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ilomilo is a cutesy 3rd person puzzler involving two best friends (one named Ilo, one named Milo) trying to get together to simply play. But after each day passes, they separate from one another and have to find their way back together. This is the simple gameplay structure built around ilomilo. You play as both main characters, switching back and forth between the two all while attempting to solve certain issues, and ultimately bringing the friends together and ending the level with a climactic, incredibly cute dance between the two crazy sacks of whatever they’re filled with.
When you start playing a puzzle in ilomilo, you’re thrust into a luscious, just plain gorgeous environment filled with cubes that lead you on your path. The puzzles themselves are fairly unique as it normally doesn’t boil down to only having one set way to finish the puzzle, instead giving you many different ways to approach it. This allows for a very free sensibility while playing them. The challenge within the puzzle is finding out where one of the blocks you’ve been given is supposed to go and how to get it there. Once you advance into the later chapters of ilomilo, you find interesting twists on your average block, such as a block that twists around, or a block that allows you to fall through to the other side. This can result in some downright ludicrous levels.
While the puzzles in ilomilo are all well and good, the best thing found within this XBLA game is its visuals. I mentioned previously about how luscious and gorgeous the environments are, but it’s not just that. Every single thing in ilomilo has its own cute, lovable look to it. And the animations make it all the more better. Watching little Ilo’s feet scamper along the cubes as he tries to navigate a cow to eat one of the big apple blocks standing in his way is one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.
ilomilo treats everything very whimsically throughout the game, including the music, which I just love to death. There aren’t a plethora of songs in this package but it’s still enough to make me just squeal with happiness. It’s all just so sweet and lighthearted, it’s impossible to hate it. The main menu music is something that will be stuck in my head for months and months to come.
One of the things the gameplay of ilomilo obviously lends itself to is co-op. In co-op, the gameplay remains the same. The only difference is that one player controls Milo and one controls Ilo. You would think it would be split-screen, with both players being able to control their own respective characters at the same time, you would be wrong. Instead, you have to switch between the characters throughout the level, leaving one player to sit solemnly waiting on their friend to finish their part of their level. This seems like an issue at first but it really isn’t after a while. As long as your friend isn’t stubborn or annoying, which mine wasn’t, dealing with the few minutes of downtime is no problem. The main issue with the co-op is the fact that your progress in co-op does not translate to your singeplayer game. So if you did 3 chapters in a co-op game (Around 25 levels), you’d then have to do them all over again once you fired up your singleplayer story.
Where ilomilo starts to fail a bit is in its controls and its camera. While most of the controls in the game are fine, the movement between squares just feels awkward. It’s very inconsistent and jumpy as you never know if your character will pop to one square and stop, or instead continue on to another square. The camera isn’t all that bad, mainly thanks to the fact that once your character is in a spot where the camera cannot detect you, it will form a circle around you and look through whatever obstacle is in the way of the camera. But it can sometimes get a bit stiff when you want to scout around the levels to see how exactly you want to approach it. The game does allow you to then zoom out, showing you the whole level, but that zooms out a bit too much. It would have helped tremendously if instead of just having “zoomed in” and “zoomed out,” ilomilo had some kind of middle ground between the two.
When I think back to ilomilo, the first word that pops into my head is cute. It’s one of those rare experiences where you can play with your son, daughter, or girlfriend and still have fun. In honesty, it doesn’t matter what your age is, ilomilo will make you feel all fuzzy inside multiple times throughout its four to five hour story. It has its problems, but none of them should prevent you from going out to buy ilomilo and experiencing two of the most lovable characters of the past few years.