Loco Roco 2 has a lot to live up to. Announced last June, we didn't see anything from the game until Tokyo Game Show in October. As a result, there's been no slow drip-feeding of information, which means the only expectations we had were based on the original. Thankfully, this sequel makes its predecessor look like a prototype.
If you're expecting gameplay that differs dramatically from the original you're probably in for a shock. Instead, Loco Roco 2 expands on the gameplay of the first in almost every direction, with a large variety of minigames and new gameplay features. The graphics have largely remained unchanged, but the world is now much larger, with plenty more stuff to do, see and collect in each level.
Environments are now more varied with many more types of enemies and friends to interact with. Controls haven't changed either -- the L and R shoulder buttons still tilt the world, while pressing them simultaneously will make your Loco Roco jump. Simplicity at its best.
Enough of what hasn't changed. What has changed is far more exciting. Loco Roco 2 has a story that's as ridiculous and adorable as the rest of the game (read: very silly and very adorable). The evil Moja Moja have crash landed on the smiley Loco Roco planet and polluted the environment with their cloudy black goop. You set off to rid of the planet of the smog and defeat the king and queen of the Moja Moja. See? Ridiculous.
Loco Roco 2's soundtrack is much more varied than the original. In the first game there were only a few tracks, but these changed depending on which color Loco Roco you were controlling. Now, the music stays the same, allowing them to fit more tunes on the UMD. The soundtrack is as cheery, if not more so, than the visuals and remain stuck in your brain for hours after you've finished playing.
You'll be doing a lot of backtracking to levels, whether it's to collect all the MuiMui (three in each), rescue all of the Loco Roco (20 in each), attempt to find rare items or clear away all the black smog. Collecting musical notes hidden in plants and under rocks allows you to level-up the level, making traversing it slightly easier or giving you a free item. If you want to 100% the game you'll be doing a lot of item hunting.
The best new inclusion to Loco Roco 2 is the MuiMui house. There was one in the original, but it looks like a ten-year-old's Flash game when compared to its successor. Collecting items allows you to build more rooms in your house and then furnish it with various knickknacks, unlocking more items, levels and minigames. MuiMui rescued from each level will come to live in the house and will proceed to sing one of the most addictive and adorable songs you've ever heard.
Singing has now been turned into a minigame of its own. A basic rhythm-based game which, as far as we can tell, seems impossible to "fail," but affects the number of musical notes you receive on completion. Still, it's better than just watching it happen, right? There's a massive amount of content to explore in Loco Roco 2, especially for a PSP title. We've sunk over 30 hours into the game and there's plenty more items and stickers to find and levels to unlock.
What the developers have managed to do is create a game that's not only more fun than the original, but infinitely more cheerful. It's impossible to play this game and not break out into a massive smile. In an industry of gray and brown kill-em-ups, Loco Roco 2 is a refreshing, deep and thoroughly enjoyable breath of fresh air. Another game to add to the tragically small list of "Must Have" PSP titles.