Hey there. Does anyone remember that old game for the PSP called LocoRoco? You know, the one with the really bright and cheery colors and cute innocent blobs where you have to tilt and shake the world to help your LocoRoco collect fruit, navigate a 2D world, and defeat the evil Moja? Have you ever wondered what that would be like on today’s tech? Well, I have. Here’s my idea for what LocoRoco would be like if it were developed for your smartphone or tablet.
Well, I can explain what it is in two ways. First, watch the official pre-launch trailer on PlayStation’s YouTube channel for LocoRoco 2. That’ll get you an idea of what the game looks like.
You might think you play as those cute, cheerful little blobs called LocoRoco, but you actually don’t. You control the world. The game’s happy world is being attacked by the evil Moja and their friends, the BuiBui, who are spreading sadness, depression and mischief throughout the peaceful world. Your goal as the player is to control the world by tilting and shaking it, making your LocoRoco move. You have to help your LocoRoco eat bugs and fruit to gain points and grow, rescue MuiMui and gain rewards and items for them, and defeat the Moja and their clouds of sadness all while avoiding touching sharp spikes, getting eaten by Moja, and navigating tons of levels in the cheerful world of LocoRoco.
I used to spend hours upon hours playing the game as a child and it’s given me a lot of fond memories. While it does take some skill to find and collect absolutely everything in the game, it’s a very easy game to pick up and play when you’re bored or need something to help cheer you up. If only it could run natively on a phone or tablet.
What LocoRoco could be like on a touchscreen device
The original game as well as all the sequels and spin-offs ran on the PlayStation Portable and for the most part were all exclusive to the PSP. And the game worked really well on it. While there is at least one LocoRoco game for the PlayStation 3, and there is the remastered version for the PS4, I’m sure that most of you guys who’ve played it would remember the PSP version the most. So I’ll be talking about that one.
First, some technical info.
There are a few things to be known about both the PSP and your average phone or tablet that’d make the game easier to imagine on an Android device. (I know, iOS devices exist, but I don’t care about them. Android master race.)
First, the PSP itself isn’t much bigger than an average smartphone. In fact, some smartphones’ screens are larger than the entire PSP itself. So, visibility of the game isn’t a concern. Display technology has come a long way even since the mid 2000s. I’m not worried about that. The only difference is that the PSP doesn’t have a touchscreen, and your phone most certainly doesn’t have more than a power button and a volume rocker when it comes to physical buttons – and neither would your tablet.
As for performance, we’re talking about a game that ran perfectly fine on what’s essentially a portable version of a PlayStation 2 with updated firmware and an LCD screen on it. Given that even Unreal Engine 4 can scale to run on most Android devices just fine, a 2D cutsie pastel world should have no trouble running at a smooth 60 FPS (or maybe even faster than that!)
So the differences are in the input method.
The major difference is the lack of physical buttons and the addition of the touchscreen. But that’s okay! LocoRoco’s control scheme is extremely simple. In fact, this is basically it:
- L and R are reponsible for tilting the world to the left and to the right respectively.
- Pressing both L and R at once causes the world to “shake,” making the LocoRoco jump.
- Circle causes the LocoRoco to split into smaller LocoRoco’s, and if they’re already split, holding Circle calls everyone back so they can merge into one LocoRoco again.
Other than basic UI and menu navigation, that’s the entire control scheme! Since we can use the touchscreen for UI, we can forget completely about that. Maybe we’ll add an on-screen button that lets you split/call your LocoRoco, and another to pause the game. That should work just fine.
Tilting the world
The biggest thing we’d need to figure out is tilting the world. This is, well, the only way you can get your LocoRoco to roll through the level. Needless to say, it’s important, right?
We could do this in two ways – onscreen buttons, or we could actually take advantage of the hardware and use the accelerometer. You know, that thing that lets you PHYSICALLY rotate the device to switch the screen orientation, or the thing that lets you steer in driving games. If you want to tilt the world of LocoRoco, just… tilt your device!
The only issue I could potentially see is what this would look like on-screen. In the original game, tilting will actually cause the on-screen world to tilt. This is because the PSP doesn’t have an accelerometer and the game’s using normal button inputs. We could solve this by not showing the tilt on-screen at all. However, that has some caveats.
If we don’t show it at all, then anyone who decides to screen-record the game would be in trouble as it would look like the LocoRoco are just spontaneously rolling out of nowhere and it’d be unnatural. We could solve that by showing 2x the amount of tilt on-screen, but then it looks really weird for the player. If we just kept things the way they are in the original game though, the player might also feel a little weird because both the device and the in-game world would be tilted. However, since the amount of times the game would be recorded would be rare, this could be a setting in the game’s options. “Enable in-game tilting?”
Bouncing the world
The next thing we’d need to sort out is the ability to bounce the world. This is how you make your LocoRoco jump. In the original game, it’s done by pressing both L and R together. We could do this either using the touch-screen or the accelerometer.
If using the touch screen, then this is as simple as saying “if the player taps the screen, and they’re not tapping a button in the HUD, make the world bounce.” Done like dinner.
If using the accelerometer, then you physically shake the device to make the world shake. Maybe a sudden movement up and back down again would have the same effect.
In my opinion, it’d be up to player preference which one would be better. Both would feel natural in my opinion, but tapping the screen would definitely be a more subtle movement if, say, you were playing in the same room as other people and didn’t want them questioning why you keep moving your phone or tablet up and down. So maybe this could be a setting.
How could one emulate this?
I’m not too certain if any of this is totally possible, but there’s nothing stopping you from grabbing PPSSPP for Android and an ISO of the game to experiment. PPSSPP already has the ability to put on-screen buttons in the game – it has to. So you could very easily put a START button in one corner for pausing the game, and a Circle button in another corner for splitting/calling your LocoRoco.
For UI input, that’s tricky. It’s out of the scope of this article, but you could either use on-screen input through PPSSPP, or maybe you could pair a Bluetooth keyboard or gamepad and configure PPSSPP to use that for input. Whatever you do, you unfortunately can’t just tap on the screen to access UI elements and navigate menus, the PSP has no concept of touch input whatsoever.
For the accelerometer input, I could see this as being a PPSSPP plugin or maybe a feature added into the open-source codebase. The plugin/feature would have to allow mapping of certain accelerometer inputs to certain PSP buttons. If the device is tilted to the left, start holding the L button, etc. The same is for the touch-screen world shaking input. If you tap the screen, and the tap doesn’t land on a UI element, press the L and R buttons. If such a feature doesn’t already exist, then hey – maybe I just gave someone reading this a coding challenge. 🙂
I don’t really expect anyone to read this article, but I really like LocoRoco and I miss playing it a lot. I can’t play it on a mobile device without emulation, and from what I can tell there’s no way to really take advantage of hardware input methods inside PPSSPP, so the next best thing is to write an article about what I’d imagine the game to be like in the hopes that maybe someone out there has the brains to make it happen. Nonetheless, if you read it, I hope you enjoyed this article and I hope that I either inspired you to make something or at the very least, brought back some childhood memories. 🙂