The Double-A Team: LocoRoco is a bright and breezy charmer
The Double-A Team is a feature series honouring the unpretentious, mid-budget, gimmicky commercial action games that no-one seems to make any more.
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I took the bus into town to buy LocoRoco when it first came out for the PSP, back in - crikey! - 2006. I remember this because I took the bus home, too. And I remember that because halfway through the trip, a grey day with low clouds and the promise of rain, I briefly pulled the LocoRoco box out of the bag to take a look at it - and it was like the sun had risen, all of a sudden, on the top deck of a 46 to deepest Hove.
LocoRoco still has this magic. It still pops, as interior designers like to put it. The hero of the game is a blob of yellow stuff, that glorious, heroic yellow that I think might be called Yolk in the paint catalogues. They have a dinky little emoticon face. They roll around colourful 2D landscapes collecting other blobs, and then either moving on as a rushing, bubbling, babbling gang, or coming together to form larger blobs. A to B over glorious '70s wallpaper terrain, singing the whole time. LocoRoco could not be happier.
The controls are beautiful. Just looking at screenshots now, 14 years after I first fired it up, I can remember the feel of the PSP triggers as you tilt the screen left or right to roll LocoRoco around or press both down to make them jump. The levels are made to be turned in your hand this way - they look bucolic but they're actually pretty mechanical. Up and down you rock them, back and forth, as you coax LocoRoco to the next goal.
Actually, at times they're a bit anatomical. One of the great recurring moments in LocoRoco is when you come to a gap in the ground that your huge, billowing LocoRoco can not fit through. So you press the button that sees you bursting into a dozen smaller LocoRoco and they all plummet downwards, racing along through twisting, turning pipes. The physics, the sense of jelly-like material reality. It's peristalsis in reverse. It's physics and momentum and squishy internal spaces. What a thing.
It's not Double-A in the traditional sense of being gimmicky and charming but slightly ropy. It's poised and beautiful and complete. But it has drawn intelligent boundaries around its ambitions in a very Double-A way. Its scope is squishy, squashy 2D joy, platforming and puzzling with collections and mini-games providing the cornflour to thicken it, as it were. And we're onto cooking! Bucolic, mechanical, anatomical, gastronomical. And musical! LocoRoco is the business.