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Cute cuddly games had previously been left to the casual gaming Nintendo DS. But LocoRoco on the PSP brings not only a fresh take on cute platformers, but demonstrates how extra horsepower can make a real difference to a game experience.
Platform games task you with getting from point A to point B. The world you journey through is usually based on different levels, and populated with enemies, switches and lifts to be negotiated. As you work through each level you pick up various collectables that accrue score, special abilities and access to hidden areas.
Although the underlying mechanics of this game are that of a platformer, you won't find a more imaginative (or unusual looking) example of this genre. For a start you control the world itself rather than your character - tilting the whole environment with the PSP's shoulder buttons. This enables you to roll your player through the brightly colours flora and fauna. The only other controls are the ability to divide your blob into lots of little blobs (ideal for squeezing through tight spaces) and nudging the whole world upwards to affect a jump (to get to those out of reach platforms).
As I have eluded, your character is also unusual. You start as a small sized maluable piece of wobbly clay with eyes. As you progress you can collect extra pieces that are combined with your starting mass. So, like a snowball rolling down a hill, you get bigger and bigger.
This unusual approach for a platform game makes it a unique experience. The emphasis is certainly more on puzzling than actioning, although difficult run (or should I say roll) and jumps still persist.
This however is not what draws people to play initially. The visuals and audio create a cartoon world with a real sense of fun. It is the sort of game that everyone wants to get their hands on and have a go. Once hooked, LocoRoco takes you by the hand through it's all too brief fantasy world where the LocoRoco rules in an inimitably wibbly wobbly way.
Early worlds can be completed in a few minutes. But later levels take a little longer, particularly if you want to get every last collectable. The PSP's sleep option can come in handy when playing on the go, getting on and off transport.
Most players should be able to get through the levels in seven or eight hours. But it will take a lot longer to collect every item. Once collected, these items can be used in the build an 'Incredible Machine' mini-game that again extends the life somewhat.
The simple controls of the game make it easily suitable for very young players. There are enemies in the game, some of which are relatively scary in a dark spidery sort of way. But the cartoon aesthetic persists throughout and there is minimal violence.
Novice and intermediate gamers will be attracted to the great visuals and kooky soundtrack. My other half plays very few games, but five minutes on LocoRoco was enough to hook her in for a good few weeks. She particularly liked the simple controls and understandable objectives - get to the end of the level.
Experienced gamers may balk at the slightly kiddy graphics, but should be won over by the tricky task of collecting every item in the world. It is easy to get through each level but takes a high degree of platforming skill to truly complete LocoRoco.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: