Like with many games I introduce to my little boy I don’t go into any game expecting any kind of meaningful progress in terms of what the game, or an experienced player would consider progress. By this I mean the completion of a level, navigating an obstacle or even getting left to right on the screen. However I chose LocoRoco on purpose for several reasons as something to challenge my little boy (LB) as even when I first played the game many years ago it was something that I thought would be a wonderful experience for a child.
You don’t have to be well versed in games to see the appeal that LocoRoco has to a child; the bright colorful and simple designs of the characters and world, an amazing sound track and cute noises coupled with simple game play that while put to complex use later on allows for a wide range of basic interaction that’s fun even when progress is not being made in a level.
There’s an aesthetic (artistic intention, for those unfamiliar with the term) wonder with how much current young children’s TV (at least in the UK, as that’s what I’m familiar with) has followed similar suit with strong design on simple objects to make easily readable characters on screen and the ideal translates to gaming perfectly. While many shows do this the content isn’t always what I agree with despite a pleasing picture for the children to look at.. but perhaps that’s a topic for another post some time as I’m as strict with TV and film as I am games and had similar situations with those as I do games now when choosing what should and should not be watched.
Getting back on track however LocoRoco for me at least was something I was happy to let my LB experiment with as a controller was a fairly new device to him. The game keeps things simple with shoulder buttons controlling the rotation of the screen so but now so much controlling the character but the planet and gravity (a concept the LB won’t get for a while, but it’s just like rolling a ball down a slide which he picked up pretty quickly) On top of this you can launch your LocoRoco (the little yellow blobs the game is about) into the air, split them into lots of little LocoRoco and rejoin them again.
This manifests itself in game as lots of little challenges that very much resemble the kinds of toys aimed at 1-3 year olds; running down hills, starting and stopping, fitting shapes through holes and so on. While the hand to eye coordination and just getting around the controller was the hard part the game was reinforcing the basic principles of play that my LB had with his physical toys.
Now this isn’t to say that this game and to this extend gaming in general doesn’t hold a few issues of contention between my and my family who also observed him playing. The LocoRoco, while cute have their own language which my LB liked to repeat to some peoples annoyance. To me I saw this as an expected result of enjoying and learning from what he was doing, perhaps no different to words picked up from characters like the Minions from ‘Despicable Me’. But the divide mostly came from older members of the family than those closer to my generation. However this disconnect is something that at least in my experience has been rather common across all areas on child raising and not just the games being played and I do believe there is a fine line when it comes to made up languages which usually determine what can and can’t be seen, normally with educational value being the deciding factor. On top of this the game as a whole is very much a project of its origin, or to say it’s very Japanese and very quirky.. especially in the music which will appear as nonsense to most listeners and is sung by children to reinforce the overt happiness of everything in the game.
While early levels don’t show much of threat or opposition it is a game about protecting the LocoRoco which in the narrative has you assume the role of the planet and protector. Something that has yet to be experienced by my LB yet, but has been encountered as he did asked for help a few ties which lead to us together getting through a few early levels and the consequences of failing to project the LocoRoco. As the game progresses you see more of the Moja which hunt yoru LocoRoco and you’ll be tasked with protecting them from which not menacing could be considered scary with some depictions in places of the game making a parental playthrough worth doing before hand to decide for yourself.
I feel the need to be clear here, that I’ve never allowed my LB to progress to these parts of the game, though he’s now of an age where something like this wouldn’t faze him every child is different and parental discretion should be considered for everything gaming (if not in general). I’m not even confident that he’s be able to progress in the game far enough anyway to see the majority of the Moja yet.. but to not call that out seems like with holding important knowledge. You might not have any issue with the design of them, any maybe most kids also won’t also but I can at least see potential here (myself as a child had a immense fear of anything stop-motion animated, that way of moving was enough to scare me.. even in Star Wars)
Moja aside however LocoRoco is a fun little game, which holds an element of charm no matter what age and is designed in a way that all ages can get a satisfying experience from playing it. It’s one of those experiences that always leaves you smiling because of the happiness of everything depicted; from the singing LocoRoco themselves, the bright and colourful world, lively characters and adorable soundtrack. I’d say its something anyone should at least try out for a fun time.