In the battle of the mascots, Sony has always been a bit of an underdog when compared to Nintendo's instantly recognisable stable of Mario, Pikachu and Link. While Ratchet the space-mechanic-turned-super hero, Parappa the musical canine, and of course, the adorable and infinitely customisable Sackboy may be some of the more well known of Sony's familiar faces, personally, we've always had a soft spot for the perpetually happy blobs-with-faces that are the LocoRoco. A rainbow of a platformer that hit the PSP way back in 2006, over a decade ago, we can still remember queuing up to at the local pick 'n' mix emporium, Woolworths, to get our hands on a copy - and we all know how long ago THAT was… Needless to say, Sony have decided it's high time to dust off the old LocoRoco, give it a bit of a graphical polish and repackage it as a new remaster for the Playstation 4, in the form of the imaginatively-titled LocoRoco Remastered.
A quirky, adorably light-hearted platformer of sorts, LocoRoco follows a group of brightly-coloured blobs whose home planet has been invaded by another set of not-so-nice blobs, the evil Mojas. In order to reclaim their world and restore peace once more, the LocoRoco set off on a journey to do what they do best - eat, grow and multiply. It may not win any awards for plot development, but rolling your way through the cheery worlds of LocoRoco, hopping your blob from platform to platform to the tune of some toe tapping music is a real blast. Cleverly designed levels full of hidden pathways, quirky obstacles and at times challenging platforming sections make LocoRoco Remastered as fun and fresh now as it was a decade ago.
At its most basic, LocoRoco is a 2D platformer - the aim of the game is simply to get from one end of the level to the other, past obstacles aplenty, whether they be perilously-placed spikes, a door locked by a hard to reach button, or a hungry hungry Moja who can't wait to get a piece of your wiggly jiggly LocoRoco pile. As the titular LocoRoco are almost entirely spherical, how you get from A to B is a little different to in your Marios and Sonics - instead of running and jumping, you roll around each stage by tilting the world itself to roll your blob, with the occasional vertical hop thrown in for good measure. It's a unique way of moving about that's very much suited to the somewhat lazy, carefree nature of LocoRoco, with the remaster adding in the ability to twist and tilt the world with the PS4 controller's built-in motion sensors. Traditional buttons are still an option though for those who prefer something a bit more concrete to their controls - and, while tilting is a fun way to play, it can be a little wayward at times, sometimes interpreting a sharp tilt in the opposite direction as a upwards flick, making your LocoRoco jump and lose all momentum in the process; somewhat annoying when you're trying to build up enough speed to launch yourself up to a high shelf.
Beginning each level with just one solitary LocoRoco blob, you'll soon come across fruit bushes scattered throughout each stage - eat a berry, and your one LocoRoco will swell, soon becoming two, then three, and so on, up to a maximum of twenty. Kind of like a collectible of sorts, getting to the end of a level with all twenty LocoRoco in tow is no mean feat - especially in the deadlier, more challenging later levels, which are littered with plenty of things spoiling for a piece of your LocoRoco pile.
While it may be easiest to play through as much of a level as you can with your LocoRoco all bound up into a single blob, that actually isn't the only way to travel. In fact, many areas will require you to split up into the smaller, single-serve group of LocoRoco instead, perhaps to fit through a small gap, blow along on a gust of wind, or to form a makeshift choir to wake up a sleeping sun. Holding a button to unpack your big burly blob into a mass of individual LocoRoco forms the backbone of many a puzzle during the course of the game, and is both one of the game's cleverest aspects, and a source of annoyance at times. The problem is, it's all too easy to lose a LocoRoco or two when they're split up, particularly when the game itself forcibly splits you up (usually when moving through one of the game's large cog-driven machines, and the many pipes that come off from it), as it ends up shooting the bulk of your team halfway across the map - leaving the stragglers off screen to die through no fault of your own. Of course, being careful with your LocoRoco and making sure no soul is left behind is part of the game, but it doesn't half feel unfair when you miss out on a perfect 20 finish because the game trapped Lagging Larry and Derpy Dave off screen for a fraction too long.
Still, with so many secret areas and collectibles to hunt out, you'll likely be returning to levels several times anyway, before you can perfect them. As well as the twenty LocoRoco, each stage also has three MuiMuis, and umpteen Pickories to munch on along the way, forming the game's collectibles of sorts. The MuiMuis are a friendly race of little grey jelly baby men, and three of them are hidden - usually very well hidden - in each level. Pickories meanwhile, are little pink flying insects-come-berries that the LocoRoco love to scoff, and are generally less well hidden, making more of a trail for you to follow through each stage - although the occasional super stash of them do lay off the beaten track a bit, so you'll want to keep your eyes peeled just in case.
As you can probably tell, we really like LocoRoco. In fact, about the only real issue with LocoRoco Remastered is that it's a pure remastered port of the original PSP title, which means if you've played the original, you'll have played all of this already - with no new content, there's nothing extra thrown in for those who LocoRoco-ed the first time around. It's also a not-quite-perfect port, with cutscenes in particular being noticably lower resolution and 'fuzzier' than the levels, as well as having the occasional stutter and jump in the music and sound effects, particularly when loading the level complete screen. Of course, none of these really detract from the fun of the main game, and for the most part, LocoRoco Remastered is still the same charming little puzzley platformer it was over a decade ago.
We love LocoRoco, and LocoRoco Remastered gives us the perfect medium in which to scratch that blob-tilting, secret-hunting, cutesy klutzy itch, without having to pony up for a decent replacement PSP charger. There may not be anything particularly new here - it is after all a simple high-definition jazz up - but whether you're wanting to rekindle your love for the goofy, grinning blobs, or this is your first foray into the fun of LocoRoco, it's definitely worth a punt if you're a fan of Sony's quirky little platformers. What you'll find inside is a cutesy, kaleidoscopic ride through a singy-songy world with a surprisingly catchy soundtrack that can't help but make you smile - unless you don't have a soul, anyway.