Ilomilo Looks Lovely, But Don't Skip That Tutorial

Ilomilo (first letter is an "i", second an "L") is great to look at. But how do you play this game about two cube-people needing to meet? Maybe let a Kotaku guy and a Giant Bomb guy play, sans directions.

On second thought, maybe that's not how you do it.

Giant Bomb's Brad Shoemaker and I each took an Xbox 360 controller in hand at the Microsoft booth at PAX East and tried our best to understand Ilomilo, a puzzle game involving two characters who need to walk across tricky terrain in order to stand next to each other.

Brad and I were bravely trying this new upcoming Xbox Live Arcade game. Our first discovery: we would be taking turns. We could each move one of the cube people, but when I had control and could move, he could not. It seemed that we were playing a cooperative game, but we could not move at the same time. When I had control, my cube guy was front and center. Brad could only control a cursor version of his guy. With that cursor he could highlight areas of interest, but not control his guy. When I pressed a button, Brad had control.

We figured out that we needed to get our cube people to stand on adjacent cubes in each of Ilomilo's dreamy floating environments. In the early levels, this was too easy. My guy trotted over. His guy hit a switch to pull my guy over. They met. We won.

Ilomilo has many tutorial levels. These levels teach you that some blocks can be picked up from the game world and transported on your back until you put them down again. This important action allows you to create bridges where there once were gaps. You can also walk on small ramps that rotate the world and turn what were the sides of the game's floating platforms into the new bottom of the terrain. Brad would do this, flipping the camera view, while my cube guy waited, dangling but not falling off. Without much effort, we met again.

The game was too easy, so Brad and I backed out to the game's level selection screen and skipped a couple dozen levels ahead. Mistake. On this new level, our guys were very far apart. There were bubbles coming out of vents on some of the blocks. One of the blocks I picked up and placed back down became three cubes long when I put it down. Except sometimes it was back to being just one cube long. I bridged a couple of gaps and wound up with my guy on a high perch. He was stuck. Brad spun the level by walking his guy up some ramps. He was spinning the camera enough to make me feel unwell. It no longer seemed wise to have skipped the rest of the tutorial levels.

I beckoned an official who was working the PAX Microsoft booth. He explained the expanding blocks to us. We asked him about the whole taking-turns thing and wondered whether the second player really could only control a cursor while the other player moved around. The man looked confused. Cursor? I guess he skipped most of the tutorial as well.

Brad and I each had other games to play. So we dissolved our brief partnership. He went off to play other games. I stood behind one last second to ponder Ilomilo. Looks great. Doesn't seem like it needs to be played by two people to be enjoyed. Probably ramps up in difficulty better if you, well, ride up that ramp and don't jump ahead. It's a puzzle game at its core, for people who like staring at a complicated game level and figuring out which switches need to be pushed, which gaps spanned in order to be solved. Give me and Brad more than a few minutes of Ilomilo play time sans directions and I'm sure we could be masters.