Charm and creativity meld together like the best of friends.
ilomilo is made up of four chapters, each containing nine basic puzzles and three bonus puzzles. Every puzzle starts off with Ilo and Milo on opposite ends (sometimes directly underneath each other) and you must play as Ilo and Milo alternatively, working together to join up somewhere in the middle. The puzzles are made out of cubes, and the two friends are capable of walking along different surfaces if there is a means to do so. The most basic means is a carpet of arrows that allows them to simply walk to that surface, but there are also rotating cubes and hole cubes that can flip their world upside down.
These cubes play an integral part to the gameplay. The most basic of cubes merely patch up holes in the ground to cross, while others play a more complicated role like the shining cubes that light up tiny cubes to full size. There are also switches placed about that move static blocks around allowing characters to move from places otherwise unreachable. The game has a very gradual learning curve. The basic puzzles may seem simple and small, but it's to help you ease into solving the much larger and more complex bonus puzzles at the end of every chapter. Also, the hint system is incredibly vague so as to not blatantly give you the solution.
It's one thing to just reunite Ilo and Milo together and call it a day, but the game offers more than just that. Peppered throughout each level are memory fragments. As you're collecting fragments, a meter will begin to fill up and once full, a new memory will unlock that shows a brief history of Ilo and Milo's friendship. You'll also have three safkas to rescue in each level, one of each color, and when you gather every safka of that color, you'll unlock its corresponding bonus puzzle. For the completionists, there are images and records to collect to view and listen to later. As you're trying to solve the puzzle, you'll want to keep your eye out for all these extras as well.
You can switch from close-up to faraway camera angles to help observe your three-dimensional puzzle suspended in space. A minor issue worth nothing is that you can only rotate the camera in 90 degree increments, and this limits your ability to observe the puzzle from every angle. On the larger levels, you'll actually need to move your character down to the area you want to view better. A free roaming camera would have helped immensely here. There are also a couple of game crippling glitches, and sometimes you might make an irreparable move that forces you to restart the puzzle.
The game has an undeniable sense of charm. The visuals look great as simple as they are. The blocks of the puzzles are rendered very well, along with all the other characters and animated cubes. Speaking of animations, they also flow very smoothly. The patchwork art direction and playroom backgrounds make this such a relaxing game to play, even if you get frustrated starring at a puzzle for an hour. The color pallet is also thoughtfully selected to give the game a mellow atmosphere perfectly suited to game's storybook tone.
Perhaps the one facet of the game that's even more charming than the visuals is the audio. The soundtrack steals the show. It's full of catchy and memorable melodies that you can't help but hum along to. Songs are composed of xylophones, accordions, flutes and other similar instruments. An interesting thing to note is that sometimes the song will change when you pause and resume the game. The sound effects are also comprised of xylophones, horns and other instruments. The entire audio package is very relaxing to the ears.
ilomilo can be a real mind bender at times, but that's the sign of a great puzzler. The game rewards you with those "Eureka!" moments when you finally figure it out, and you'll be just as happy to start the next level. At only 49 puzzles, it also feels a tad short for its offering considering DLC was made available just a couple of months after its release. With that said, ilomilo is still a game worth checking out on XBLA. It can get incredibly clever, trippy as it constantly flips up upside down and around, and enchanting as it sucks you into its magical world. At least check out the demo if you're unsure about this title.