Saturday, February 25, 2017

Adventures of Lolo (NES) Review

👑Written: February 23rd-25th, 2017👑
Year: 1988, 1989 | Developed and Published by: HAL Laboratory
Disclaimer Might contain spoilers
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit, only this game is 8-bit...  huh!  =|
Image from MobyGames
1985 saw the debut of HAL Laboratory's Eggerland Mystery on MSX computers in Japan and Europe (with America never having gotten an MSX computer system it got skipped out on), serving as the basis for what would become the Eggerland puzzle video game series--being followed up by Meikyū Shinwa (Eggerland 2) on the MSX and MSX2 computers and would be the first game in the series to see a Nintendo 8-bit treatment on the Famicom Disk System as simply Eggerland in 1987; then came Eggerland: Meikyū no Fukkatsu ("Revival of the Labyrinth") on the Famicom in 1988; and finally Eggerland: Sōzō e no Tabidachi ("Departure to Creation") on the Famicom Disk System that same year which would be the last game to use the "Eggerland" moniker until the 1996 Windows PC release of the series closer Eggerland Episode 0: Quest of Lala (rereleased in 2000 as Fukkatsu! Eggerland, "Revival! Eggerland").
On April 1989 HAL Laboratory released Adventures of Lolo for the NES console as America's foray to the series, with Europe playing catchup on February 1991.  This would be the only game in the Eggerland series to not see a Japanese release, being a Western-exclusive.  So what is this game like?
The story goes that Princess Lala has been stolen away by the nefarious King Egger (the "Great Devil" as the game identifies him), which is so tragic that it's made the main protagonist Lolo cry, the monster!
Lolo watches helplessly as the monarch whisks himself and his captive Lala away to his castle,
but that doesn't mean that Lolo will do nothing to save her, so he storms into King Egger's humble abode and will go through all fifty rooms' worth of puzzles of the ten-floor castle in order to save Her Highness and take Egger down.

Let the (puzzle) games begin
The gameplay for Adventures of Lolo is simple as you take control of the round blue creature Lolo in this top-down puzzle game where you can move in four directions as the goal in each 11x11 tiled room (you can make full steps or half steps) is to collect the gem inside the treasure chest in order to move on to the next room; however there are varying obstacles you have to bypass in order to get to it, not to mention that you have to do it all in one life otherwise you'll have to start the puzzle over.  In order to open up the chest you must gather all the heart framers in the room, and depending on the room some will grant you two charge shots to use once to turn specific enemies into eggs for a momentary period of time before hatching, twice to get rid of them altogether (that is until they respawn in their original spots shortly afterward).

Let's solve this puzzle
Other times getting a certain amount of heart framers will make the remaining ones flash, which means that when you get the next one you'll be given a power-up you can only use one single time like a hammer to demolish a rock or a bridge to cross a gap, but only in rooms that require their usage.  But you cannot just focus on the heart blockers for there are also enemies to contend with: some harmless (Snakey, Leeper, Rocky), others not so much (like the Gols that breathe fire, the armadillo-like Alma creatures, Skulls that are deadly to the touch, and the Medusa and Don Medusa creatures who will freeze you upon walking in their vicinity as they project a beam or dagger towards you unless their field of vision is blocked) and sometimes puzzles are solved with the unwitting cooperation of certain enemies (more on that later).  Getting the gem inside the chest without fail will eradicate all enemies onscreen and open up the path to the next room.

Pushing, pushing, pushing
The only times you'll be safe from a Medusa or Don Medusa's gaze is if they're blocked by a rock, an enemy, an emerald framer which you can push (but not pull, be careful how much you push it and where), or even a heart framer if its between you and these enemy types; essentially you should block these enemies before getting the heart framer.  Depending on the design of the room and how many enemies there are in it the puzzles can be either very simple or they can be very complex and involve a very layered and well-thought out solution.  While the Medusas, Leepers, and Almas are active before you get all the heart framers, all the other ones are dormant and will no longer be in that state the moment you get the final heart framer so before they wake you had better blocked them so they can't breathe fire on you or touch you even as it's one hit and you die.  The thing about games like these is that while it's possible to get the solution right, one wrong move or two will mess everything up entirely which means the only thing to do at this point is press Select in order to restart the room but at the expense of one life.  Just count your blessings that there is no timer.

