ilomilo's title comes from blending the names of the game's two cute main characters
- Well designed puzzles, beautiful settings, excellent use of 3D effect
- Pacing is a bit uneven, camera can be wonky at times
This deceptively adorable puzzler neatly rounds out the XBLA Games for the Holidays releases with its well-designed puzzles and charming aesthetic.
There's a scene in the film Across the Universe where Dr. Robert (played by Bono) goes to visit Dr. Geary, a fellow hippie guru, and says, "What's weird is, we haven't met yet -- on this, or any other plane."
When I was playing ilomilo, this quote kept popping into my head. I'm not sure if it was due to the game's wonderfully designed, Sgt. Pepper-inspired artwork, its trance-inducing transcendental meditation-like music, or the not-knowing-which-way-is-up plane flipping that the game requires. Either way, ilomilo leaves a lasting impression sure to be felt long after you've turned off your Xbox 360.
ilomilo's title comes from blending the names of the game's two cute main characters. The red colored Ilo and the blue hued Milo are good friends who enjoy spending time together. However, every day they decide to hang out, a different set of obstacles blocks their path. Your job is to reunite the colorful pair by manipulating floating cubes in a three-dimensional world. This isn't nearly as easy as it sounds.
Part of what makes your job so challenging is the minimalist approach Southend Interactive has taken with their downloadable puzzler. Each level has only two or three cubes that can be manipulated, and even those change from level to level. Some cubes fill gaps, a few act as elevators, some will extend like a bridge, and still others roll. The rest of the cubes are stationary. The occasional obstacles -- a sock puppet that pops out of a hole like the sarlaac from Return of the Jedi, and a moving block that is the anti-Zoolander (he can only turn left) being two of my favorites -- make things even trickier.
But the most challenging aspect of ilomilo's mind-bending puzzles is that they all take place on multiple planes. Sometimes down is up and up is down -- it all depends on where you are and what types of cubes you land on. Of course, this being a game about two friends, you don't go it alone. At the push of a button, players switch between controlling either Ilo or Milo, and they work as a team even if they are on opposite corners of a map. While playing I'd frequently have Ilo upside down on one side of the map, while Milo was sideways on another.
Despite being very complex, ilomilo is rarely intimidating. As long as you're patient (some levels took me over an hour to complete, others took 5 minutes) and think how best to use the limited tools at your disposal, chances are you'll work out an effective strategy.
While the gameplay in ilomilo is intellectually stimulating and the presentation is enchanting, the game does have some issues. For instance, the camera will occasionally get in the way. When stuck behind cubes, ilomilo does a fair job of letting you see through them, but when panning wide, gamers aren't allowed a full 360-degree perspective -- which is quite frustrating for a 3D puzzle game.
The difficulty of some levels will also be troublesome for some. Much like Microsoft's other two Games for the Holidays releases, ilomilo has a cutesy appearance, which is deceiving. This title is for puzzle veterans, so be mindful if you're considering buying this game for your kids.
Overall, these issues are minor annoyances. ilomilo is an endearing, thought-provoking, and addictive puzzler. And with a selection of bonus mini-games and a well-balanced co-op mode, gamers are sure to get their money's worth.
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