The PSP gets a tough rap. It’s a fantastic gaming device as well as a capable mobile internet machine, with an ever-increasing range of media-friendly applications and it still can’t get a break. This is chiefly because it’s up against Nintendo’s mainstream-friendly DS and its all-encompassing marketing budget. LocoRoco was a welcome breath of fresh air when it was originally released, and the sequel continues this fine tradition.
The original was the most enjoyable screensaver many people had ever played: controlling a little smiling blog, called a LocoRoco, through a series of cartoonish levels collecting berries and plants. Each berry collected added a LocoRoco to your form, meaning that you grew in size. You could also invoke a burst of lightning that bursts your little dude into a group of, well, smaller little dudes – ideal if you need to squeeze them through gaps that a larger LocoRoco just won’t fit through.
The gameplay is broadly retained in LocoRoco 2. You can still build up your LocoRoco – to a limit of 20 – and split them apart if need be. You still collect berries, plants and flowers, and you also bounce around the levels defeating the enemies, blowing away bad clouds – really – and solving puzzles.
The controls are incredibly simple and all the more intuitive for it. The left and right triggers angle the camera and, consequently, the world, left and right, whereas holding and releasing both the triggers makes the LocoRoco leap in the direction you’re facing. And that’s about it. You interact with the world entirely through these controls: jump into enemies to bedazzle them into submission and jump through berries and plants to score points. The circle button unleashes the lightning to dissipate your gang of LocoRoco, but that’s really the only other control you need to worry about. They may be simple, but they’re incredibly easy to get used to and contribute to an intuitive and absorbing experience that you’ll pick up in no time at all.
While the gameplay has remained similar, the world around has undergone some changes. There’s now a huge variety of environments to travel around, from the original happy-go-lucky colourful worlds to the insides of various monsters and horror-themed lands, and the game is all the better for it. No matter where you’re bouncing around, though, LocoRoco 2 exhibits plenty of imagination in its design, both graphically and physically. The various levels aren’t constructed from super-detailed blocks, but the cute, cartoon style looks fantastic, and the sheer number and variety of puzzles and challenges you’ll face obviously took plenty of ingenuity to come up with. It’s testament to the talents of the development team that you won’t get bored.
The fantastic gameplay also includes a reasonable amount of challenge, too. While the levels do look cute and the entire game looks as if it’s been put together exclusively for children, even the most dedicated of gamers will struggle to collect the sheer variety of objects that you can round up during time with LocoRoco 2. It’s an excellent difficulty curve; virtually all the levels are easy to finish, but many are fiendishly difficult to perfect. The only minor complaint is that the boss battles are too easy; often, completing standard levels is more challenging.
LocoRoco 2 isn’t perfect, though. Sony has tried to cram a plot into the game but it’s not really worked. It revolves around the innocent LocoRoco creatures being attacked by… . However, play the game for any length of time and you still won’t get it. It’s only really explained in voiceless cut-scenes and it’s not presented too well. It has little impact on how you play the game, too, so it just feels tacked on and largely pointless as a narrative device.
That’s not a huge fault, though, in what is one of the best games on PSP. The superb gameplay, fantastic design and endless amounts of cutesy charm contribute to a game that, if you have a PSP, you need to play. Sure, the plot is a disappointment – but that doesn’t matter when you’re bouncing through dozens of ingenious levels, unable to stop grinning. It’s certainly worth investing in if you have a PSP already – and even worth buying one of Sony’s handhelds if you don’t.