Ilomilo, developed by Microsoft Game Studios, Southend Interactive, and released for Windows Phone 7 and Xbox Live Arcade, is a puzzle game where players are tasked with setting up a meeting between the two protagonists, Ilo and Milo. The two main characters, of a species known as ‘Safkas’, live on opposite sides of a park, and they always find meeting up difficult, due to the constant shifting of the park’s interior. Aided by other Safkas, and a variety of different cubes, Ilo and Milo are guided, one at a time, to each other, navigating their way through a number of levels, both in the park and underwater.
ARE WE NOT DRAWN ONWARD TO NEW ERA?
Satan, Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas! – Ilomilo assaults your eyes and ears with its charm from the get go, with adorable visual, catchy music and a general charm which is present in every inch of the game. From its excellent characterisation, in particular Sebastian, who helps our two heroes over various levels, to the witty and oftentimes laugh-out-loud funny anecdotes displayed during loading screens, Ilomilo oozes with personality. I found it impossible to not fall in love with almost as soon as I first started the game. Thankfully, this charm pervades throughout the entirety of the game, and never becomes too sickly-sweet or off-putting. In fact, it is this charm which often raises Ilomilo above the level of other puzzle games. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been stuck on a puzzle previously and become angry at the game for it. I found it incredibly difficult to become mad at Ilomilo, because a lot of the time it felt like I was shouting at an adorable puppy. Instead, I became angry at myself for being an idiot.
Smart Rams – Despite some of the puzzles being tough as nails, they never come across as using cheap tactics or hidden objects. The difficulty in Ilomilo often comes from the fact that you have to look everywhere in a level to be able to progress, and most of the time, if you can’t progress with one character, switching to the other will enable you to overcome an obstacle. Puzzles spread all over the place, with your character usually being able to move forward, backward, left, right, up and down, with objectives being in any possible direction. Added to this, the majority of puzzles are well designed, and the difficulty curve is almost perfect.
Draw Pupil’s Lips Upward – I don’t know about you, but the addition of Avatar unlockables to various Xbox games has been a masterstoke in my eyes, and is sadly underused. Whilst the rewards may be no more tangible than an achievement, actually being able to unlock things that you can show off to your friends and use a badge of honour is pretty cool. Ilomilo offers one of the best examples of these awards that I have seen, although it is pretty easy to get. Nevertheless, seeing a miniature pairing of Ilo and Milo running around my Avatar’s feet every time I boot up the console always makes me smile. There are plenty of other things to unlock throughout the game as well, with memories, side stories, bonus levels, concept art and music all up for grabs.
DOG DOO? GOOD GOD!
Doom Mood – Sadly, there are downsides to Ilomilo’s innovativeness, with the main one perhaps being the camera. With a 360-degree playing field, a four-pointed camera sometimes just isn’t sufficient when you’re trying to navigate your way through a level. I can tell that the developers tried to negate this with the ability to see through certain obstacles that are in your way, but the camera still remains frustrating at crucial moments.
Never Odd or Even – For an Xbox Live Arcade game, Ilomilo is reasonably lengthy, but considering the lowly difficulty level, particularly for the first half of the game, the majority of Ilo and Milo’s adventure is gone before you know it. Furthermore, a great deal of the collectibles can be picked up in a single run-through of the game, removing much of the replayability. However, for a game like this, the length may be a blessing in disguise, as it leaves you wanting to play more, rather than wishing it had ended a number of hours ago as you slog towards the conclusion.
Bombard a Drab Mob – It really, really pains me to have to say this, especially as a criticism about the game, but from experience, I know that a major part of Ilomilo may be a drawback for some. The simple fact is, I know that a few people, at least, will find the cuteness and character of Ilomilo overbearing. Despite the fact that the gameplay is largely excellent, the story (though minimal) is touching, and the art design and aesthetic is fantastic, some gamers will see this as a kids’ game, and therefore will refuse to give it even a second thought. It’s a sad fact, but I know it from experience to be true.
Ilomilo comes with a full recommendation from me. If you like puzzle games, or need a break from shooting and blowing grey and brown things up, then give Ilomilo a go. For 800 points, you won’t be disappointed. If you are, are you sure that’s a heart that’s beating in your chest, or just a sadness grenade waiting to go off?
- Jack Moulder
Send your comments to the author firstname.lastname@example.org