Enemies will never walk on the grass
The music was composed by Eggerland: Meikyū no Fukkatsu puzzle creator Hideki Kanazashi (whose credits, largely of the uncredited variety, comprise of F1 Race on the Famicom, Mach Rider, Tokyo Shoseki's educational Famicom Keisan Game series, Nintendo 8-bit Othello, Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally, and all the Nintendo 8-bit Eggerland games) and programmed by Hiroaka Suga (F1 Race, Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally, and the previous two Eggerland titles), both of whom were uncredited due to Adventures of Lolo not having any in-game credits which is a major burn.  There is really only one major track that permeates throughout the entire game which is cute and bouncy fun but admittedly can grow quite tiresome to listen to after long stretches due to its brief melody and run time before the next loop.  There is a brief fanfare before each floor begins (or after you continue from where you left off after losing all your lives), the victory theme after an entire floor has been cleared is very arousing, and the ending theme is pleasant to listen to.  The sound effects are minimal but what is there is fairly decent.

Oh crap, I forgot to block the Gol!
On a visual sense this game is okay: the main issue is that the walls and normal tiles are all brown in each room, which is not an appealing color most of the time.  The only thing that prevents it from looking bland are the blue Lolo, the differently set tree and rock props as well as enemies, and occasionally there would be white sand, green grass, shining water, and later on glowing lava that at least add some color to the proceedings.  The opening cutscene is well-drawn, and when Lolo takes out King Egger and saves Lala it cuts to a pixel art of the two blown up to roughly the size of the screen which is bursting with color.  Lolo animates well in-game as he walks swiftly and fluidly with his big eyes (and that tail-swinging animation as he heads North), and his cheering animation at the end of each floor is cute.  The enemies are well-drawn and have got an anime charm about them, like the Leepers and Gol, and when you're in line with (or about to be in line with) the Medusa it inverts color as a visual warning.

Time to take the treasure and leave
Adventures of Lolo was successful upon release, which HAL Laboratory was surprised by, and it wound up being praised for its simple yet intuitive gameplay and versatile attempts at puzzle-solving.  Over the years it would be compared favorably to other games, such as Zelda II: The Adventures of Link as far as the adventure aspect was concerned; the gameplay being compared to Ivy the Kiwi?, Wrecking Crew, and even Irem Corporation's Meikyūjima/Kickle Cubicle; and it would be attributed as inspirations for video games like Professor Fizzwizzle and WayForward's horror puzzler LIT/School of Darkness.  To this day people consider it to have aged well despite having a few nagging blemishes that detract it somewhat--which I'll highlight in a bit--but it would find its way to the Virtual Console downloadable services on the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS systems in the past decade for easy access to those who don't own an NES console or if they don't want to spend more than $5 on it.

Haha, cute skull motif  =3
On January 1990 the Famicom received its own Adventures of Lolo (the first entry in Japan to use the name "Lolo") which when brought over to America two months later that March would be retitled Adventures of Lolo 2 to avoid confusion with today's game, being released in Europe in 1991 which would also be rereleased on Nintendo's Virtual Console downloadable service but largely in Japan, with the exception of the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console; on December 1990 Adventures of Lolo 2 arrived on the Famicom with an American release following suit in November 1991 as Adventures of Lolo 3 that would culminate in a European release in May 1992, it was the last game in the series made for the Nintendo 8-bit console as well as the last game in the series America would play, never once being rereleased outside the Famicom/NES; finally in March 1994 the first and only handheld entry in the series arrived in the form of Lolo no Daibōken for the Game Boy, seeing a release in Europe in 1995 as Adventures of Lolo with Super Game Boy enhancements and support... which neither got rereleased nor was given the light of day in America which makes absolutely no sense and is a major bummer.

