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Hands-On Update

(June 14, 2006)


If the PSP is to thrive (perhaps even survive), it is going to need more unique games. At the moment, the system’s library is filled with console ports and/or sequels. Some of these are great, and I think the system doesn’t get enough credit for being able to pull off some of those games, but unique games establish an identity for a system in the way ports can not. Loco Roco might be the game to swing the PSP into full gear. It certainly is unique in both its game play and its look, and it is just weird, wacky and compelling enough to bring some fans of other handhelds (ahem) over to the dark side.


I played Loco Roco at E3, where it was available as a free, yet temporary, download at Sony’s booth. There, I simply didn’t get it. A few minutes after downloading the game, I was replacing it with the Gangs of London demo. Alas, this was a serious misjudgment. Fortunately for me, Sony was nice enough to send the demo out on UMD. Strangely, just a few minutes into playing the game this time, I was hooked.


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What an oddball platformer Loco Roco is. It is hard to even describe the game play of this unique piece of software, but I’ll try. Basically, the player takes on the role of Loco Roco, a round blob with an amused expression on its face. The player rolls the blob around levels collecting various objects and growing larger all the while. The challenge of each level is to get to places that seem impossible to get to and to find places that are hidden from view. It is weird, but it is also simple and addictive. I get the same feeling playing Loco Roco that I got the first time I got my hands on Katamari Damacy—this feels like a cult hit in the making.


If you haven’t seen Loco Roco yet, you might be surprised by its look. The game is done in simple primary colors. There are no detailed textures, no high-polygon models, and, get this, no third dimension. That’s right, Loco Roco is in glorious 2D. Still, there is something very next gen about the game’s look—something that gives me the feeling we couldn’t have seen this on earlier handhelds. Perhaps it is because it feels amazingly like living inside a hand-drawn cartoon to play Loco Roco.


The controls of Loco Roco are also unique. The game uses only the two shoulder buttons and one face button. The shoulder buttons are used to tilt the level left or right in order to get Loco Roco to roll in that direction. They are also used to get Loco Roco to jump (by pressing both simultaneously). The circle button is used both the break Loco Roco up into smaller, bite-sized chunks and to pull him together again which is necessary to get past certain parts of each stage.


As far as I’m concerned, September can’t come soon enough. The full version of Loco Roco promises to offer a ton of compelling game play and wonderful weirdness. It would not surprise me if Loco Roco were the next “system seller” for the PSP.


Danny Webb



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Early on in the PSP’s life, the handheld had the unfortunate reputation of having a library of games that were largely already available for its bigger brother, the PS2.  It’s alright for the most hardcore of fans for these games, who would like nothing more than to play these games while on the go.  Nonetheless, the PSP was having a lot of trouble shaking the specter of unoriginality, especially in light of the highly unique games that Nintendo was releasing for the DS at the time.  By the time the Tokyo Games Show came around in late 2005, it looked like Sony was finally trying to do something to diversify the PSP library, with a nutty little number named LocoRoco leading the charge.


The goal of the game is quite simple.  Players control an orange blob named LocoRoco that one must try to make as big as possible through eating fruit scattered throughout each level.   The more LocoRoco eats, and the bigger he gets, the more points players rack up.  Tipping his environment through pressing either the L or R shoulder buttons on the PSP moves LocoRoco around.  This causes everything onscreen to tip to a maximum of about 30 degrees in either direction.  As the orange blob gets bigger, he may encounter passages that are too small for his ample frame to enter.  As such, players can cause him to break into a bunch of tiny LocoRocos at the push of a button, as they stream through the opening, after which they can be recombined into one big LocoRoco again.




As they make their way through the game, players will roll LocoRoco through a bunch of different environments such as grassy fields, jungles, snow swept mountains, and so forth.  All the while one can collect as much food as possible, as well as find hidden areas with special items.  


By and large, though, Sony is sticking to a simple, yet intriguing concept for LocoRoco, which is exactly what they need to do in order 


to add more variation to the game library on the PSP.  Hopefully it will work out just as they plan, and owners of the PSP will have something a little different to sink their teeth into when the game comes out later this year.


Mr. Nash

(May 6, 2006)

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