We love LocoRoco here at VideoGamer.com. It's impossible to resist its joyous melodies and relaxed, almost care-free platforming gameplay, and it quite rightly sits near the top of the highest rated PSP games on the site. After we'd exhausted the first game we wanted more, but Sony wasn't keen to milk the lovable game and churn out a quick sequel. Now, almost two and a half years since we gave the first game a well deserved 9/10 the LocoRocos are back, and they seem to be just as happy and full of song as before.
Following what has become something of a PSP cult classic can't be easy. The core gameplay had to remain pretty much the same in order to please the legions of fans, but some things, like the relative lack of challenge and short play time needed to be addressed. We've been playing a work in progress build and we're glad to report that we like what we've played. It's unlikely LocoRoco 2 will have the same dazzling impact the original did in 2006, but we've been charmed by the twee little chaps all over again.
As before the controls are incredibly simple. Movement is handled by tilting the game world left or right by pressing the L or R buttons on the PSP. Pressing both together and releasing will cause your jelly-like blob to jump, while a press of the circle button will split the blob into numerous smaller blobs - hold it down to re-join them. Existing LocoRoco fans will pick things up instantly and newcomers will appreciate how simple everything is.
This time around Sony has included more to do in each level, and more threat. We could more or less switch off during the original, almost letting the game play itself, but doing so here resulted in the heartbreaking loss of many of our little guys - more often than not to the spiky-haired flying black enemies that will take any opportunity to snatch one of your LocoRocos from the group. Because of the game's quite stunning art style and incredible audio we quite like it when they make an appearance, as they blast out an amusing tune, but losing a LocoRoco isn't an easy thing to take.
New to LocoRoco 2 are various things your little fellers can interact with during each level. These come in all shapes and sizes, from vines you can swing on and jump from, to small holes that you can get sucked through. Successfully using these will gain you access to new areas and more goodies. Collecting things was part of the original game but it seems to have been taken to another level here. There's a ton of items to collect, and the friendly non-blobby MuiMui are more than generous with their gifts if you help them out.
One way in which you can use items is to fill in stamp books, stamping pictures of the characters inside its pages. You can also make a house for the villagers to live in, as you could in the first game. The more you do so the more rewards you seem to be given, and the better the house can be. Our house is currently only in its early stages of development, but the plot of land it sits on is substantial in size, suggesting there's a lot of work still to be done.
Another new addition to this sequel is a rhythm action mini-game that crops up now and again during levels. As an incredibly catchy tune plays, you have to match an on-screen marker with musical notes displayed around the screen, hitting a button at the right time. It's hardly a new idea, but it gives us another reason to listen to the game's brilliantly cheery music, which is fine by us. We also unlocked a crazy whack-a-mole-style mini-game in which creatures from the game appear horizontally across the screen, with you pressing the corresponding button to smash them on the head with a hammer.
We expected LocoRoco 2 to dazzle with its amazingly colourful artwork and we weren't disappointed. The sequel retains the charming look of the original but offers more variety in its stages. The PSP is a capable machine, but keeping things simple works wonders here. We can only imagine it looking even better on the new model PSP, which will hopefully eliminate the screen ghosting that hurt LocoRoco 2's obscenely likeable presentation. It almost goes without saying, but the soundtrack is top quality too. It might well annoy a small percentage or gamers, especially if forced to listen to and not play, but we love it.
LocoRoco 2 is due for release in November and we can't wait. Sony appears to have managed to create a sequel that will please existing fans and introduce newcomers to a truly wonderful world of colour and song. It is only a platformer, but it's an immensely enjoyable one.
LocoRoco 2 is due out for PSP on November 21.