Bounce To It!
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.
There are a lot of items to go back and collect, and the occasionally grueling nature of some levels all but ensures you’ll be playing many of them more than once. The new mini-games and the fun BuiBui store are also good reasons why it’s worth going back to master each stage and nab all the collectible goodies. As reward for clocking in longer play sessions, short bonus stages occasionally appear for you to dive into immediately or tackle at your leisure. These loot-filled courses give you a time limit to bound around and gorge on as much fruit and pickories as you can get your mouth on.
Pickories you’ve earned can be used to buy extra accessories and adorable hats to plunk on your LocoRocos’ noggins, or they can be poured into mini-games for a chance to earn cool stuff. BuiBui Crane plays very much like those toy crane vending machines you might run into at the mall or arcade. In this case, you’ll be tasked with picking up a specific-colored LocoRoco out of a pit by maneuvering a tricky crane arm. All the while, the LocoRoco move around, making it challenging to nab the correct one. LocoBall has you firing LocoRoco into a large Pachinko-like peg board in an attempt to land them in various highlighted slots. Both games are entertaining diversions that yield some fun prizes if you play them long enough.
Midnight Carnival’s new ad-hoc multiplayer mode lets up to four players hop into any of the levels in competitive races. During multiplayer matches, you’ll see the ghosts of other players making their way through the level as you progress. Fortunately, their tilting screen doesn’t register or have any impact on your own version of the world.
Despite being a relatively short, holiday-themed downloadable title that costs only a few bucks less than a full-blown LocoRoco release, Midnight Carnival is still a lot of fun and offers enough minor tweaks to make the game just different enough. The difficulty is steep enough to challenge even the best players, and the more platforming-oriented layout of these 16 new levels changes things up a bit. You’ll clock quite a few hours trying to master these tricky courses, possibly cursing out the BuiBui’s ingeniously sneaky, constructive creativity in the process.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
The adorable art style is packed with bubbly detail and new subtle, spooky nuances. 4.2 Control
A simple control scheme makes the gameplay a blast, and the new Boing! move does change things up nicely. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
This infectious blend of sing-a-long gobbledygook is bound to get stuck in your head. 4.0 Play Value
It’s shorter and tougher than its predecessors. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.