In 1992 Nintendo released HAL Laboratory's Hoshi no Kābī/Kirby's Dream Land on the Game Boy which was the first game starring everyone's favorite puffball Kirby where one of the boss fights comprised of Lolo and Lala who in here were renamed "Lololo" and "Lalala" as they push emerald framers and occasionally other things.  They would also appear as enemies in Kirby Super Star and its Nintendo DS remake Kirby Super Star Ultra; the only time Lololo and Lalala were not enemies in the Kirby universe to the extent of my knowledge was in the 2001-2003 anime Hoshi no Kābī which got ruined when localized in America by infamous American dubbing company 4Kids in 2002 as Kirby: Right Back at Ya! when they worked their trademark "magic" on it.  =P
As of 2014 their last appearance was in the Super Smash Bros.-based mini-game Kirby Fighters during one of the stages you fight the opposing Kirbies.  It's always nice of HAL to call back to their previous games regardless of their relevancy today, it shows that they care about their body of work in their three and a half-plus decades of existence.  =)
In some rooms you'll be contending with the adorably smiling enemies named Rocky who don't necessarily hurt you here but they can be a bit pushy as they would be shoving you if you're so unfortunate as to get right next to them as they face you (moreso if they're pushing you towards a harmful enemy far back).  They would also make appearances in a few Kirby games as "Blocky" as mid-bosses,
like in Kirby's Dream Land 2 and Kirby's Dream Land 3.
In the fight against Lololo and Lalala in the pinball mini-game Kirby Brawl Ball from Kirby Mass Attack on the Nintendo DS Blocky would make an appearance in the bottom half of the screen as it tries to impede you from reaching the upper half with the two pushing emerald framers as they're initially protected by heart framers depending on where the flipper launches you.
A fascinating development for this enemy, which I've come to realize recently, is that in the pre-2014 Kirby games he appeared in Blocky always had an unwavering smile on its face that didn't seem to want to go away, but as far as the two Nintendo 3DS outings are concerned he's none too happy to see you!  <={  I guess that positive spark it had in the past (permanently?) vanished.

Snakes!  Why did it have to be snakes?
On January 2007 I received a Nintendo Wii console as an epiphany gift, and I'll admit that the reason I wanted it at first was because of the Virtual Console downloadable service, namely for Kirby's Dream Course which I had played over at my mom's friend's house after having evaded Hurricane Rita in 2005 for a week since I had a lot of fun with that game (years before one of my cousins loaned me his SNES console).  That Summer I not only got to catch up with it but also I downloaded many other games, including Adventures of Lolo which I had heard about and did want to try given Lolo's link to both Kirby's Dream Land and the anime (even though I already had an NES console).  I liked the game a lot, but there was a point at either Floor 6 or 7 when I had a hard time progressing because I didn't know how to properly solve a room until May 2011 when I started looking up GameFAQs for the solutions that truly stumped me.  It's a shame I didn't beat it prior to the Summer of 2009 because by that point I had stopped downloading games on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console and focused on purchasing physical cartridges from eBay, I would've liked to have played Adventures of Lolo 2 (I have a Retro Duo now that lets me play NES games, the game doesn't cost a huge amount on eBay and I feel ready to try the sequel someday).  =(  I recently played today's game again after all this time and I still find it to be a good time and relied on the guide less than I did years prior.

Time to egg the snake and ride it in the water
Each floor is made up of five rooms, and I commend the differing solutions that HAL Laboratory devised for each and every room.  The heart framers may be a requisite in order to open up the chest, but sometimes the key to success is the order you wish to take them; in rooms that have got water on it sometimes you must egg an enemy, push it into the water and ride on it until you get on a tile but if you still wish to ride it afterward you must get back on it before it strands you; some rooms will have arrows that can only be entered through a specific direction; the grass is your safe haven while trudging through the sand will slow you down; sometimes the key to success revolves around enemy respawning and proper timing; and the emerald framer can be placed a half tile in front of the Medusa so it won't get you to name some.  =)

As I said though, there are flaws: the game is largely not exciting to look at save for the colorful tiles and props, it's got nothing to do with age but I think each floor would've probably benefitted from a different color scheme as opposed to just brown for the normal tiles (whoever emulated this game to the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console had the colors darkened so much that it did the game no favors in this regard); the main theme is cute but highly repetitive; the Leepers can be annoying if you don't set them up properly as the moment they touch you in their pursuit towards you they fall asleep in place and the worst thing that could happen is that you could be trapped with no way out or it would potentially put an end to your solution out of the room; movement is solid overall but sometimes if you're in a hurry you have to properly be positioned in order to enter through the opening, and if you're using a charge shot you have to aim it properly otherwise you'll waste a shot.  But what matters the most is the puzzle-solving gameplay which is where the game excels at, there's tons of trial and error, and it's got cute charm to boot.
You could argue that the automatic faceoff between Lolo and King Egger is a bit of a copout due to how quickly it becomes resolved, but considering how difficult some of the last puzzles were frankly it's a godsend.

Well, let's prevent a boneheaded mistake here,
if you get my drift
Adventures of Lolo has got a good difficulty curve going for it what with the earlier puzzle rooms requiring the most facile of solutions while all the subsequent puzzle rooms require something that's very complexly thought out.  That said though, the gradual sense of difficulty isn't consistent as there are some puzzles that are easier inbetween others; in fact, the very last puzzle is very easy to solve the moment you've got it figured--it just involves that you be quick on your feet.  I do like how this game requires lots of thought and consideration in order to properly solve the puzzle; that's not to say there won't be some action involved, there is, but it's clear that HAL Laboratory wanted the people who played it to use their noggin in order to make progress.

