Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"Vacation in Eggerland," or, "Some Guy Named Don Mendoza is Trying to Kill Me"

The change in seasons reminds me of an autumn almost twenty years ago when, one day, my father turned me lose in the video rental store and permitted me to get a game of my choice for the weekend. I strode over to the game section (at that point it was nothing but NES games) and looked for something eye-catching... and came face-to-face with the round blue hero known as Lolo.

Natch, I had to get Adventures of Lolo. I didn't know what I was in store for. At this point I didn't really have much experience with puzzle games, so it was all new to me. Levels that I had to solve! I did admirably well for a six-year-old and had advanced fairly far before I had to return the game. However, I was smitten, and it would set the course for my playing habits for years to come. OK, I'm done waxing philosophical.

Lolo is the eponymous hero of the Adventures of Lolo/Eggerland series, developed by HAL Laboratories. That's the same HAL who created Kirby. Lolo was their most successful and well-known vehicle until Kirby's Game Boy debut (Lolo and Lala often have cameo appearances in the Kirby series). The games don't hinge much on the plot, which is the standard save-the-princess affair. The important thing about Lolo is all the crap you have to get through in order to save said fair maiden.

Each game is divided up into floors/levels, which are then divided up into individual rooms. In order to clear a room, Lolo must collect all of the Heart Framers (read: heart icons) in the room. However, Lolo must navigate all sorts of obstacles, from obstructive terrain to "fearsome" enemies.

Oh yes, the bane of your very existence. There's Snakey, a sluglike serpent who sits there and grins at you, like he knows something about your mother. Then there's Leeper, a hopping green fiend; one touch from him and... he, um, falls asleep. Then there's Alma (finally, a dangerous one!), an armadillo-like creature who pursues Lolo at top speed and tries to flatten him. Rocky is a square, stonelike monster who cannot harm Lolo but can easily trap him with his golemesque bulk. Gol, a sleeping dragon, and Skull, a skull, remain asleep until Lolo collects all of the Heart Framers in a level; when awakened, Skulls will pursue Lolo, while Gols will spit fire at him! Later in the series, a monster named Moby was added; he is a green whalelike creature who can suck Lolo in from across the room! Most of these enemies can be "egged" by firing a magic shot (read: frisbee) at them; while in an egg, they can be pushed around, used to block other monsters, or even dropped in the water and used as boats.

Of course, no Lolo game is complete without the Medusas. Medusa appears as a bust of a woman's head; however, stepping through her line of sight awakens her and is instantly fatal. Don Medusa, on the other hand, appears as a pink impish creature who will move back and forth in a set direction. Crossing his path results in an identical fate. Neither of these monsters are affected by magic shots, so Lolo has to utilize both (A) his limitless guile and (B) crap that they can't see through.

There were two Eggerland titles released for the Famicom Disk System, and another released in cartridge format for the Famicom. Our domestic version of Adventures of Lolo is an amalgamation of levels from these releases, with slightly updated graphics.

The sequels to Adventures of Lolo are little more than level packs; they add little to the series besides a few graphical tweaks, another usable character, one new enemy, and boss fights. Still, after solving all of Adventures of Lolo, I was craving more, so the sequels were just what I needed. Lolo III is especially significant for its length; it boasts an impressive 17 levels, as opposed to the 10 levels that the first and second game have, and many of III's levels contain more stages than those of its predecessors. I've been checking out the Famicom Eggerland title via the wonderful world of emulation - that is, at least until I can get my hands on a genuine copy. Ironically, I own Adventures of Lolo II and III, but not the first one, the one that introduced me to the series.

The only real beef I have about the series is the music. The background music that follows you throughout the game is a very short loop of the same music over and over. More than once I've sat down with this game and ended up putting it on mute and just enjoying the visuals.

If you happen to be in the market for a solid puzzle title, though, I strongly recommend Lolo, as you could probably tell from the above nine paragraphs. The first one is easily available on reputable auction sites like eBay, eHustle, and eJank, and is the cheapest out of the three.