Video Game Review: ilomilo
I challenge anyone to tell me ilomilo isn’t completely adorable.
After a busy 2010, we’re beginning 2011 with ilomilo, the third and final installment of Microsoft’s Games for the Holidays promotion. It’s another adorable title that portrays a family-friendly vibe, but this puzzler can challenge even seasoned gamers as they try to reunite ilo and milo by guiding them through four increasingly complex chapters.
There’s no platforming in ilomilo, meaning all the challenge lies in solving puzzles. At least that’s how it should be. Instead, I found myself battling the dual analog stick controls while trying to move the characters and adjust the camera. That said, most times there’s no real consequence, though those trying to finish a level in a minimum number of moves could be in for some annoying moments.
If the collective adorableness of A World of Keflings and Raskulls didn’t make you a gaming diabetic with how sweet and cuddly they were, ilomilo aims to push you right over the edge. As they toddle to and for, the main characters look like hoodie-wearing thumbs with flipper arms and antennas — and if that’s not enough, each level even culminates with a cute little dance.
The surrounding world is pure fantasy. It has a homespun, almost kitschy feel with floating levels of blocks set against a background where strange creatures and unusual stuff (like a bear flying around in a gigantic paper airplane) becomes commonplace.
Cuteness overload continues with the game’s acoustics as developer Southend Interactive has come up with an amateurish soundtrack that couldn’t be more spot-on with the overall feel. From the whimsical background music to the tiny “uh-uh” sound that’s made when you try to do something you can’t, ilomilo’s audio is in lockstep with the graphics. It’s all incredibly endearing and unique.
Every one of the 49 levels found in ilomilo has the same goal: bring ilo and milo back together. At the beginning of each stage, our lovable little buddies have gotten separated and will need your problem solving expertise to rectify the situation. To do that, you’ll alternate controlling them since ilo will need to move objects and manipulate buttons to create new pathways for milo, and vice versa.
Early on things are pretty straightforward. You’ll mostly deal with singular and expanding blocks, but as you progress the difficulty level starts ratcheting up exponentially. Strange creatures will obstruct your path, new blocks will be added that do stuff like fly through the air or have you fall through them to access different sides of the world.
It’s the constant rotating of perspective that really elevates the challenge later on, and there were definitely times when I got disoriented. Being able to plan ahead becomes more important as well as even though there are no time limits I still found myself restarting some of the later levels. Sometimes it was because I made a move that would no longer allow me to collect everything on that stage, while at others times I just needed to reboot and try a fresh approach.
In addition to reuniting ilo and milo, the game’s 36 standard levels all contain extra items to find, most notably little creatures called Safkas. There are three on each of the chapter’s nine stages — locate all nine of each colour and you’ll unlock the corresponding bonus stage (three per chapter if you successfully collect all 27 Safkas). These bonus stages rate as the game’s most challenging and may prove tough for some to complete unaided.
Outside of the main story there’s also a little 8-bit mini-game called ilomilo shuffle, which has you moving the pair in tandem to collect points while avoiding the pitfalls that pop up. It’s fun for a little while, but there’s a lot of luck that goes into how far you progress and it doesn’t hold up.
The game supports local multiplayer (sorry, no Xbox Live), though there’s no difference in the levels when playing through cooperatively. It feels like a missed opportunity, and I’d imagine most people that play the multiplayer will be doing it to snag the achievement. Once that precious Gamerscore has been added there’s really no compelling reason to return for more multiplayer action.
While not a long game, ilomilo does deliver 49 puzzles and an online leaderboard that tracks the number of moves you made to encourage multiple playthroughs. Between the graphical style and challenging puzzles there’s plenty to justify an 800-point purchase.