May the arrows point me in the right direction
As a Kirby fan it was fascinating to play the game starring one of his enemies who was actually the good guy here, I felt that it was an interesting mix-up, the fact that I'm now playing as Lolo.  As simple as the gameplay was it does become quite in-depth as you utilize it in considerable fashion: "What do we have here?", "What can I use to my advantage?", "Which heart framer, if there's more than one, should I get first?", "How do I get the heart framer?", "Where and how far do I push the emerald framer next to the enemy?", "Which enemy should I use the charge shot I just got against?", et al.  It's cool that these puzzles really make you stop, think, and consider (if you're able to get them on your own), and if you fail there's always another chance to try again.  =)

I "lava" this layout
Adventures of Lolo on the NES is the only game in the series I played thus far, and having played through it again recently I enjoyed it enough to want to catch up to the other iterations.  Adventures of Lolo 2 and Adventures of Lolo 3 cost a bit but are not highly expensive for they shouldn't be a problem to catch up with--besides, it's been almost ten years since I last bought a physical NES cartridge with the Nintendo 8-bit port of Konami's Blades of Steel.  Rather, the problem would be procuring a copy of Adventures of Lolo for the Game Boy; because it wasn't released in America and is the rare game of the bunch it goes up for a huge amount, same for the original Japanese version except only the European edition has got Super Game Boy enhanced support.  Why America didn't receive it when it got the trilogy of NES titles before it is beyond me; from what I looked up it seems as harmless as this game.  How is it that Japan and Europe get the most harmless of video games sometimes (e.g. Europe got Super Family Tennis as Smash Tennis, a tennis title was denied an American release!) while in America it's rejected?  I can't help but find it very suspicious.

Almost there
Anyway, yeah, Adventures of Lolo is a good game by HAL Laboratory and not a bad place to start with this series, at least that's what a lot of people said online from what I gathered.  As someone who loves the Kirby games I approve; not one of my top favorites by the company but well worth playing once in awhile.  It's cute and charming fun with a whole variety of puzzles in stow, regardless of whether or not you're a fan of HAL Laboratory fare or the puzzle genre in general.  I recommend it if you want a good brain teaser to last you a few hours, and if you want a decent chunk of challenge there's plenty to find.  While the original cart may have required a four character password in order to continue your progress (only seen after you get a game over) the Virtual Console release eases your mind in that regard as you can just continue after resuming your suspended save if you took a break from it.
It might be dated in places, but on the whole it's not too shabby.  =)
My Personal Score: 7.5/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. Gotta be honest: I struggled with the last few paragraphs, maybe because I judge how short or long my reviews are based on how many screenshots I get... and I guess I may have gotten a few too many for this one.  Next review I'll focus on something easier for me to talk about.
P.S. 2 As for what has taken me so long to get another review done: in the past month I made myself play Landstalker until I finished it (with no break, for the first time) which bummed me out given my negative feelings towards it and the very undeserving high scores it gets, I will play it again someday to provide a review for it in detail (needless to say I'm not looking forward to that); then I played and focused singularly on a new PlayStation One action/adventure game I got; then after I finished that I played and focused singularly on another PlayStation action/adventure game I got to the end (really enjoyed both a lot, would rather play those games than Landstalker); I played and beat Xak: The Art of Visual Stage in four nonconsecutive hours and fifteen-sixteen minutes (currently my best record); and my enthusiasm rose for Makeruna! Makendō now that I got its controls down pat.  Didn't want February to pass by without there being at least one review for my StarBlog.
P.S. 3 Also in theatres I saw The LEGO Batman Movie, loved it, it was a lot of fun and Will Arnett's become one of my favorite movie interpretations of Batman; and I saw Zhang Yimou's The Great Wall... it was a 2.5 or 3 out of 5 movie for me, it was well-shot and colorful and I liked most of the performances (mainly by Matt Damon, Jing Tian, and Andy "Detective Dee" Lau) but overall I found it okay (there was a point that it began to be predictable, unfortunately beginning with the scenes that had Willem Dafoe in it).
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment (spam will not be tolerated) and let me know what you think.  Hope you have a great day, take care!  =)