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SummaryNippon Charm Overload
The GoodSCENE: Inside my head.
The place has seen better days. Pipes are leaking and it's obvious that no-one has cleaned the place for a long time. Little creatures of various shapes scuttle around doing their various jobs. Since I'd been drinking heavily the night before and was about a month into a new and uncharacteristically busy life, most of these creatures are involved in maintenance and repair and are trying to cope with the effects of mild yet chronic sleep deprivation. I'm in a video game store and stumble upon a PSP with a copy of LocoRoco that customers are free to play on. This is my first experience with both the game and the console, having not played on a portable console since before they made colour Gameboys. I begin to play.
The Eyemen: "Well, this looks interesting! Bright primary colours and simple graphics. Apparently the protagonist is a bright yellow blob as well. Must be either a kid's game or Japanese. And wait...[*speaks into the intercom*]...is the blob singing, guys?"
The Earmen: "[*receiving the transmission*]...Yeah he is! It's a really catchy tune too!
The Fingermen: "Damn, this is easy to pick up and play! The entire game seems to be controlled by just the L and R buttons. Look, if I press R the game world tilts to the right and the blob rolls that way, see? But if I hold and release L while I'm tilting right then the blob jumps, and vice versa. You simultaneously control both the blob and the landscape he's sitting on using only two buttons. That's so clever.
I play some more
The Earmen: "A new song. All these songs are brilliant! We've got a wide variety of J-pop here. Someone go get the IC. He'll love this."
A runner goes off to find the Inner Child. He's playing with some plasticine in his room but is tempted out with the promise of sweets.
The Inner Child: "HA HA HA THIS GAME IS HILARIOUS! That little dude is singing, and he doesn't even care! He's totally comfortable expressing himself. I dig that."
The Eyemen: "We knew you'd like it."
I get to about the 4th or 5th level.
The Inner Child: "Each level is only lasting about 5 minutes.
The Fingermen: "This is SO easy to play. All you do is jump around collecting little flying circles, eating all the red plants so you can grow bigger, and then you find yourself at the exit."
The Inner Child: "This game is surely humankind's greatest achievement in the history of all things ever done by anyone anywhere at any time."
The BadEnter Mr. Cynic.
Mr. Cynic: "What the hell is this piece of garbage you're playing?"
The Inner Child: "Oh Jeez...who invited you? Get lost."
Many months later, I borrow a friend's PSP and copy of LocoRoco and play it on and off for a few weeks until I complete it. During these times, The Inner Child and Mr. Cynic become engaged in furious debates.
Mr. Cynic: "Listen to you! You're pathetic! You've become seduced, once again and just like everyone else who gave this third-rate and insultingly basic platform game high scores, by the aesthetic of the Orient. So desperate are you to get away from the relentless adolescent machismo of Western games, where everything has either a dragon or a machine gun, that you'll embrace a meaningless game about different coloured bouncing circles in which every level is identical."
Inner Child: "Oh, whatever. You just can't handle the purity. Not everyone judges quality by complexity, you know? You want to argue with the success of Tetris? And so what if I'm embracing LocoRoco because it's different? You say yourself that everything is made for spotty teens over here, so we should CELEBRATE when something comes along that isn't, gramps, instead of complain. And we're still playing it and something tells me we won't stop until we're finished. It's addictive."
Mr. Cynic: "Fine, celebrate it, just don't go overboard! LocoRoco is nowhere near as good as, for example, Hammerfall, which is a free indie PC game (with an equally simple game mechanic) that no-one has even heard of. Get a grip! What do the little circles that you collect even DO anyway? They don't do anything! You just collect them, not that it makes a difference to anything if you do or not, and most of them are hidden in secret areas in the walls, so the point of the game, the actual point, is to maneuver a blob which is a bitch to control an...
The Fingermen: [*overhearing*] "Yes it damn well is! Will...will you....wi...JUST JUMP!!! JUMP FOR GOD'S SAKE! NO, NOT THERE!!
Mr. Cynic: "...and attempt to jump into as many walls as possible because they might contain a secret area where you can pick up another few of the flying circles, which don't do anything. It's essentially a puzzle game, since played as a pure platform game with the focus on just getting to the end of the level, it's the easiest thing in the world; whilst it's possible to die, it never happens. A puzzle game, then, which doesn't reward you in any way for completing it's puzzles, which are, incidentally, optional. But hey, it's cute, right? So I guess that's...
The Inner Child: "It does reward you! You get a tally at the end of each level for how many you collected!
Mr. Cynic: "Oh, joy"
The Inner Child: "You're so bitter and twisted. You're also completely ignoring the whole thing about the Loco House. You can build a house for the Locos to play in by finding parts dotted throughout the levels."
Mr. Cynic: "Yes, and to what end?! It's woefully simplistic anyway and you can't place blocks on top of one another - but to what end?! In order to obtain more blocks of course, and to build a different house! Or at least it seems...because we're not experimenting with it. LocoRoco operates on the presumption that you can make any menial task entertaining when you put a tally on it. It's like asking your little brother to go down to the shops to buy groceries and to see if he can do it in UNDER 15 MINUTES! Off he goes, with great enthusiasm, while you, who are older than 12, laugh at his simple and easily entertained mind. Same principle, except here it's LocoRoco's developers laughing at you. Look, you want me to give this a break because it's cute? I won't. Because the PSP is portable? I won't. Some people think this is one of the best games for the console. If so, we'd better judge it fairly, don't you think?
The Inner Child: "BUT!!! IT'S!!! FUN!!!
The Earmen: "Will you two be quiet?! I can't hear the music!"
The Bottom LineWhen I completed the game, and was faced with a last level that wasn't really any different than the first, but saw the incredibly cute ending sequence, with such a funky song playing over the background. The conflict in my head grew so great that I passed out and woke up in hospital. I'm not to play the game again, on doctor's orders.
True story, yeah.