Version tested: PlayStation 3
LocoRoco Cocoreccho might just be the boldest PlayStation Network release yet. We all expected Sony to replace the shoulder button tilting of the PSP version with Sixaxis motion sensors and then sit back and count the money. Instead we've got an entirely different game made out of the same parts - not just a decent sequel, and certainly not an "interactive screensaver", but what's actually a better game all round.
As with the PSP game, your job is to herd little singing blobs around 2D platform levels, trying to get to the end with as many as possible in tow. But Cocoreccho gives you even less direct control. Your role is a sort of mystical butterfly, who can beckon the blobs and encourage them to jump this way and that like a flapping mentalist Pied Piper.
Left to their own devices, the blobs will happily march around a small section of the game's one big level tumbling down slides, rotating through water wheels and riding along on air currents, but by coaxing them off course at different points you bump into other, dormant LocoRoco who then spring to life and join the procession. Collect enough and you can open a gate to another section.
The key thing to understand is that your gloopy friends are quite safe without you. Where LocoRoco was about keeping half an eye on the world around you and most of it on your pals, in Cocoreccho you concentrate on the world and reach for a helping hand when you need it. Once you accept this, you stop trying to constantly baby-sit them all like you did on the PSP, and instead concentrate on the bit of the level you're in, eyeing up different paths and potential secrets and then dragging a few LocoRoco off their merry course to help you explore.
You do this by holding the circle button, which creates a ring of authority that gives you a certain amount of influence over the blobs. Hammering circle encourages them to "try harder", which basically means "jump", which they will do when they get round to it. Like the PSP game, there are lots of telltale indentations in the walls that hint at hidden LocoRoco, and glowing plant stems that you can touch to unfurl additional platforms hung with new friends.
There are still elements of danger to contend with, mind you, including those black, dread-locked nasties that eat your LocoRoco if they get too close, so watch out for that - but the normal route through each section is safe from enemy attention. You basically have to go looking for trouble to find it.
What's more, it turns out that the decision not to use Sixaxis for basic control is something of a masterstroke, because the way it is used is critical to Cocoreccho's charm. Shaking it will dislodge hanging LocoRoco, uncover helpful Mui Mui creatures, deploy weird fish to push you down alternative pathways, charge up fountains that fire your LocoRoco into the air, and clear away obstructions.
Sixaxis is also used to tilt platforms and operate flippers, allowing you to fire the LocoRoco into new areas. Again, it's all about playing with the environment and coaxing blobs into helping you where necessary. Basically you're a sort of opportunistic shepherd, keeping one eye on the flock and rummaging around in the bushes when you get distracted, occasionally lobbing a sheep into the unknown if you can't see over a hill.
As you build up an ever-greater number of LocoRoco (there are 200 to find in total), you're able to go through Mui Mui gates, which require a certain number to open. On your first run through, you only get access to two sections of the world before going off to do the boss-fight (a mad game of firing your friends into enemies' faces), but on subsequent tours you unlock more. All paths eventually lead to the same conclusion, but you won't mind the repetition because, like the PSP game, you inevitably find more LocoRoco and learn more about how to uncover them with each circuit of a level.
As you dig further, you also uncover a trio of mini-games. They're nothing ground-breaking, and you probably end up repeating them a bit too much in an attempt to drain them of all their additional LocoRoco unlocks, but they are certainly likable enough.
And of course the whole thing sounds brilliant and looks gorgeous. LocoRoco's bright, cheerful graphics, dozy clouds and dancing vegetation couple themselves adorably to the splendidly upbeat music - sadly only a retread of the PSP soundtrack, but nevertheless quite lovely - and if you've got the kit to run it in 1080p then you will struggle to find a cleaner cut, prettier or happier spectacle in all of Sony-land.
All in all, you can't go wrong. Even the occasions when the LocoRoco refuse to cooperate, or mistime their jumps and slip down a hole, are usually forgivable because they're so disgustingly cute, and of course because there's a steady stream of candidates marching around the level to reinforce whatever you're attempting to do. If there is a criticism, it's only that once you've decided to go through a Mui Mui gate you have to wait a couple of minutes for the troop to assemble, with no way of speeding up their progress.
You also might whinge that really there's only one level in Cocoreccho, and that your first run through only takes about half an hour. But that seems to miss the point. This is a game about merrily exploring a world of secrets, many of which you only get access to the second or third time you play it, and replaying the same bits is anything but a chore. Even ignoring that, you can't really fault it for value, because, for GBP 1.99, the few hours of brilliant entertainment you get here are well worth it. A big, warming, chain reaction of delight that you'll want to revisit again and again.
9 / 10