|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SONY Japan (SCEJ)||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 29, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Before you gorge on mountainous stacks of sugary candy collected from late night revelry amidst ghouls, zombies, phantoms, and other creatures of the night, Sony has a little something to spark your gaming appetite. Just in time for Halloween, LocoRoco Midnight Carnival delivers another saccharine dose of handheld platforming sweetness. Instead of the sunny hilltops and grassy plains, our adorable rolling buddies are on a one-way trip into the dark netherworld for a fast-paced trek through some sinister turf.
With all the LocoRoco sleeping peacefully under a starry night sky, no one is awake enough to notice the sneaky BuiBui crawling around in the bush nearby. With the pull of a single lever, the mischievous fellow dumps the whole lot into the spooky BuiBui underworld where the naughty critters have constructed an elaborate series of obstacle courses designed to test your hopping, rolling, and eating abilities. Picking from one of many colorful LocoRoco, you'll help them oblige their captors by attempting to plow through 16 wild, nighttime levels of world-turning, platforming action as fast as possible.
The thin plot setup and straightforward premise makes Midnight Carnival feel like an expansion rather than a proper continuation of the past two games, but there's plenty here to satisfy the LocoRoco devout. Be prepared to be once again bombarded with the insanely cute, sing-song musical gibberish and colorful, buoyant characters that make the series so utterly charming. Even with a slightly spookier vibe and darker locations, the sights and sounds are just as endearing as they've always been.
As with the past games, you actually play as the planet itself. Holding the L or R trigger tilts the entire world in that direction to make your LocoRoco roll about, and tapping both buttons flicks the world to make the little fellow hop. You can also hold the circle button to divide into smaller LocoRoco and reform again, though it doesn't get a lot of play this time around. The general objective is to roll, bounce, and flick the cute critter safely through each level, while collecting fruit to grow bigger, locating your MuiMui buds hidden in the scenery, and chomping down any pickories (the game's money) you encounter.
This time around, LocoRoco has a new trick called Boing! that lets you chain bounces together to speed through levels more quickly and rocket to even greater heights than you could before. You can also bounce off walls, which is a fun touch. Each consecutive Boing! you successfully pull off gives you a score boost and bathes your LocoRoco in a cool energy trail. It also tracks your Boing! count until you break the chain, and keeping your bounciness going is a good way to build up a whopping high score. The game's levels have a much stronger platforming layout and are designed with this new mechanic in mind.
The pacing in Midnight Carnival flows a bit faster than the past games. Speed is important, since you get major bonuses for completing each stage within the time limit and are slapped with painful penalties for lagging behind. Technically, it's possible to Boing! your way through most stages without stopping, though it's a challenge that most will find virtually impossible - unless you take the time to obsessively replay levels until you've mastered them. With a brisker pace also comes a tougher difficulty curve. The first few levels are relatively easy, but they grow extremely tough during the latter half of the game where you'll have to pull off gravity-defying moves with great precision in order to progress. Hardcore LocoRoco players will find Midnight Carnival definitely puts their world tipping skills to the test.