There has been a definite theme of cute and quirky family friendly games with the releases of Games for the Holidays. The final game in this cross promotional trilogy is ilomilo. ilomilo is the story of two tiny friends who wake up every day at opposite ends of an ever changing park and spend much of their time making their way through obstacles to reach each other. This puzzler can be played with either one or two players and takes a simple concept and put its own imaginative spin on it.
ilomilo starts off each level with ilo and milo on two opposite ends of a complex structure of interconnected blocks. Moving only one at a time, ilo and milo must alternate moving various objects in the environment around to aid the other in meeting at a center point.
A simple enough sounding concept right? Well the level designers took this and ran with it in a way that they were able to create some incredibly challenging puzzles along the game’s 49 levels.
Some blocks pop out and block the way while others can be picked up and moved, extending bridges or launching ilo and milo over gaps. Through the levels, ilo and milo are guided by their friend Sebastian as they not only attempt to reach each other, but collect hordes of, well, collectibles along the way. These collectibles unlock music and artwork as well as other stages and pieces of letters that help further explain the backstory of ilo and milo’s friendship.
ilomilo does experience some moments of frustration. As players can never die during a level, some spots can only be solved through repeated trial and error. There are times when the levels become too clever for their own good as all six sides of the blocks and be traversed upon (pending the special carpets being available to switch gravity for the little patchwork friends) and the three dimensional space can become very difficult to figure out.
Story and Presentation:
While one of the biggest criticism’s to the game could be its length, the 49 levels of ilomilo give a fair share of gameplay for only a ten dollar price tag. The story is presented through static images with no narrator over soothing music which adds to the relaxing standard set by the gameplay.
The story of ilomilo is a simple one of two friends looking to reconnect every day with each other for tea in a park. But, as players progress through and unlock messages through item collection, they will see a deeper tail underlying ilomilo. (But don’t worry, it’s not anything depressing like the “she’s just not into you” tale of Braid).
Graphics and Sound:
Many people compliment Kirby’s Epic Yarn on its cute string and patchwork-based aesthetic. But ilomilo blows it out of the water. Almost similar to Little Big Planet, ilomilo takes simple characters that one could imagine a young child playing with and brings them to life in a lush and colorful world. The different stages have drastically different designs behind them but all compliment the characters in them.
Much like most of the gameplay, the music is a soothing and cheerful soundtrack for ilomilo. There’s no tension needed, much in the way of the PlayStation Network hit Flower. Instead, the game helps lull a player in to a happy place but never has the intentions of tearing them from it.
ilomilo is a great addition to any family’s lineup on XBLA. There are times though it may be too difficult for younger players with its challenging puzzles while it also may be too cutesy for the hardcore audience, leaving it in a very interesting niche. These hardcore players should not be turned off by the game’s light and vibrant look though as there is some incredibly fun and challenging gameplay behind it, almost similar in the style of a game like BeJeweled.
While Games for the Holidays draws to a close, it does a good job of following up to Summer of Arcade, even though it didn’t really score any huge blockbusters like the summer promotion did. There is however a good collection of three integrated titles that are worth any gamer checking out.
XBox Live Arcade (Also available on Windows Phone 7 platforms)
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studios
Cost: 800 Microsoft Points ($10.00)