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The Adventures of Lolo

Year released: 1989
Company: HAL America
Genre: Puzzle

The puzzle genre on the NES was still growing into itself when The Adventures of Lolo was released. It wouldn't be for about a year until the now-famous template of manipulating tetrads/pills/cookies/snakes/whatever to form lines/four-in-a-row/whatever before the pile reached the top/bottom/edges/whatever part of the screen. To say that Lolo was an innovative game would only be true by default, but the intriguing facet about the game is that is managed to stay unique years after the fact. It also seems to be more of a puzzle per se than most other games within that category.

I'm giving lenient marks to the presentational scores for a couple reasons. First of all, this is a puzzle game, and by definition a puzzle game requires concentration. In other words, pretty pictures and awe-inspiring music only distract the player, and as such are not necessary. Also, this is a relatively early game, released only a couple years after the NES came out. There are a couple good areas in the audiovisual department however. The water is animated quite nicely, as is Lolo and the enemies. I would've liked a bit more diversity in the room colors, but as it is I don't really mind. The music is quick, light and playful, which is good because it helps ease the frustration when playing in certain rooms.

I like what the programmers did in terms of how Lolo is controlled. First of all, you're allowed to push blocks half a block in one direction, and it's projectile-blocking abilities work on both squares in which it resides. Not only is it helpful, it's a skill you'll have to start using to clear some of the later rooms. The action doesn't start in a room until you move Lolo, so you have an opportunity to plot out a strategy before things get hairy. There's also a surrender button in case you screw up and need to start over. Unfortunately, there's no way to pause the game once you start on a room, so you'll have to find a safe spot if you want to interrupt play in the middle of a level.

The most intriguing thing about this game is its methodology. In total, there are 8 "enemies" you can encounter in the game. However, only 5 of them can hurt Lolo, and only 2 of those can do so directly by running into you. For the others, you're safe as long as you don't walk in front of them with nothing between you and it1. This enhances the puzzle style of the game, because now you have to figure out how to disarm each of the baddies before you can collect the hearts necessary to finish the room. The first eight rooms each have a new and different foe in each, giving the new player a primer on how the game is to be played. Don't think the game is a cakewalk, though: there are a number of very sticky rooms in the mix, and you'll need to be on the ball in order to clear them.

The only real problem with this game is that of other similar games such as Shadowgate and Maniac Mansion2, in which the layout is the same every time you play. As you start out, you'll be quickly compelled to finish the game as soon as possible. You're allowed to continue right where you left off after a game over, so you'll always be encouraged to give that room one more shot before turning the system off. However, once you have finished the game, you've solved all the puzzles there is to solve. The really tough rooms might still require some effort, but I can play the game a year after I had last played it and I can still cut through all 50 rooms within about an hour and a half. If there was a feature that allowed you to created your own rooms, that would've been a tremendous boon to the gameplay.

Also, the story is quite disappointing. There are 10 floors of the dungeon total, and after each floor the game tells you "This is not the end of the battle!" Well, duh. You mean the game isn't 5 rooms long? Also, the last floor's message led me to believe that there was some final battle to take place once I cleared the last level. However, when I entered the last door, all I got to see was a cinema scene of Lolo egging the Great Devil and sending him off to oblivion.3 Then a highly pixelated still of Lolo and his sweetheart hugging4, and wrapped up with a screen reading "The End." No credits? No congratulations? I know puzzle games are not supposed to have much in the way of plot, but this is ridiculous.

Overall, The Adventures of Lolo is a terrific game when you go through the first time. However, every pass thereafter is like reading a mystery novel when you know who did it: it's not as fun anymore. Still, it's worth the time and money you'll spend looking for it.

1. Although in the case of Gols, they only fire in one direction, and don't activate until you've collected every heart.

2. To avoid sparking a similar firestorm to the one that was going on between the NESfan.com regulars and the NES Board of NESescity visitors, I'll say this: Maniac Mansion is a NES game. Let's leave it at that, shall we?

3. Although if the rules of the game hold firm, he'll be back in 6 seconds.

4. Well, as much hugging as two ping-pong balls can do.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 14
Aesthetic Score: 17
Overall Score: 74%

You are now listening to the Stage Music to The Adventures of Lolo.