Never underestimate the raw power of unbridled charm. LocoRoco is a platformer with a unique control scheme and a one-track mind that has you essentially performing the same handful of activities at roughly the same difficulty level from start to finish. So in long play sessions, you might find yourself a bit put off by the gameplay's relative monotony. But that winning charm, combined with a dedication to playing in short bursts, makes LocoRoco a fun little diversion.
In the intro, you're shown a peaceful planet, where the little globules known as LocoRoco live. The planet is attacked by the decidedly evil forces of the Moja. Your goal is to somehow restore world peace by occasionally bashing the Moja and generally rolling around. The game is broken up into five worlds and each world is broken up into eight levels. While each world does look a bit different, each one also has the same types of levels in them. So, for example, you'll see a fast-moving ice level each time around.
The gameplay in LocoRoco doesn't really put you in direct control of the LocoRoco. Instead, you use the left and right triggers on the PSP to tilt the playfield, causing the LocoRoco to roll around. If you hit both triggers, you can cause the LocoRoco to jump. There are several collectable items in each level, but the most important thing to get are the large berries, which make your LocoRoco grow. There are 20 berries in each level. Most levels also have tight spots in them that are too big for your ever-growing LocoRoco to fit through. In these spots, you can tap the circle button and cause the LocoRoco to split into multiple pieces, making each one small enough to fit through whatever gap is on your way. After traversing the small territory, you can hold the circle button to get your little blobs to form back up into one big clump. Along the way, you'll also encounter different-colored LocoRoco, and you can select which color to use before each level.
Your goal in each level is to merely get to the end. You'll encounter some resistance along the way, but not very much, and bopping the Moja by jumping into them isn't too tough. Instead, your real goal is to explore the level and find hidden areas by attempting to either bash through walls or just float through walls that aren't actually there. In these areas, you'll find more berries, collect more pickories, which is the game's currency, or find little guys known as Mui Mui. These guys will often leave behind a new, unlockable part for the Loco House, which is one of the game's side options.
The Loco House is your chance to build a little exercise area for the LocoRoco using a variety of parts that you unlock in the main game or win in one of the minigames. You can choose from different house sizes, and then place various pieces, platforms, spinners, and so on. Once you've built something, you can hit Start to launch a LocoRoco into the house, and then watch it bounce around. It can be pretty difficult to wrap your mind around the different pieces and actually build an interesting house, though. In addition to that, there are three minigames to unlock. Two of them--chuppa chuppa and the mui mui crane--focus on you completing a task with the goal of unlocking more Loco House pieces. You'll have to spend 100 of your pickories to play these games. The third is a level editor that lets you build your own basic LocoRoco levels, but unlocking this third game takes time. There isn't any multiplayer in the game, but you can share your Loco House and created levels with other players, as well as send a demo level of the game via game-sharing.
Aside from progressing through all of the levels, the game is also built around replaying levels to beat your best. It keeps track of how many LocoRoco you finish a level with, how many pickories you collect, how many Mui Mui you find, and how long it takes you to finish the level. Each level also has a time-trial mode that focuses strictly on finishing quickly. If you're the sort of person that plays for perfection, you'll probably appreciate this replay value.
The audiovisual presentation of LocoRoco really goes a long way. The graphics are cute, vibrant, and extremely charming. The faces of your LocoRoco are brimming with personality, and the things you encounter in the levels can be equally as striking. It's got a very unique visual style, but what makes it all work is the way it moves. The blobby LocoRocos bounce, roll, and squish around in a very cool way, and the cartoony nature of the game infuses it with tons of personality. The music, complete with plenty of unintelligible vocals, is really great. It's very, very catchy and really adds to the game's charm. It'll bore its way into your head and never let go. The rest of the sound effects are also good.
LocoRoco makes an absolutely fantastic first impression. It's got unique control, a really great look to it, and the gameplay is sharp. Unfortunately, the level design doesn't take too many chances with that formula, and as you go on, the game starts to feel a little monotonous. If you're the sort of person that plays in short bursts, though, you can sidestep that feeling. Either way, LocoRoco's charm carries it quite well, and it's a unique experience that's worth checking out.