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Monday, November 26, 2012

NES Replay: Adventures of Lolo

Adventures of Lolo Title Screen
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: HAL America
Released: 1989
A Joke About Lolo Jones: I can't be bothered
In NES Replay, we go through each NES game from A-Z to see if they're any good. Today: The Adventures of Lolo.

When we say a game "holds up," what do we mean? It's one of those phrases that everyone uses but we never really think about.

Here's how I view it, and you can correct me if I'm wrong: When something "holds up," it means that you don't have to throw a pile of qualifiers in front of it to people who haven't seen it before and have no context. For example:

"OK, here's Wolfenstein 3-D. Now, before you start playing, remember, this was one of the earliest first-person shooters, and sound cards weren't that great either, and secret areas were par for the course, and they still hadn't figured out how to enable you to look up yet, and the controls are a little wonky. OK, have fun!"

Now, no one denies that Wolfenstein 3-D wasn't fun or influential, but it's been superseded and rendered, basically, obsolete (although "Mein leben!" is still one of the all-time greatest death screams, and I don't care what you say).

So what does this have to do with Adventures of Lolo? Well, some games hold up better than others. The more simple the concept, the better it holds up in the long-term. Adventures of Lolo takes a really simple concept and just goes nuts with it, and it makes it a really, really good game. I don't have to sit here and throw a bunch of historical context, qualifying what time it came out and asking you to overlook its flaws in order for you to enjoy it. If you play it, you'll fall in love right away.

The concept of Lolo is: On each stage, get the little heart containers in order to open a treasure chest, then get to the treasure chest. Each of these stages requires planning and experimentation, along with some trial-and-error, in order to complete them. Some of the levels are downright diabolical and will force your brain to leak out of your ears. In some levels, you'll think you have them figured out entirely and then realize there was one little detail that you neglected, and now you're trapped and have to try again.

Don't think that Lolo is a punishing game, though. The learning curve is impressive, as they encourage you to learn new skills and then apply them in the next level, all without a tutorial. That's some fine work.

The only complaint I have about Lolo is that it still hangs on to its arcade roots by providing a strict "five lives and game over" system, which leads to less experimentation than a game like this should have. Maybe a future entry will resolve this? Stay tuned.

Final Rating:


Next Week: Adventures of Lolo II

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