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ilomilo Review (XBLA)

Game Review: ilomilo
Release: January 5, 2011
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Southend Interactive
Available Platforms: XBLA / Mobile
Players: 1-2
MSRP: 800 MSP
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Website: Official Website

I’m pretty sure most of us got to know what ilomilo was about thanks to the not-so-secret site that gave codes for the game’s trial; I’m also positive most people who did try the game thought it was, at the very least, extremely charming. The good folks who brought us Lode Runner, are now releasing ilomilo; a cute and excellent puzzle game with spectacular and imaginative visuals, clever stages and equally charming music. If your uncle happened to give you 800MSP for Christmas, I assure you this is the best deal for your money, and the best way to start an equally promising year.

ilomilo has a pretty basic premise; you control Milton and Ilona, a couple of friends who want to take tea together but keep getting lost from each other, as the park they go to changes everyday. Your mission, naturally, is to help them fulfill their goal, using the environment around  you creatively to reunite them. Of course, Milton and Ilona’s skills are very limited, you can’t jump, or climb or do anything except walking and grabbing special blocks (more on that later), and you are going to be controlling the protagonists simultaneously; switching between characters in single player (in a way reminiscent to Resident Evil Zero) or in the incredibly fun co-op mode.

Yes, it's this cute

Every stage is composed of a series of blocks, where you’ll move your character, although not exactly in a free way. Think of it as a board game of sorts, except in some instances you’ll be able to roam around some (or all) of the planes on a tri-dimensional block. As you advance through the stage you’ll find some special blocks that you can store in your backpack to release them later on; these special blocks can fill a gap that prevents you from advancing further or they can be deployed for up to three more blocks, vertically and horizontally for more interesting implementations. In addition, there are some kind of creatures that will either block your way or help you through the level, or both. In some levels one of the main characters will be forced to get the attention of some creature so the other character can pass over it, whilst other levels will have you riding a creature while the other character molds the way for such creature to advance. It’s a mechanic that works wonderfully, as its simple nature doesn’t require a complicated button layout or some fancy gameplay device from the player, it’s just you, your brain (which is getting a LOT of use in the later levels) and the world around you.

Reuniting Milton and Ilona is definitely not the only goal of ilomilo, there are tons of collectibles to get better scores and adorable insights about the universe of the game. Its a decidedly welcome addition, as it extends significantly the life of an otherwise short game; it could last 4 hours, but only if you’re a Noble prize winning genius.

Some of the backgrounds are unbelievable

ilomilo is definitely a unique game in a lot of ways. It’s presentation is top-notch in every sense, with appropriate interfaces that make use of a handpuppet-ish style that strengthen the cuteness of the whole package. The visual language is simply fantastic, everything looks and works the way it should with its simple models and charming texture maps, as well as some nicely done backgrounds and lighting that really bring to life a world as abstract as ilomilo‘s. Also, the music is cleverly composed and is as cute as it can get; its tunes will probably stick in your head for a long time, but you won’t get sick of them. Oh and don’t forget the smart implementation of sound on the opening menu; there’s even an achievement for making good use of that.

As usual, there is no such thing as a perfect game, and even if ilomilo is a nice example of what can be done with a creative mind and humble ambitions, is not free of shortcomings. The most prominent is, ironically, its gameplay mechanics. It seems the people at Southend tried hard to keep it as simple as possible, but in doing so they restricted options and freedom for the player, which ends up being frustrating in the later levels. It worth noting, however, that this little issue in no way damages the experience as a whole.

Julian’s Final Say.

I really believe there’s no better way to spend those 800MSP. ilomilo is charming, adorable, cute, but also a fantastic and idyllic experience that is both casual and relaxing, and difficult and rewarding. Start the new year with the right foot and go buy ilomilo right now!

  • Spectacular visuals
  • Stellar music
  • Simple, engaging, effective, yet limited gameplay
  • It can get really frustrating in the latter levels

Final Score: 9 out of 10

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