TGS 2005: Loco Roco Hands-On

We got to play Loco Roco for the PSP at the Tokyo Game Show 2005.


TOKYO--Few games at the Tokyo Game Show 2005 stood out like Loco Roco, a quirky platforming game that lets you assume the role of a little orange blob, rolling your way through brightly lit levels and eating as you go. In some ways, it's an amalgamation of a few different game mechanics that we've seen in the past, particularly those in Kirby's Tilt and Tumble and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. But despite the familiarity of some of its aspects, Loco Roco is a unique and truly enjoyable game, and we had a blast playing just the demo level. From what we could see, Loco Roco also seemed to be the most popular download at the PSP hot spots all over Sony's booth.

Your character is no more than a blob with a simple face and a sprout atop his head, and his only movement, other than those you provide for him, is that of his mouth, which goes from a little line smile to a circle, indicating that he's about to eat something or that he's been knocked up into the air. Despite the total lack of emotion in this simplistic character design, he's both lovable and cute, as he smiles and chomps and rolls around. The game's control is as simple as the character design, but it works surprisingly well. Using only the triggers, you can hold down the left trigger to tilt the level down until you reach an angle of about 45 degrees to the left, and your character will roll left when you do so. The same can be done to the right, and if you hit both triggers together, he'll do a little jump into the air. And that's it. Like in Jungle Beat and other games using this simple kind of maneuvering, the trick is in getting everything on the level, not necessarily just getting to the end. The first time we played through, we finished fairly quickly, but we found at the results screen that we had missed most of the level's pickups.

On the second go-through, we found that there was a lot more to the gameplay than at first glance. It seems pretty straightforward; as you roll through, your character will eat the flowers that cross his path. Of course, it's your job to navigate him into them and away from the burr-shaped enemies that litter the environment. The catch is that the more flowers you eat, the bigger your character gets, and this impacts his ability to move around. As he widens, he requires more momentum to get off the ground, which means you have to play through more quickly, risking missing valuable flowers for consumption. Should you knock into one of the burrs, which were the only damage-dealing creatures in the demo level, then your character loses little pieces of himself, until presumably they're all gone and the game is over. Of course, you still have the opportunity to pick up the pieces after they've fallen off, much like the rings in a Sonic the Hedgehog game.

The other major gameplay mechanic occurs when you come across an area with an entrance smaller than your pudgy little blob. At this point, you double-press the circle button, which summons electricity and breaks you up into a bunch of tiny blobs, the number of which depends on how big you are at the time. Then, you must use the tilting mechanic to roll all the blobs safely together to the end of that section, and assemble them into one single happy rolly guy again. Some of the level traps you encounter, like jet streams of air that you can hitch a ride with, require that you're broken up into little pieces, presumably because the air couldn't move the larger creature on its own. Of course, this is essentially what makes the game feel so well put together. Whether going around loop-de-loops or trying to work your way up seesaws, and no matter at what weight, the game is extremely responsive to your weight and the angle at which you're tilting it.

Everything about this game is charming, from the bright graphics and environments adorned with polka dots, to the cute little grunts and pops that the character makes when he bobs around. The music, which is on a fairly short cycle, is so catchy that you probably won't find it annoying, even if you should. And the gameplay, which is so simple, is surprisingly rich, with all the hidden areas and pickups that you can find along the way. It's hard to find fault with what we saw from this game so far, except to say that it doesn't currently have a North American release date. We look forward to spending more time with Loco Roco and providing more information as it becomes available.

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