The LocoRoco game series began life on Sony’s handheld PSP, with the first game in the series being released on the console less than a year after its launch, it became a fan favourite thanks to its colourful visuals and stripped back, handheld friendly game design, gaining its share of critical acclaim along the way also. LocoRoco’s sequel, titled – believe it or not – LocoRoco 2, ported the first games gameplay, presentation and narrative style essentially unchanged, a simple example of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to sequel making. This is not necessarily a bad thing (see the Uncharted series and the Bioshock series as examples of this, among many others), as the gameplay holds up well as an addictive 2D platformer.
The only drawback is that, as a title, it was designed so fittingly for a handheld that seems barer on a home console. The bare-bones control scheme, which sees you using the L1 and R1 buttons to both rotate the screen to move your LocoRoco and make your LocoRoco jump, was designed to compensate for the absence of the L2 and R2 shoulder buttons on the PSP, and while it doesn’t need an overhaul or even re-design, its difficult to overlook when playing it on the big screen. A while back I did a review for a game called Expand where I talked about playing a game, clearly designed for a handheld or smartphone, on a PS4 as a diminished experience, and without wanting to self-plagiarise or rewrite my previous review, LocoRoco 2 suffers from the same conundrum.
The good news is that LocoRoco is a better game than Expand in every way bar the soundtrack, so its quaint qualities shine through regardless. Eating fruit to make your LocoRoco grow into a massive blob, going inside boulders and other projectiles to smash through barriers and the ability to break your gargantuan LocoRoco into dozens of smaller Locoroco’s to squeeze through tight spaces, and then morph them back together into its gelatinous whole, are fun and innovative gameplay mechanics. The ability to go back and replay levels to recover forgotten items and beat your previous score also adds some serious replay value.
Visually and aurally LocoRoco is just as cute and just as clever. The level design is undeniably appealing, with its primary colours and charming characters, making the platforming all the more enjoyable as an experience. Even the game’s main antagonist, Bon Mucho, the leader of the evil Moja Corps, is non-threatening in the vein of any Pixar villain. The sound design is a highlight too, with a nursery rhyme soundtrack of endless optimism that fits the visuals perfectly. One of the game’s most entertaining moments – a real-time minigame where the player must press circle in time to corresponding musical notes to make the LocoRoco sing – incorporates the soundtrack in an interactive way, rewarding the player for their musical timing.
As a whole, LocoRoco 2 is a fun, clever and addictive game which will satisfy fans of the genre. It does have its faults and detriments: its impact is diminished on a home console, it doesn’t contain a whole lot of variety and its soundtrack, as adorable as it may be, can irritate over extended play sessions (again more evidence of its original intent as a handheld game to be played in bite-sized sessions). However, for those looking for a light-hearted platformer with tons of charm and personality, you could do worse than LocoRoco 2.