Like munching on cotton candy at a fair, LocoRoco Midnight Carnival is sweet to taste and sticky to handle. New gameplay elements give the game a flavour that differs from its predecessors, though the cloying style remains.
These new ideas make for a unique platforming experience, even if it isn't as satisfying as expected due to a few sticking points.
You play not as the rotund rollers of the LocoRoco clan, but as the world around them. The cute little guys and gals have been awoken in the middle of the night by humanoid creatures called the MuiMui, who have seen fit to sweep the LocoRocos off to a dangerous carnival of traps and tricks. You need to help them navigate through the carnival's 16 stages so that they can return home to sleep.
Pressing down on the L and R buttons tilts the world left and right, allowing you to indirectly control the LocoRocos.
These sleepy-headed creatures don't roll effortlessly like their cousins in the previous two games - instead, they're all about jumping. Simultaneously tapping the two shoulder buttons prompts a jump. By tilting the world during a jump, you can influence the trajectory.
Stringing together jumps results in high-flying "boings" that launch LocoRocos onto platforms, over enemies, and across gaps. In fact, it's the only way to get through levels. As a reward, you earn gads of points for building up double digit boings.
The problem is that while this method of indirect jumping is functional, it's not all that fun. It's common to fall just shy of the height, distance, or angle necessary for a jump.
Sometimes you're able to make adjustments to the trajectory in midair, though levels with moving platforms make such damage control irrelevant. Other times the need to maintain momentum with boings causes you to bounce unexpectedly off objects or miss a platform.
In rare cases, you won't see a pitfall because it doesn't appear on-screen until it's too late. A zoom function would help in these instances.
It's not a matter of difficulty, but a question of what's enjoyable. The game graciously allows you to gain extra lives when you've exhausted your stock by spending collectible Pickories, and checkpoints allow you to start from each level's midpoint.
Even with these measures, though, much of Midnight Carnival comes down to trial-and-error. While that's not always a bad thing, it grates a little here.
At least your friends can empathise when they join in the game's Ad-hoc multiplayer. Up to three buddies can link up with you locally for cooperative play races. Given the quick burn of the 16 single player levels (most average two to three minutes in length), multiplayer does much to extend game time.
Leaderboards rank single player performances online, so while you can't engage in network multiplayer you can still compete for the highest score and fastest completion time on each level. Additionally, replay videos of your runs can be saved and shared locally.
A pair of mini-games attempt to extend the value too, but they're novelties. BuiBui Crane plays like a vending machine game with LocoRocos for prises, and LocoBall has you shooting the little creatures like pinballs.Midnight Carnival entertains briefly, but it's not length that makes this treat sticky. Indirect platform jumping action results in trial-and-error gameplay that rolls things back from the sweet experience of the first two LocoRoco instalments.