Do you ever see something new and not really understand it? That's the way I felt when I first picked up LocoRoco 2 for the PSP. While the game is highly addictive and quickly drew me in to the gameplay, I'm still not sure I really understand it. Maybe I am just too old? Like the first LocoRoco, the object is to tilt the world so that your little blob guy (a LocoRoco) is lead through maze like levels. While the basic plot of the game unlocks as you beat the maze and boss levels, there are also tons of minigames, cinematic interludes and side projects.
The game opens with a cute intro and then you start your first maze level, trying to get to your friend's house. You use the L/R top buttons to tilt the game and your LocoRoco starts moving with gravity; tap them both to knock the world a bit (making your LocoRoco jump). Your friend helps you find his house, and you're on your way to roll around the world, rolling into bugs (for points), items (for minigames/side quests) and berries.
While you start as a rather small LocoRoco, if you eat berries, you'll grow big and strong — which is great until you want to slip into a small cave or roll through a tight passage. Good news, LocoRoco have a very odd anatomy. If you tap the O button, your big LocoRoco will divide into as many small LocoRoco as you have eaten berries. Once you've passed the bottleneck, you can have your little LocoRoco meld back into one large one by holding down the O button.
Right, so now that you've got the basics down, your home world is under attack (again if you played the first game) from the evil Mojo. They've come back with an evil song that destroys life as LocoRoco know it; they also return with a desire to eat LocoRoco. Music and sound are a key focus of the game, and almost every level has a point in which you must have enough LocoRoco to form a choir and tap in time with the beat to access an item or secret area. Fighting with songs of happiness and a good old fashion "jump on its head to kill it," you have to return the world to life.
On your side are the MuiMui, a peaceful group of blue people whom you find in your adventures and send to the MuiMui house. Several of the minigames center around the MuiMui and their house. As you collect items in levels, you can use them to help the MuiMui improve their houses, unlocking sound checks, screenshots and other secret levels. Later, they come under attack from their evil red cousins, and you'll have to help them build defenses.
As you might notice, this game is chocked full of minigames. Even the load screen between levels almost passes for a minigame as you watch the miner get closer to bonus items each time a level loads. There is a LocoRoco race you can bet on, a whack-a-mole style minigame, a pinball minigame, and a place to use stamps to try and fill out pictures or just stamp your own picture. You can easily spend weeks just on the minigames
In addition to the extra time the minigames add, it is impossible to complete the levels on the first try. First, after you collect enough bugs on each stage, it becomes easier to beat as the bugs become drawn to you like iron filings to a magnet. Second, new special abilities have been added since the first game. You have to learn them from the MuiMui on later levels. So perhaps something was too high before or you were at a point where your LocoRoco looked confused but you couldn't advance? Now you can go back and try again. Once you have all the required abilities, you can try and beat the earlier stages to full completion, getting the extra items. This can be both fulfilling and frustrating at the same time. Fortunately, if you get too frustrated, you can always just play with some of the minigames to calm down.
I was a bit troubled by the look of the Moja. They appear to be unflatteringly based on blackface stereotypes. While I highly doubt the designers intended anything racist, they do not appear to have really taken into account American cultural history in this portion of the design. Nevertheless, like Wagner's music, playing it is enjoyable regardless.
Overall, the game is extremely addictive and fun to play. The simple bold color scheme gives it both a modern look and a comfortable classic (8-bit) feel. The music (while a little strange at times) is well thought out, and I almost wish it got more of a focus because of how central it is in the game. But that's what Guitar Hero is for; the musical minigames aren't intended to carry LocoRoco 2. On the basis of gameplay, I think most people, young and old would enjoy LocoRoco 2.