree attitude.
[image3]The same goes for the many mini-games and side diversions that are strewn throughout the adventure – LocoRoco racetrack gambling, suction-based obstacle courses, a whack-a-mole mini-game, fill-in-the-stamp collections, and battle bumper LocoRocos. Some of these diversions are worth their while, earning you extra pickories and items, but most of them are optional, one-note excursions that go as quickly as they come. Still, all of them are enjoyable while they last and feel like they belong effortlessly.
LocoRoco 2 follows the trend of putting a bright, cheery mask on a title that has more depth than its kiddy appearance would suggest. For all the Blues Clues color palettes, the flowers blowing in the breeze past dancing cacti, and a soundtrack that seems to recorded by the Alvin and the Chipmunks singing J-pop for a kindergarten show and tell on happy brownie recipes, it has the artistic polish that Sony is known for and a redesign that is nearly flawless for a sequel to a successful title. Of course, this would be the perfect place to use another witty analogy to end this review, but I won’t… because I’m sure I’ll need it for LocoRoco 3.