Version tested: Xbox 360
ilo and milo (lower case: it's important) are safkas, red and blue thumb-shaped creatures with tiny arms and legs and one long curly hair sticking out of the top of their heads. They're the best of friends but they keep finding themselves separated by the mazes of cubes that make up their world. To get back to each other they need to call upon the help of a fashion-forward Frenchman who rides a ladybird, walk across stretchy cuboid dogs in Pringle sweaters, drop through trapdoors with faces drawn on in crayon, and ride creatures that like to eat square apples.
It might sound like Noel Fielding pitching a new show to CBeebies, but in truth, ilomilo is not as self-consciously wacky as it sounds – barring some interstitial non sequiturs that feel slightly forced in their weirdness. It's charming and occasionally funny, and the spelling and grammatical errors simply add to the homespun feel. Its whimsical, hand-crafted aesthetic looks almost like a Michel Gondry-directed stop-motion kids' show. In case you were wondering, that's a good thing.
There's something of Ocean Software classic Head Over Heels in the set-up: your job is to guide ilo and milo to each other by switching from one character to the other. Rather than making your way through isometric environments, however, you need to negotiate increasingly complex structures made entirely from soft fabric cubes. Neither has any unique ability; you simply have to reunite the pair by making clever use of the special blocks on each stage.
Initially you'll start off with large cubes that can be picked up by either character and instantly shrunken down into portable form, worn by ilo and milo like a backpack. Slot these between gaps and you can cross over to the other side; they're reusable, and often you'll need to pick them up and replace them elsewhere several times in one stage. Red arrows on the edge of some cubes allow the characters to transition from one side to another, while other cubes can stretch across three cubes either vertically or horizontally depending on their placement.
The further you get, the more intricate the stages become. 37 puzzles and 12 bonus stages might not sound like a lot, but after easing you in gently at the start, Swedish developer Southend Interactive really ramps up the difficulty level. With myriad other cube types to consider, ranging from trapdoors to elevators to the ridable, apple-gobbling Munchers, later levels are real head-scratchers.
You don't need to finish every single puzzle to reach the final stage – a wonderfully clever piece of design which sees our heroes touchingly reunited for good – but there are plenty of reasons to go back once the credits have rolled. Each level holds dozens of collectible doodads which represent fragments of ilo's and milo's memories; once you've collected enough, you'll unlock a piece of a letter whose contents may well invite deeper reading into the plot's meaning. Collect all three baby safkas hidden on each stage and you'll unlock the bonus stages, which hold the game's trickiest challenges. Photographs and vinyl records are also tucked away, representing unlockable concept art and stage music respectively.