Top 100 NES Review: #80 – The Adventures of Lolo (1989)

A Thinking Man’s Game

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Sydlexia’s Ranking: #80/100
Developer: Hal Laboratory
Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

I have a soft spot for the puzzle genre in video games. I think it’s video gaming at its best: no story nor plot, just some basic mechanics that completely twist your brain.  I admire people who can turn a few simple rules into extremely engrossing mind riddles while inducing an effort headache as you try and solve them.

This is the Adventures of Lolo in a nutshell: couple of blocks, couple of buttons and couple of enemies, but put all together an extremely enjoyable game. There is a little bit of a backstory, as you play as Lolo trying to save Lala who has been kidnapped by the evil Eggers (view the above image if you need the emotional coloring). Lolo then has to go through 50 rooms of puzzles to save his princess.

Each level has a certain number of heart blocks that you have to pick up. Once that is complete, a treasure chest opens up that you have to hustle toward to open up the pathway to the next level. The game has plenty of roadblocks for you to encounter, and it involves the interplay between the inanimate objects of the environment against the organic monsters trying to defeat you.

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Three rights make a left…or something like that.

The cast of enemies against you are varied, such as a gargoyle that can get an instant kill if you come in sight of it, rotating skulls that if touched are an insta-death, and dragons that shoot fireballs across the screen that are a game over if touched. To avoid these enemies and navigate your way to the hearts, you have to push blocks around to not only open up passage ways but give yourself cover against all these bad guys. Add in one directional arrows that prevent you from re-entering an area, limited items such as bridges or hammers, and the ability to turn some monsters into eggs temporarily and you have plenty of variables to problem solve each level with.

While some levels have multiple solutions, there are many that require a systematic approach to figure out exactly what you need to do. There will be times when you notice you have made some bad decisions and can no longer complete the level. There is a button you can press so you can give up the ghost and start from scratch, allowing you to have another attempt with different methods.

The joy of this game is when you begin to get into the creators’ heads and start to experience traps, both foreseen and completely unexpected. There were times I knew exactly how to approach a situation and was perfectly clairvoyant with what needed to happen. Other times, I would have a complete headache from the continuous trial and error. Where this game succeeds, though, is that these times of frustration are completely outweighed but the sense of satisfaction, and you are never in a completely impossible situation. They could have done something asinine and made you start at the beginning of the game every time you ran out of lives, but thankfully you are always put back exactly where you left off, so there is no artificial increase in difficulty.

Adventures of Lolo is very good and really exemplifies what makes retro-gaming so good: even with such limited resources, it’s possible to make a game extremely fun just on creative gameplay alone. If you tend to gravitate towards puzzles and riddles, definitely give this game a try.

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