Loco Roco Demo PSP Review

Several months ago, a few screenshots of a bizarre, brightly coloured hallucination of a game cropped up on a few PSP sites; it featured a number of smiling yellow balls, psychedelic forest backgrounds and…actually, that was pretty much it. Being a sucker for anything remotely unusual in the world of gaming, it immediately caught my full attention and demanded that I find out all I could about it. Other than a suitably odd name – Loco Roco – there seemed to be disappointingly little else to learn. Then came a big break; SCEJ put a playable demo up for download onto their website. Feverish with anticipation I downloaded the tiny file, went to boot it up – and realised it would only work with v2.70, a firmware upgrade not yet available to the West. I can’t say there were any tears shed, but there was much shouting at the PC for not being able (somehow) to provide my Loco Roco fix.

And then along came MCV, with a free playable demo of said game taped to the front of the May issue. Naturally I found a way to get my mitts on a copy, and what followed was what could be described as almost a crazed addiction to one level of this wonderful little gem of a game. I’m already contemplating what to put in my goodbye letters when the full game comes out. I’m thinking it will go a little like this; “Dear Friend, You may have survived Lumines, but you can’t outshine Loco Roco. Thanks for the good times. X

Graphics
Style is a large part of what Loco Roco is all about, and it isn’t done much justice by pictures alone. Look at a still screenshot and you miss a lot of the beauty of this game. I hear your cries; “The PSP should be able to handle better graphics than this kiddy rubbish!” Actually, thanks to this power behind the PSP, the game flows flawlessly and looks absolutely stunning in every aspect. It also allows for a lot of little things to be going on at the same time, like petals drifting across the screen, and the little faces of your rotund charges to all animate independently. Trust me; once you see it all working, the charm can’t fail to be lost on you.

Gameplay
Control doesn’t get any simpler than Loco Roco[i] (except maybe [i]Track and Field with its frantic two-button bashes); the right trigger tilts the planet to the right, and the left…well, I’ll leave you to work it out. Pressing both at the same time makes your blob army jump over any nasties that they encounter. The only non-movement related command allows your charges to all meld together into one colossal ball, or split apart; naturally, one blob is easier to control than several dozen, but can’t fit through small gaps and so on. It’s not complex, but does require a bit of skill to judge jumps to get all of the pickups throughout the level.

At the start of the demo, you only have control of one lonesome ball; more loco rocos can be added by gathering fruits along the way, which increases your score and allows you to enter special areas inaccessible to low numbers of critters. This is where exploration becomes handy, as some fruit-bearing plants aren’t immediately visible and need to be encouraged to grow via contact with the loco rocos. As well as these, little figures called the Muimui can be found in the hardest-to-reach areas, which unlock extra secrets in the full game. All of this adds up to quite a challenge for the devoted puzzle-platform gamer.

Sound
Wonderfully cheery music accompanies the demo, which reminded me in no uncertain terms of Sesame Street; it suits the game’s style to a tee, and had me grinning inanely from ear to ear every time I played. Truth be told, it is a bit repetitive, but sounds so unbelievably happy that I found I didn’t really care. The game could be about tactical combat and the music would still have me smiling. Supposedly the full game has a slightly more J-POPpy soundtrack, with the blobs making noises along with the music, but this isn’t evident in the demo. They do however make some sweet sounds, such as little yelps when they are split up or hurtled across the screen by jets of air, and a satisfying “Boing!” as they leap. All in all, it’s perfectly suited and very enjoyable.

Lifespan
It’s a one level timed demo, and I’ve still played it around 20 times trying to get every last fruit. There are full games I haven’t played this much.

9 out of 10
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