Take a look at some of the more recent PSP titles to hit store shelves and see if you can spot the trend: The Godfather: Mob Wars, Guilty Gear: Judgment, Def Jam Fight for NY: The Takeover, Tekken: Dark Resurrection, 50 Cent: Bulletproof, and Super Monkey Ball Adventure. Do you see it? All of these titles are ports of existing console franchises. I suppose it's a natural transition really, considering the PSP is essentially a portable PlayStation 1.5, but whatever happened to creating original intellectual properties? I guess that's why the arrival of LocoRoco is such a breath of fresh air. That and the fact it's arguably the most addictive PSP title since Lumines.
LocoRoco is one of those titles you just know was made by the Japanese. It's evident not only by the colorful artwork and intuitive gameplay, but also the unusual storyline. You see, LocoRoco are an exotic species of creature that live on a planet far, far away. The LocoRoco lived in harmony with their planet, playing and singing the days away, until the Moja Corps invaded. Now it's up to you, taking control of the plant, to tilt the land in favor of the LocoRoco in order to rescue them.
The best part of LocoRoco is how literally anyone can pick up this game and play it without reading a manual or running through a tutorial level. The controls are just as simple as the objective of the game. The right and left shoulder buttons are used to tilt the ground, thereby getting your LocoRoco to roll around. If you press the two shoulder buttons together, your LocoRoco will jump. Combine the two actions, tilting and jumping, and you can bounce your LocoRoco to great heights. The only other button to worry about is the circle button. When you press that button, your LocoRoco will split into multiple, smaller LocoRoco, allowing them to squeeze through tight spots. Press and hold the circle button and the LocoRoco will combine back into one large LocoRoco. It really is that simple. Now, mastering the art of jumping is another matter altogether, but I found the difficulty curve fitting in that regard.
Gameplay in LocoRoco runs along the same vein as the classic puzzler Lemmings. You'll begin each level with a single LocoRoco and the goal of guiding it through the environment back to its home. Every time your LocoRoco eats a red berry, its mass increases by one LocoRoco. Red berries are scattered through each level but as easy as it is to accumulate LocoRoco, you can also lose them by getting too close to a burr or by running into a Moja, evil creatures that gobble up the LocoRoco. There are well over 40 stages to navigate, each introducing new environments, climates and creatures, and if you ever get stuck, your LocoRoco will actually provide hints as to which direction you should proceed.
Where LocoRoco runs a little thin is replayability. Due to the linear nature of the levels, there's not much to entice you to run through them a second or third time, other than to locate all the hidden areas and/or red berries. On top of that, some of the levels do get a little repetitive. As such, LocoRoco is best enjoyed in small doses, a few levels at a time.
LocoRoco does not support multiplayer, though you can share user created content in the form of stages and houses with your friends via Ad Hoc. You build these stages and houses by collecting parts during the main game. There are also a couple of mini games available, including one reminiscent of the crane game found in arcades, and another called Chuppa Chuppa that requires 100 Pickories to play. Again, you can collect the Pickories as you play through the main game.
To say LocoRoco has a unique visual appeal would be an understatement. The artwork is both colorful and vibrant, and looks absolutely brilliant on the handheld screen. Combine that with the catchy music that actually plays a role in some of the puzzles and you've got a presentation that is sure to captivate audiences.
LocoRoco is one of the most original and quirky titles to hit the PSP in some time. The controls are such that both hardcore and casual players alike can get into the game just as well. With a visual flair second to none, there's little reason why you shouldn't give LocoRoco a try, especially if you're into puzzle/platform games.