By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
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PlayStation Portable fans in search of an ingeniously quirky and addictive game should look no further than LocoRoco.
Only problem is, the premise behind this pocket-sized puzzler is difficult to explain.
LocoRoco lets you control the fate of little 2-D blobs as they roll through perilous environments. While the obscure story is hard to follow, it involves some nasty space creatures called Moja, who have come to take the LocoRoco from their peaceful planet made up of rolling hills and colorful flowers.
The organic-looking LocoRoco fluidly roll around, jump over hazardous obstacles, eat fruit to grow and can temporarily break into smaller LocoRoco to squeeze through nooks and crevices. You must also find hidden areas of the world to rescue spiky-haired friends, called MuiMuis, who happily wave upon your arrival.
Besides its fresh and fun premise, LocoRoco is very unique in two key areas:
For one, unlike most video games, you do not directly control the six different protagonists -- instead, you manipulate their world, which causes them to move around. Specifically, you must tilt the planet so your LocoRoco rolls in a certain direction.
Secondly, the majority of the game is played with just two buttons; pressing the left and right shoulder buttons on the PSP tilts the world left or right, respectively. Press the two shoulder buttons at the same time and the LocoRoco jumps. It's that easy. A few times throughout each of the 40 levels, you must tap the O (Circle) button to break the LocoRoco into smaller critters. Holding down the O button again regroups them. Because of this simplified control scheme, LocoRoco is ideal for those who justly complain about video games being too difficult to play these days (the Microsoft Xbox 360 controller, for example, has 13 buttons).
Complementing its colorful and simple graphics and smooth animation, LocoRoco excels in the audio department -- especially when it comes to the quirky and catchy soundtrack. In fact, the LocoRoco seem to like it, too, as they actually sing along with every song. Not only does each of the various LocoRoco have a unique voice and sound, but gamers with sharp ears may also notice each song breaks into harmony when the LocoRoco split into smaller ones. Clever.
Along with the single-player adventure, which takes about eight hours to complete, LocoRoco also includes three unique minigames. You also have the ability to earn and collect rewards throughout the main game in order to build a custom LocoHouse. You can also trade LocoHouse pieces, such as a teeter-totter for stairs, with other LocoRoco players in the same room via a wireless connection.
LocoRoco is a refreshingly charming, fun and unique game for players of all ages. It's a cinch to pick up but nearly impossible to put down. Run, walk or roll to the store to see for yourself -- or if you want to try before you buy, download the free playable demo at www.us.playstation.com/locorocopcdemo.