The final entry in Xbox Live’s Winter promotion is easily the most impressive of the bunch. ilomilo combines the patchwork look of LittleBigPlanet with a creative puzzle game that involves reuniting two characters by working out the obstacles between them. Sure it sounds simple, and at first it certainly is, but the further you dive into the experience the more complex and addictive it becomes. Puzzle games are almost hit and miss these days, so when one stands out as much as ilomilo it is hard not to appreciate it for nailing the simple things such as being a delight to play.
To say the game borrows from Sony’s flagship creation title for its visuals would be an understatement. The characters, levels and everything in between deliver a loveable world that you can’t help but fall in love with. Even the main menu allows you to toy around with the music by plucking strings along with the melody of the catchy theme song. The game simply overflows with character and it is easy to get sucked into the universe. There is a story here, but all you really need to know is that Ilona and Milton want to be reunited for some tea in the park.
Starting off things are simple. You can swap between characters with the tap of a button, and your goal is simple: get them together. The levels start off fairly simple as each new mechanic is introduced accompanied by an explanation and some delightful gibberish from the characters. The world of ilomilo is best imagined in 360 degrees, and that becomes imperative the further you get into the game. The levels are broken down into cubes that you can walk on, but over time new obstacles are introduced and the world is continually flipped upside down creating puzzles within puzzles. Sometimes it is hard to wrap your head around which way is up, which is part of the challenge of the game.
Few puzzle games offer the sense of accomplishment when you finally do manage to unwind the madness as ilomilo. The frustration and trial and error all seems worth it once you figure out how to unite the two friends. It reminds me a lot of the same satisfaction when finishing extreme tracks on Trials HD. Yeah you were totally ready to toss your controller across the screen when you simply could not make that jump, but once you did you appreciated the complexity and design that was behind it. Games like this walk a fine line between enjoyment and aggravation. What separates them though is if the end result is worth it, and ilomilo has that in spades.
The game isn’t without its problems though. For starters the perspective of the camera at times can be more of a hindrance than the difficulty of the puzzles themselves. You will find yourself missing solutions because of a poor angle or simply not thinking fourth dimensionally. The trial and error also starts to grate on your nerves after a few tries. Probably one of the biggest challenges though is that the game ramps up the difficulty towards the end to near hair-pulling levels. Anyone who completes the game definitely has something to brag about, but you might end up snapping a controller in the process.
One thing ilomilo is not short on is content. In addition to the hearty main quest there are also a ton of collectibles to watch out for. You can collect vinyl records that unlock new music tracks, photographs that fill in story holes and little creatures that open up entirely new worlds. There are also a host of cameo appearances from other titles including the fan-favorite Super Meat Boy and even a few surprises. You can also take control of the second character via another controller for some couch co-op. This is great for couple who love to solve puzzles together.
As I have mentioned countless times already, this is one fine looking game. The storybook visuals lend themselves well to the world making it near impossible not to feel relaxed while playing. The characters are vividly animated and each one feels unique. The levels are expertly crafted and the only downside is the cumbersome camera. Music is also beautifully orchestrated. Cheery tunes mix well with the game and deliver plenty of catchy tunes. I love the voice work for the characters and the overall ambience is just so relaxing it is hard not to appreciate.
ilomilo is a wonderfully delightful puzzle game that will capture the imagination of just about anyone who enjoys a good thinking-man’s puzzle game. The visuals and music are intoxicating and the level design is incredible. The minor annoyances can be overlooked when you consider how much enjoyment the game brings. This is another fantastic addition to the XBLA library and one that cannot be missed by puzzle game fans. Ilona and Milton are two characters that will capture your heart and imagination from the get-go.
Review copy provided by publisher.