ilomilo Review (Xbox360)

Charm can go a long way in a puzzle game, and developer SouthEnd Interactive has turned the charm dial up to 11, making ilomilo one of the most smile-enducing and lovingly-crafted Xbox Live Arcade games we've ever played. From the silly yet endearing storyline to the general look and feel throughout, ilomilo's world is one of joy, happiness and colour.

What charm can also do, however, is hide the lack of substance. Initially, ilomilo feels clever, enjoyable and unique, but gradually the enjoyable begins to fade as the dull underlying concept is exposed. It's definitely a weird one, as we're glad we experienced the game's quirky nature - yet at the same time, we find it difficult to recommend.

"I'll be with you in, erm, just a short while!"

Ilo and Milo are two brightly coloured creature things, that look a little like Pikmin with huge foreheads. The story goes that the duo meet up each day to talk and enjoy each other's company. Unfortunately, they both have terrible memories, and keep forgetting how to reach the meeting place, or even where the meeting place is. They also have a strong suspicion that the area in which they meet keeps changing form.

On each of ilomilo's 49 levels, your task is to help Ilo and Milo meet up. This can be pretty much anywhere in the level, obstacle-permitting, and walking one of them into aspace next to the other will result in a win. Of course, it isn't as simple as it sounds - along the way, there are gaps in the path, strange creatures blocking your path, and all sorts of crazy physics and gravity to contend with.

Each level is laid out as a series of coloured cubes, and both Ilo and Milo can walk along these cubes, with the cube face acting as a centre of gravity for that particular hero. If a walkway of cubes bends around at an angle, the creature will simply walk around with it - in plenty of levels, both Ilo and Milo can be stood on the very same cube, but on separate sides of it. In these cases, the idea is to get them both onto the same side by walking around special arrowed edges.

Immediately, we found ourselves sucked into the action by the sheer gorgeousness of the setting and the cute, plinky-plonky charm of it all. From the storybook to the visuals and music, everything is so silly and endearing. Trumpets drone along to the beat, occasionally completely (and purposely) out of tune and time. The character of Sebastian is perhaps the most hilarious, as he pops out of a box now and again to teach you about new elements of the game.

We want one of these dog creature things

The dialogue is fun to read, and even the little antedotes between levels are entertaining for a while (until they begin to repeat, as per every game that uses this technique during a loading screen). To say that ilomilo won us over with it's charms would be an understatement - for the first couple of hours at least, we were in love.

Neither Ilo or Milo can die, allowing you to take as long as you want on any puzzle and giving it a more casual feel. In each level there are also memories to find, small creatures called Safkas (which we assume are baby version of whatever Ilo and Milo are), and pictures and music for your Extras menu. Clearing out an entire level of all goodies feels rewarding and, in some cases, relaxing.

Around the time we entered the third world, however, the formula began to feel a little stale. Even as new elements were being introduced, such as the hilarious dog-like creature that can take Ilo and Milo for a ride, the idea of traversing a series of 3D cubes was beginning to wear a little thin. We'd already been wowed by the idea two hours earlier, and now, as each new level opened up, we found ourselves less inclined to scour each level for all the collectables, and wanted more to get it over and done with as quickly as possible.

The issue may perhaps be that later levels in particular are incredibly daunting. When you've just spent the last few hours walking all over mazes that, in all honesty, all look the same as each other, then to open up a new level and be presented with another HUGE maze you're expected to work your magic on.

The game feels so much more alive and entertaining when the levels are shorter, in bite-sized portions, allowing you to jump in and jump out, and we would have much prefered that the entire game was like this. Some of the earlier levels feel far more clever puzzle-wise too, and the later worlds don't feel as if they bring as much to the table.

It's gorgeous, yes, but the gameplay is a lot more so-so

There is one saving grace, however. The multiplayer allows two friends to take control of both Ilo and Milo at the same time, and as you'd expect, this gives the game a much different feel. Instead of a single player grinding both characters slowly towards each other, two players can now work together and get the job done more swiftly, making those long and tedious levels more bareable.

ilomilo is gorgeous, but flawed. Great ideas are quickly stretched out until they are barely recognisable anymore, and the gameplay moves from being interesting to an almighty slogfest. If you're looking to inject an abundance of charm into your gaming, you'd be hard-pushed to find better that this - however, there are much better puzzle games available on Xbox Live Arcade.

ilomilo is available now on Xbox Live Arcade.

Top Game Moment: Grabbing a collectable and watching a funny little band pop up at the bottom of the screen.

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By hellweed (SI Core Member) on Jan 08, 2011
I have Ilomilo and I like it (most at beginning). Devs are talking about DLC but I am not interested (BTW I hate dlc). Ilomilo is fun but in small doses.