Game Review: ilomilo (Xbox One)

The sun is shining, the birds are singing…there is a gentle rhythm of catchy music playing in the background. Enter an environment filled with a plush patterned park, populated by odd characters, including a small man wearing a bicorne and riding a beetle. In the distance, two cushion like creatures are giggling and talking in a squeaky inaudible language.

These creatures, known as Safkas, are Ilo and Milo. And they are best friends.

Suddenly the ground shakes, and the park is transformed into a multi-axis cubed labyrinth, separating the two friends to opposite sides of the park.

Welcome to the world of ilomilo, a puzzle game developed by Southend Interactive and Microsoft Game Studios.

It is now your task to reunite them once again by navigating the complex pathways set before you.

The game’s storyline is played out over the course of 49 puzzle levels contained within 4 distinctive themed storyline chapters.

Sebastian (the man on the flying beetle), is readily available to give you hints and pointers on how to successfully navigate the park….and sometimes has a fun tale or two to share with you.

Movement is four point axis (up, down, left, right), and as the player moves, the park platform moves view based on X-Y-X axis layout, so sometimes things can be obstructed in view, causing frustration to finding the solution to the park puzzle, and reuniting the friends.  There is a zoom option to help get a better overall view of the park to make better decision on how to further move.

Players can change control between Ilo and Milo, or two players can each control one of the Safkas. Unfortunately, only one character can be “active” (no split screens) at any time, so multiplayer modes have to alternate between players to control their given character and the inactive player using a “pointer” to help guide the active player in the right direction. This is a really nice feature and it doesn’t disrupt the single player experience either; a perfect introduction for a friend/partner/family member who is new to gaming. Though I would have preferred that there was inclusion of some co-op capabilities to allow both characters to move at the same time.

Levels are made up of various designed cubes made of materials that at times have special abilities. Sponge can be picked up and carried by either character on their back (like a backpack) and placed elsewhere in the level, opening a path to travel on for example. There are also magical arrowed red carpets that allows the characters to walk on different sides of cubes (hence the multi axis abilities), and switches to activate bridges.

Death does not exist in this game, and if you get stuck then you can always restart the level, or even go back to an easier one to give your brain a break.

Progression through the game advances the storyline and at times there is cut scenes to further explain what is happening in the world of Ilo and Milo, and to indicate when the chapter changes. In addition, hidden throughout the levels are various fragments, when collected develop “postcard memories”, further explaining some of the game’s backstory.

Each time Ilo and Milo are reunited, the day ends wherein they leave the park together and hence a level is completed. Each time a new day/level starts, the park becomes more and more complicated to navigate. In a sense, you need to implement 360 degree thinking in a sense to figure out the puzzles as the game progresses.

After several days/levels, Ilo and Milo become very upset at the idea of being separated again, and their tears cause the environment to flood leading to some underwater levels.

Later they come up with the idea to draw a map for each other in hopes of making it easier to find each other. Unfortunately this just makes the park even more confusing to navigate.

In the final levels, Ilo and Milo vow to not to go home at nighttime in fear of being separated the next day they visit the park. Instead they go on a quest to find the sun so that they can stay together forever. Sadly, within the search they end up getting lost and become terrified that this nightmare may never end.

But to their surprise they stumble across a locomotive/biplane hybrid vehicle. Ilo and Milo jump in and depart the park in it, vowing to never separate again and wander the world together.

If the storyline was not enough to rattle your mind, there are also other Safkas hidden in each level, which unlocks bonus mini levels when collected.  These levels include interaction with characters from other popular games in the market such as The Goo Balls from the World of Goo and Meat Boy from Super Meat Boy. Further DLC can be unlocked if the player owns A World of Keflings or Raskulls, which are also published by Microsoft game Studios.

And for all those looking for achievement points….there is a hidden gem behind playing along with the theme song by scrolling down the menu in sync based on sequence Oomphs.

I am an all-around type gamer and I am really drawn to games that have a mind bending appeal, and that allows for just some simple gaming versus quick button mashing. Maybe it’s a girl thing, but how can anyone resist a game with cute fluff balls whose only goal in life is to be together in joyful peace?

The overall feel of ilomilo is that it hugs and befriends you like a deep cuddle from a teddy bear. It’s like a Kirby game, where everything is fluffy and bright and really gives a punch to your senses. Every character and piece of scenery in the environment looks like it was hand stitched and filled with wool.

While the game can get frustrating after a while when the puzzle path appears to be impossible to solve, but it’s hard to get mad when you have such catchy tunes filling your head and with such peaceful ambience on your screen.

This game is hyper cute…turned up to 110%!

Ilomilo is now available as a backwards compatible title on the XBOX One digital marketplace.

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