Loco Roco 2 Preview
Although the PSP hasn’t had any major blockbuster titles since earlier in the year with God of War: Chains of Olympus and Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, there are several smaller, less conspicuous titles that should’ve grabbed your attention. We’ve seen intriguing and potentially addictive games with Patapon, N+ and Loco Roco; the latter of which is a happy-go-lucky, innovative puzzle/action title that’s bound to leave a smile on your face. Now, as the sequel is scheduled to arrive in North America in February, it’s likely to take a back seat to the likes of Street Fighter IV and Killzone 2. However, won’t you need some time to kick back and relax with a nice leisurely game that won’t require much of your time? One that doesn’t take itself so seriously and provides you with a unique, amusing experience? One that won’t cost as much and could make for a great addition to your portable library? Yes, you will need a game like that, so pay attention to Loco Roco 2.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, here’s a quick explanation of the gameplay: you don’t actually control those colorful bouncing balls (known as "LocoRocos") in this charming world; you control the world itself. In other words, you press the L and R triggers to tilt the screen one way or the other, thereby allowing your little LocoRoco to spin and roll in different directions. You can also hold down both triggers to make the LocoRoco jump, and that’s where it ends. It’s a simple and straightforward gameplay mechanic – the best kind for any great puzzler – but SCE has added a few little tweaks for the upcoming sequel. You will use your immediate environment to achieve your goals, and that includes grabbing onto various pieces of vegetation and other objects, splitting up into numerous LocoRocos to wriggle through cramped areas, and yes, you will have to deal with a few nasties who must not be fans of all that singing. Just as a quick tangent, the LocoRocos will continue to sing along with the background music as you play, and if you sampled the original title, you know how irresistible this can be. It takes “cute” to a whole different level, doesn’t it?
Anyway, getting back to all that undeniably appealing cutesy action, some animals in this world might even help you in your quest. They can clear paths for you or open new routes for the LocoRoco clan, so there will be no shortage of various goals and feats, which is always good news. Remember, you’re working against the evil Moja Army, a force that counters the LocoRoco’s singing with a deadly song of their own, except the Moja’s warbling kills all living things! You need to bring life back through your own maneuvering and singing, and the entire game revolves around the player’s reflexes and “tilting” ability. …yeah, that sounds a little weird, but whatever. It fits. You’ll utilize multiple skills and tackle multiple challenges, so it’s not all about the original platforming style. In fact, if one were so inclined, one could find elements of puzzle, action, and even rhythm genres in this sequel, so despite it’s relatively simple exterior, there’s plenty in this vibrant handheld package. So tilt, jump, spin, roll and sing your way to victory over the invading Moja!
It’s a guarantee that fans of the original will likely buy Loco Roco 2, but we need to get more people interested in such games. While they’re not designed to be loaded with flash and panache, and they likely won’t cause a sales spike in PSP hardware, titles like these can satisfy a very wide audience. It might actually help if Sony decided to put Loco Roco and Patapon on the PSN so PlayStation 3 owners could take a gander at a small, low-budget experience that will have you grinning within seconds. So while you’re at the store picking up Killzone 2 in February, Loco Roco 2 will also be on the shelf, and if you’re a PSP owner, you might want to toss it onto the counter alongside Guerilla's masterpiece. The portable sequel of one of the most engaging PSP games yet will also support up to four players in ad-hoc multiplayer mode, too, so bring a few friends along. This one is bound to make you forget all your worries for a little while!
12/30/2008 Ben Dutka