ilomilo Review

By Jeffrey Matulef - Posted Jan 05, 2011

ilomilo is an outstanding puzzle game that's challenging, but fair. Elevated by adorable characters, wonderful visuals, and a whimsical script, ilomilo is not to be missed.

The Pros
  • Fiendish puzzle design
  • Charming story
  • Gorgeous art style
The Cons
  • Controls can feel awkward
  • Occasional bugs

ilomilo Review:

ilomilo is about two friend's struggle to find one another through the changing circumstances of life. It's also an excellent puzzle game that's funny, cute, and melancholy. Lavished with detail, ilomilo is one of the best games of its kind to come out in a very long time.


Enduring Love

Ilo and Milo are two plush little critters who meet up everyday for tea. Unfortunately for them, the landscape keeps changing (or they have shoddy memories) so their series of rendezvous presents itself as a series of spatial puzzles.

Players switch off between Ilo and Milo as they navigate cubic structures in an attempt to reunite. While they can walk on all six sides of a cube, they can't walk around ledges unless there's a walkway present. There are a variety of different cubes that function as bridges (each one resembling a creature) they can pick up. There are also ladders, trapdoors, flying blocks, and twisty blocks that rotate gravity for whoever's standing on it. Both characters will have to work together, often passing cubes back and forth, if they're too accomplish their goal. It starts off simple enough, but the puzzles quickly grow in complexity until the game reaches near MENSA levels of taxing in its later bonus stages.

If going it alone isn't your style, there's a local co-op mode, too. Players take turns, switching off between Ilo and Milo. While initially disappointing that you can't both control the action simultaneously, it makes sense since both players need to be keenly aware of each others actions if they are to make any progress. To make up for this, the second player can control a cursor to highlight points of interest and make suggestions. There's even a co-op exclusive challenge to find eggs hidden in the background.

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A Game of Many Hats...

If ilomilo were just a series of these spacial brain-busters it would be enough to recommend, but what puts ilomilo over the top is that every facet of the game exudes charm.

Visually it's a powerhouse. Both Ilo and Milo demand to be made into figurines with their thimble-like fabric bodies and art nouveau ladybug antennae. The world and other characters are every bit as lovely with tactile textures giving everything a tangible threaded quality that covers similar territory as LittleBigPlanet, yet manages to differentiate itself enough to grant its own impressionist flavor.

The script, too, is equally delightful. Each loading screen gives a precious musing into the world's lore. One such nugget informs us that Safkas --little Pikmin-esque creatures that you collect -- "go on march every 100 years to find out who is the toughest and most persistent. They always turn back after a couple of minutes because they realize they forgot their hats." Adorable!


Amidst the cute fun, there's a couple much darker stories layered into the narrative. By picking up collectibles you'll discover a meta-narrative about a couple named Ilona and Milton and their exploits. There's also an ongoing tale of "The Huntsman and the Fox" told by a pompous guiding spirit, Sebastian, in the dreadfully complicated bonus levels. These stories give ilomilo a real sense of mystery.

It's not perfect, however. The grid-based controls can feel sluggish because of the blocks, and it's baffling that there's no option to graft movement to the D-pad, which would have been the sensible thing to do.

Elsewhere, I ran into a few glitches while playing. Most were pretty minor, like the controller constantly vibrating, but one I encountered on the final level forced me to restart a whopping three times! (Note: Exiting the level and starting it again, rather than selecting "restart puzzle" seemed to do the trick for me).


Tea Time

These irritations are a small price to pay for one of the most whimsical, well-designed puzzle games since World of Goo (a game referenced in ilomilo). From the antique knickknacks and creatures floating about in the background, to the piano notes that play when navigating a menu, to the unlockable 8-bit “ilomilo Shuffle” mini-game, every nook and cranny of ilomilo is filled with something enticing. ilomilo goes above and beyond the call of duty in practically every respect, delivering not only a great puzzle game, but a great game period.