ilomilo

It’s easy to get the hang of ilomilo. It’s much harder to master it. Each level of the puzzle game has the same basic concept: Players must unite two friends, Ilo and Milo. But getting the adorable red and blue creatures together involves navigating increasingly complex landscapes. The characters must use a variety of special cubes to get around obstacles. These can include placing cubes to control the path of a beast that will eat an apple blocking their way, dropping them through a trap door to change perspectives, and having them hop onto a flying cube that will take them to another tier. While a goofy character named Sebastian will let you know what new tools do, little guidance is offered. In some levels, getting the pair together is relatively simple. Extra challenges make these boards worth coming back to, whether you’re gathering scattered items or collecting all the safkas, small blob-like creatures that follow your characters around. Picking up these extras unlock gallery images and bonus levels.

Between levels, you’re awarded with a sweet story told through photos of doll versions of Ilo and Milo. The same arts-and-crafts imagery is found throughout the game, with different levels featuring plush-like sea monsters swimming through a lake, soaring paper airplanes, and backgrounds that look like a child’s drawing of trees. The lovely settings and cheery sound effects help soften any feelings of frustration that can build up during a particularly challenging puzzle.

Players can freely change between controlling Ilo and Milo and will need to maneuver both characters to solve the puzzles. This can involve distracting a monster with Ilo while Milo slips by, or having Milo activate a button that will carry the cube Ilo is on across a chasm. One major weakness is that the camera angles don’t always let you see both characters at once, which makes it even harder to figure out the complex set of actions they must take to be together. Because the characters often exist on different planes of the 3-D landscape, it’s easy to get the two tantalizingly close, able to pass each other cubes to use, but unable to have the joyous reunion that means victory. The difficulty can get high, so it’s nice that you don’t need to beat every board to proceed to the next level.