Review for ilomilo (XBLA)

Reuniting ilo and milo is a bewildering task, hid under the disguise of an adorable art style and nostalgic score. The puzzles are devilishly tricky and will continually push your spatial awareness and sense of three dimensional perception. Don’t be fooled by the innocent aesthetics; this is a deep puzzle game that will leave you scratching your head for hours.

The premise is simple. In a strange patchwork world, ilo and milo are best of friends. Every day they go to the park to hang out, but they’ve noticed that recently the path leading them together is becoming more and more complicated. Using special blocks that rotate, throw and move across each level, the pair persevere in order to be reunited. Simplistic and uplifting, the plot is reminiscent of a child’s bed time story, linking each chapter together with a series of ‘pages’. The theme of friendship feels charming without ever feeling overbearing.

The two characters start at opposite ends of a cubic maze. Pressing Y quickly switches between ilo and milo, allowing players to flip between the two at any time. Players will need to traverse across different faces of the cubes and use the various blocks in order to open up new areas. There are gallery items, Polaroid pictures and three collectible ‘safkas’ to find in each level, forcing you to search out every nook and cranny before reuniting the pair.

The puzzles start out fairly straightforward. Special blocks are explained and utilised one at a time (thanks to the charming and slightly nutty Sebastian), acting like a semi tutorial for much of chapters one and two. However, the difficulty ramps up very quickly midway through chapter three, combining multiple blocks with creatures that block your way or kidnap the safkas.

By thinking ahead and planning multiple moves, players will quickly learn how to judge a scenario and use the blocks at their command appropriately. Quite often players will need to ‘hand over’ a block between ilo and milo multiple times before the pair can be brought back to together. Sound confusing? It is, but the satisfaction of completing the puzzles is more than worthwhile. Southend Interactive never uses cheap gimmicks to fool you; the puzzles are simply dense, multi-layered and very well thought out.

The visuals are brilliant. Many of the cubes have a detail and life of their own, gobbling up Iio and milo with a cheeky grin or walking around with glasses and a moustache. The textured, patchwork style is reminiscent of LittleBigPlanet or Kirby’s Epic Yarn, but occasionally surpasses them with heightened originality and flair. Each chapter has a unique theme filled with fantastic tunes and illustrated blocks. Regardless of the difficulty, you can’t help but explore ilomilo with a smile on your face.

In the later chapters, it’s easy to forget the collectibles and focus on just completing the puzzles. For those that preserve, there is a heap of extra content available including a bonus NES style mini game and co-operative play. The co-op mode is identical to the single player story, but it’s still fun to sit down with a friend and help them out with some of the later puzzles. Elitists can also try and beat the leaderboards by completing the levels in the least amount of steps possible. An insane challenge that personally, I would never undertake.

Any negatives? Although there’s an option to zoom out, it can occasionally be hard to grapple the camera and take a look around the entire area. There’s also a glitch that seems to cause it to crash every few hours – but these are all rather small criticisms in the grand scheme of he game

At its core, ilomilo is a tricky puzzler full of style and heart. For 800 Microsoft points, I also think it’s a bit of a steal compared to most other products in the marketplace at the moment. Definitely worth checking out the trial, if just for the neat music.

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