Whether we really needed a remaster of an 11-year-old Japanese PSP game is debatable, but we’re elated Sony decided to update one of the platform’s greatest hits nonetheless. LocoRoco Remastered brings the joyful 2D side-scroller (or side-roller, if you will) to a whole new audience, and the best news is that its still as fun and infectiously cheerful over a decade later.
For those out of the loop, LocoRoco is a platformer in which you tilt the world to the left or right in order to roll the titular blobs around a variety of colourful stages. Your main goal is to increase your numbers by eating the pink fruits found throughout each level. You’ll also be hoovering up pickories (your standard collectible) and trying to locate the three MuiMui (little blue men) hiding off the beaten path.
The game controls exactly as it did back on the PSP: you use L1 and R1 to tilt the landscape left or right, and pressing both together will cause your LocoRoco to jump. Once you have more than one LocoRoco, you can split the collective blob into individuals with a press of the circle button, and holding it down will bring them back together again. Such a simple, easy-to-grasp control scheme was no doubt built with the PSP in mind, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling great to play. Precise jumps can be difficult to pull off, but the game rarely asks you to do this, instead opting for flowing, breezy levels and a gentle difficulty curve. There is some challenge to be found in searching for all of the hidden rooms, many of which are well out of the way and require trickier athletics to get to.
But you won’t mind spending time in LocoRoco’s themed stages, poking around for secrets and hopping over spikes. That the game feels so good to play is at least partly down to the presentation. The visual feedback goes hand in hand with the easy controls to convey a world that looks and feels soft, malleable, and happy. The art style is composed of flat, primary colours that some may find a little basic, but it makes for a game that’s incredibly easy to understand, as well as one that will have you grinning from ear to ear. The music and sound design, too, perfectly complement the action with a series of up-tempo J-pop tracks that, in a lovely touch, your blob-like buddies will constantly sing along to.
The collectibles from the main series of levels feed back into the game’s other content: finding the MuiMui creatures unlocks new mini games, while you spend your accumulated pickories to play them. MuiMui Crane gives you a way to collect more parts for the customisable Loco House, which is a sort of playground area that LocoRoco can aimlessly jump around in. You’ll pick up these parts during normal play too, but the mini game gives you a better chance of gathering the rarer items. There’s also Chuppa Chuppa, an obstacle course that feels a little like miniature golf, which is a fun distraction. Finally, Loco Editor is a level creation tool that lets you use your Loco House parts to build rudimentary stages.
It all sounds mad, but the wacky nature is part of the game’s charm. It’s so refreshingly cheery, but more than that, it’s addictively fun and introduces new ideas at a good pace. Those who have played it before will know this, but others who may not have even heard of LocoRoco should know it’s a great platformer – even today. Any game that requires your character to sing to obstacles to let you pass is a winner in our book.
But what of the remaster itself? Well, visually it’s beautiful, of course. There are one or two assets we found that were less sharp, but this was in the menus and wouldn’t impact the main game at all. Performance on a standard PS4 is solid 60 frames-per-second 99 per cent of the time, but bizarrely, it struggles when the level clear screen appears. It won’t affect your ability to play, but it’s jarring all the same. In terms of sound, it’s perfectly fine the majority of the time, but there were a few occasions where sound effects would cut out for several minutes. The music carried on, but the singing and the shouts and the springy noises of the world totally vanished. This is a slight issue, as the LocoRoco warn you about upcoming hazards and give other audible cues that you’ll miss if you encounter this bug. Hopefully it’ll be patched out.
What we’re left with is a decent port of PlayStation’s happiest game. If you can forgive the occasional audio bug and a teensy bit of slowdown, you’ll have a wonderful time with LocoRoco Remastered. Fans will no doubt pick this up regardless, but newcomers should expect a kaleidoscopic, sing-songy platformer with simple, tactile controls, a catchy soundtrack, and a decent variety of stages to roll through. It’s well worth the price of entry, and a pleasant reminder that not all games need to make you feel empowered or make you think. Sometimes, it’s enough simply to make you smile.