A BuiBui Bust.
Hey there, LocoRoco, how have you been? Remember all the fun times we shared happily bouncing around, kicking those mean old Moja right off your planet? What, you want to play some more? Let’s see here, LocoRoco Midnight Carnival, eh? Well, doesn't that just sound like a jolly good time? But what’s with that evil glint in your eye? Hey, what are you doing to me? No, LocoRoco, stop it! Why are you trying to make me hate you?!
[image1]The previous (Oscar worthy) dramatization should serve as fair warning to all those planning to pick up LocoRoco Midnight Carnival, the latest edition of the franchise featuring those adorable little blobs that sing in a totally made-up language no one on our planet can possibly understand. The previous two games were lighthearted romps, fairly easy titles where players tilt the game screen left and right to help the LocoRoco roll, bounce, and jump across the stage and to the goal. They were games the whole family could enjoy, and one of the few times we could get both our grandmother and little brother to shut up about the war and/or Ninja Turtles long enough to actually watch an entire episode of Lost. (It didn’t help, I still have no idea why that show’s popular.)
If you gave LocoRoco Midnight Carnival to your grandmother, then she’d probably die of a heart attack, and if you gave it to your little brother, he would want to frame you for murder. That’s because this new addition to the franchise has thrown out all the fun and whimsy of the previous games and jacked up the difficulty so high that the level of patience needed to complete the game is beyond human comprehension. Even the late Mother Teresa, if given this game, would throw the PSP out a window while swearing profanities to make an unloved orphan child blush.
The name of the game in LocoRoco Midnight Carnival is precision platforming, and I mean precision. Many of the game’s levels feature jumps so tight that so much as a millimeter of miscalculation will send you into the bottomless pit and right back to the start of the level. Remember those platforms in the original Super Mario Bros. that were like 2 pixels wide and required nothing short of total level memorization in order to land on them properly? Well this game features their modern equivalent across entire stages. This is for reasons I don’t understand, other than the fact that maybe the developers just hate us for enjoying their franchise. Maybe they wanted to work on Halo, but our love of LocoRoco has clearly kept them from their life’s true purpose, so now we’re being punished.
[image2]Even the checkpoint system in LocoRoco Midnight Carnival is designed to punish. As always, players will pick up Pickories while rolling and bouncing through stages. Once you reach the midpoint of a level, you’ll hit each stage’s only checkpoint, and if you die after passing the marker you’ll be allowed to restart from it… for a price. At first the game will allow you three more tries for a mere 300 Pickories, but if you keep failing then the price starts going up and eventually you’ll find that you’ve depleted your entire savings in an attempt just to get through a single stage. Of course, if you run out of Pickories and still haven’t won then you have to restart the level from the beginning, undoing all the progress you had previously made at the cost of thousands of Pickories. Make no mistake, this game hates you.
In order to make victory slightly less “impossible” and just a bit more “improbable”, the game features a brand new mechanic simply known as “Boing”. It’s basically just a consecutive jumping mechanism that allows the LocoRocos to bounce higher and farther on consecutive hops, allowing them to clear higher walls and wider gaps. While it’s a neat concept, sometimes the timing feels a bit off, causing you to fail a stage (yet again) because you waited a split-second too long to make your next hop. Couple this with the way you have to angle the screen to make certain jumps and victory in many levels feels like it comes down more to luck than skill.
Playing LocoRoco Midnight Carnival, I get the feeling that the developers are starting to run out of ideas for the franchise, so they’ve decided that the best bet is to simply make it harder. If that’s their goal then they succeeded, as this title features the difficulty and frustration of N+ mixed with ‘Splosion Man, but with almost none of the sense of accomplishment. There’s "difficult yet rewarding" and then there’s also "cheap and mean", and this game falls squarely into the latter category.
If you love LocoRoco but for some reason wished it were much, much harder, then you’ll adore this game. However, if you like that kind of pain, then you'd probably also enjoy having your PSP jammed up your nose. If you prefer your old memories of lazily and peacefully rolling around a level, enjoying listening to the LocoRoco sing for the MuiMui and everyone enjoying a relaxed and groovy kind of life, like me, then stay away. This game will most definitely harsh your mellow.