2010 was the year that made us sit up and pay more attention to downloadable games. Originally many scoffed when big names started dropping comments regarding digital distribution being the future, but after playing titles such as Hydrophobia, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Cave Story (to name but a few) suddenly many a humble pie was being eaten. So up steps ‘Ilomilo’ for the Xbox 360; TSA’s 91st most anticipated title of 2011. Can it live up to expectations and continue the high quality we grew accustomed to in 2010?
The game is a puzzle/platformer following the story of Ilo and Milo. These two little ‘things’ are the best of friends, and enjoy nothing more than a daily rendezvous to shoot the breeze about whatever it is fridge shaped things talk about. The problem is that both Ilo and Milo have dreadful memories, so remembering how to get to their meeting spot each morning is a real challenge. That’s where you come in, with the aim of reuniting the pair and causing happiness, joy, and disheartened fairies to grow back their wings (ok, maybe not that).
Every level starts with both Ilo and Milo on opposing sides, separated by blocks, gaps, and creatures. At any time players can flit between controlling Ilo or Milo, with one overcoming a certain obstacle allowing the other to progress. This may sound easy but Ilomilo is one of the most mind boggling games I’ve played, and that’s simply down to how you are forced to manipulate the 3D environment. Early puzzles are fairly simple, and with some deft character swapping can be completed in no time flat, but then the game ups the ante and introduces several new gameplay devices, all revolving around swapping planes.
Dotted throughout each level there are normally a scattering of different blocks, of which you can carry one at a time. The normal block simply fills in a gap, allowing you to travel over a hole; the extendable block will stretch out either several places in front or above when placed onto the ground; the trapdoor block will open and deposit you on its underside; the rotating block will rotate you onto a different plane, and the elevator block will allow you to reach higher (or lower) platforms. Confused? My apologies, it’s very hard to explain – so hopefully the video below will provide some clarity.
When all of these blocks are chucked into a level it gets unbelievably tricky, and at times you really do need to have some fantastic spatial awareness otherwise you’ll end up lost and disorientated. Saying that though, this game really does make you think with some fantastically designed puzzles to overcome. Southend Interactive has managed to make every level feel fresh, and not once did I get bored or take a break to play something else. The sense of satisfaction gained from finally cracking a tough level is unmatched, and you truly feel like a gaming God – that is until you start the next level and feel more like a clod than a God.
There is also a collectables element to Ilomilo, adding further challenge to each level. Collecting records unlocks songs; finding little creatures called ‘Safkas’ unlocks goodies in both ‘Raskulls’ and ‘World of Keflings’, and various fragments unlock little bits of backstory.
Whilst this may sound a bit intense (and it is), the game has a cheeky streak that never fails to raise a smile. The humour in Ilomilo is akin to that found in the Katamari games; in fact the game’s tutor ‘Sebastian’ rides around on a giant bee and speaks very much like the King of all Cosmos. For example, Sebastian has 73 hats but only wears one – the rest are for storing bits of paper in which contain words he has made up. He also bought the world’s biggest garlic, of which he still uses to make garlic juice.
Visually the game is delightful, with charming protagonists and picturesque backdrops that defy the devilish difficulty streak. Indeed, if one were to judge purely on looks then Ilomilo might be dismissed as childish fodder. Each chapter has its own unique style, with that theme running through every level. The audio is suitably catchy, but can grate when you are stuck on a particularly tough section.
Ilomilo is not without its problems though. Controlling the duo feels woolly at best, and one can’t help but feel that it would have been better suited to the d-pad due to the grid-like nature of the levels. Both Ilo and Milo lack a sense of weight so you will often find yourself stopping a block or two after you wanted to, or unintentionally facing the wrong direction.
I also encountered a few glitches in chapter four, and although they were by no means game breaking, it was still unfortunate. However, the major problem was also found in chapter four, where over half the levels would randomly crash after several minutes of gameplay and require a console reset. I am uncertain as to whether it is an issue affecting just review code (I certainly hope so), but it’s something that needs to be flagged up. Needless to say I persevered though until the end, and the other chapters were flawless.
- Beautiful to look at
- Wonderful puzzles
- A good challenge
- two-player mode
- Loose control scheme
- Level crashing
Overall Ilomilo kicks off 2011 with a bang. Some sublime puzzles, coupled with a striking visual style, should shoot this game to the top of wishlists of anyone with even a passing interest in the genre. Yes, the controls could have been tighter, and I hope no one else experiences the crashing issue, but Ilomilo is most definitely worthy of your attention.