When we reviewed the original LocoRoco back in 2006, you might recall that we thought it was pretty good. In fact, we thought LocoRoco was one of the most original titles on PSP, and hoped it was just the beginning of a whole new era for the system. While that era may not necessarily have come to pass just yet (excluding the odd exceptional title like Patapon), LocoRoco 2 has arrived to prove that the handheld console has life in it yet. It may not be hugely different to its predecessor, but LocoRoco 2 once again proves that original and entertaining content on the PSP is just a happy tune away...
As the game begins, all is well on the LocoRoco's home planet, with both the LocoRoco and their friends the Mui Mui living in peace. That is, until the evil Moja send a muck meteor to the planet to wreak havoc once again. Lead by the (in equal parts) evil and zany Bonmucho and Majoline and aided by the Bui Bui (basically bizarro versions of the Mui Mui), the Moja's song is spreading muck all over the world, and it's once again up to the brave little LocoRoco to stop it.
There is definitely a heavier emphasis on story this time around, with several cutscenes throughout the game showing the new challenges the LocoRoco face. There are even unlockable cartoons which, in all honesty, are a tad unnecessary. For instance, one explains the origin of the floating fruit which you collect, perhaps the most pointless prequel since George Lucas woke up one day and decided that what audiences really needed to see was an eight-year old Darth Vader. That said, all of the story segments are very, very cute. So cute, it's hard to knock them, really, as they're bursting with entirely too much love and happiness.
Once again, the player takes on the role of the LocoRoco planet, tilting to the left and right using the PSP's shoulder buttons, rolling the LocoRoco in the direction you want, while holding down and releasing both shoulder buttons at the same time launches the LocoRoco into the air. The LocoRoco are hungry little buggers, and as you eat more and more fruit and flowers throughout the levels, they'll grow in size. Tapping the circle button causes them to separate into smaller blobs, while holding it down results in an earthquake that mushes them all back together again. This mechanic is used extensively throughout every level, as its often easier to control a single giant LocoRoco than it is to control a dozen smaller ones, but there are situations when you'll need to separate them.
One of the main conceits of the LocoRoco series is the concept of song, and you'll find several opportunities throughout the game to test your LocoRoco's vocal chords. Whether it's waking up sleeping animals, encouraging a Mui Mui to come out of his house to play, or fighting the evil Moja, there's always a need for the LocoRoco to sing their blessed little hearts out. Whereas this was somewhat of a passive experience in the first game, a rhythm game has now been added to these sections that gives you the opportunity to collect music notes, a new addition to the series. Music notes can also be found throughout the levels as secrets, and collecting them dynamically adds instruments to the background music, as well as allowing you to 'level up' and find fruit easier in a level. Outside of the levels, they also unlock bonus content, and overall they're a sensible and welcome addition to the series.
So what else is new, this time around? For starters there are eleven areas to explore, and a new LocoRoco race added to the previous six, the purple Viole. You can swap out your LocoRoco at any time on the world map, although doing so has little effect on the gameplay, only in the presentation as each race has a different colour and song. There are several new gameplay mechanics this time as well, such as 'holes' dotted around each of the levels which the LocoRoco can be sucked into and explore for music notes. You'll also find rollable objects utilised in the same way, which let your LocoRoco smash through rocks and enter new areas. The LocoRoco can also swim now (in a fashion), as they can now sink into any body of water and then float around using the tilt controls. They also learn how to grab onto various things in LocoRoco 2, such as vines and the tails of enemies, allowing them to jump to higher places or tug on them.
Interestingly enough, it's not all rolling and jumping in LocoRoco 2. The developers have seen fit to include several minigames throughout the adventure, including a Peggle-esque 'Chuppa Chuppa' game, a questionable betting game involving a LocoRoco race, and a scrolling shooter. There's also a 'Loco Stamp' feature, which sees you collect stamps throughout the game and then use them to complete stamp cards. You can also stamp freely using the stamps you've collected on a background or your own photos. Finally, there's the Mui Mui house, which lets you furnish and expand the house using items you've found throughout the game. Overall, while it may not seem like much, it's a fairly heavy load of new content, and for collectors there's plenty of reason to keep playing.
The graphics are practically unchanged from the last game, which is fine by us. The extremely simple cut-out feel of the game is perfect, and the colour palettes of the different areas are all wonderfully unique. The animation of the LocoRoco is once again fantastic as well, as if you just leave the game by itself, the little critters get up to their own devices in an extremely cute fashion. Of course, the real champion of the presentation is the audio, which has both a collection of familiar tunes from the last game, and some equally catchy original songs. If you've played through the original LocoRoco extensively, you may be disappointed at the recurrence of several of the older songs, but thankfully they haven't lost any of their energetic and happy quality.
It probably goes without saying that not everyone is going to enjoy LocoRoco 2. It's just too happy. It's so happy, it might as well come with a free red nose and joke book and an LP of Bobby McFerrin's 'Don't Worry, Be Happy." But, it's also an excellent game. On the surface it appears fairly similar to its predecessor, but underneath there is quite a bit of new gameplay meat to get your claws into. In a perfect world, the LocoRoco series is something that everyone would love, but for now it's probably safe to say that if you've reached this far in the review, you've either played the first game and wondering if LocoRoco 2 is as good, or you're curious about getting into the series with this game. For the former group, it absolutely is, and for the latter, you absolutely should. You'll be happier for it, we guarantee.