January 10, 2011

Ilo, Milo and Me

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , , — Chris O'Neal @ 4:32 pm

I’ll be the first to admit my weakness for cute things.

If someone were to pick up a stuffed animal, have it ‘look’ at me and in a strange yet fitting voice for a small stuffed inanimate object say, “Hello, Chris!” I’d probably take it home then and there. I’m not ashamed, it’s who I am baby, which is why Ilomilo, from Swedish developer Southend Interactive has quickly found a special place in my heart.

Two friends meet daily for tea and maple cookies. Unfortunately, the path they take to each other is never constant, changing with the weather. Manipulating a cube-like world, we can control either Ilo or Milo on their quest to meet, chat and eat cookies and drink tea. It sounds simple, and in many ways is, but it’s also pure and irresistible sugar.

Layered underneath this whimsical world of friendship and snacks are puzzles that seem easy enough at first, but quickly become the stuff of nightmares if one isn’t paying attention. Imagine a Rubik’s Cube, but hollow and with only two pieces that need to connect. This is the physical reality of Ilomilo, a series of short quests asking the player to get from point A to point B through a somewhat vexing three-dimensional land of anthropomorphic blocks and barriers.

The land is traversed by having one of the two characters move from place to place, collecting small pets, miniature records, and balls of fluff..By using an arrow that leads ninety degrees to another side of the cube, the world turns and we find ourselves facing a new landscape of hurdles and dead-ends. If the path is blocked for Ilo, Milo can be used to unblock or open up a new path. Small blocks that vaguely resemble dogs can even be used as bridges, while bird-like blocks can be used as elevators.

It’s hard to stop playing with everything being as adorable as it is. Putting down the controller is like telling Ilo or Milo that no, they won’t be enjoying their tea today because I was too tired to give it that little extra effort. I wouldn’t want that on my conscious, and this is where the problem with Ilomilo surfaces.

Underneath the superficiality of the cuteness lies a rather repetitious puzzler. Not much changes on the varying levels except for your surroundings. Day becomes night, creatures appear to hop around and/or make it difficult to proceed. It’s all very simplistic on one level, but still fascinating all the same. Despite the repeating goal, I never once found myself bored of getting these two to their daily chat.

This game could have easily been bad. In fact, without the playground design and stuffed-animal story of camaraderie, it wouldn’t be able to stand by itself. The puzzle mechanics aren’t diverse enough to survive on their own, though perfectionists would have found a reason to complete it. The overall package of wondrous concepts meets classic brain teasing is what helps Ilomilo seal the deal.

There are hours of game play here (not many, but it feels longer than it is) for puzzle fans and even more for those forever enslaved by the adorable. The design itself, with its puffy balls of beady-eyed protagonists and its quirky load-screen tales and trumpet-laden score is worthy of your time, and if you find yourself stuck on an especially difficult puzzle, try taking a break for some tea, a cookie, and possibly to check and appreciate the smile that’s snuck onto your face.

Ilomilo is available now for the Xbox 360 via the Marketplace for 800 MS Points.

1 Comment »

  1. At first glance the screen shots reminded me of Kororinpa.
    And since I am a sucker for the cute, I would probably really enjoy this game, I’ll have to check it out.

    Comment by Anonymous — January 13, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

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