The summer of 1987 was a huge season for Nintendo and this is when the NES really took off with hits like The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Rygar, and Kid Icarus. Obscured in the shadows of those hits was a solid puzzle-like game, Solomon’s Key from Tecmo, that required brainpower to solve. While it never received the attention it deserved, I put up with its subpar graphics and appreciated its more difficult nature and came to enjoy my time I spent with it. This month Nintendo owners are treated to Adventures of Lolo, a game that reminds me slightly of Tecmo’s aforementioned puzzler, but manages to improve upon the addicting formula in every single way.
You play as Lolo; a round, blue creature who is on a quest to save Princess Lala, who has been kidnapped and placed in a haunted castle. Don’t worry, aside from the intro and ending you won’t hear anything else about this unoriginal and unimaginative storyline. This game is all about puzzle solving and logic. Your objective is to open the locked door of each room and proceed to the next. To do this, you must collect all of the hearts in the single-screen room. Once you accomplish this, a treasure box holding a jewel unlocks and when you successfully grab it the enemies will vanish and you can safely exit the room. There are 50 total rooms all with different layouts, enemies, and designs.
For the most part you are without weapons or attacks. Getting through these stages, which are often loaded with a variety of monsters, takes cunning and skill rather than strength. There are eight different types of enemies, each with different powers and abilities. Snakeys are harmless to the touch and can simply be used as tools to aid you. Skulls chase after you and kill you when they make contact. Rocky and Leeper will chase after you and trap you in corners, making the stage unwinnable. Crossing the path of a Medusa will result in immediate death.
Some villains are harmless at first and don’t come to life until you collect the final heart. Naturally, each stage requires planning and a different course of action based on its design. Most rooms will have movable blocks, which can be pushed in front of enemies to trap them or block their projectiles. Collecting a certain heart will give you one or two magic shots. These can be fired at certain enemies and will encase the monsters in a pink eggshell. You can then either destroy the shell by firing a second shot or move the trapped enemy around the stage for your benefit. This is exceptionally helpful when wanting to move Snakeys, since they are normally immobile. As you progress the levels become more devious and complex, so more tools are introduced. Items like hammers will allow you to destroy boulders and you can even build bridges to cross rivers in some areas. One simple mistake can leave you trapped with no way out of your predicament. When this happens, you can simply press select and Lolo will die, allowing you to start the room over from scratch.
There’s no bones about it, Adventures of Lolo has some very difficult puzzles to solve and requires a ton of trial and error and a good deal of patience. Even so, it is not nearly as brutal as Solomon’s Key. Here there are infinite continues, no time limit, and a very user-friendly 4-digit password. That last feature is a lifesaver, as after failing the same room over and over again it is best to take a break from it. So many games like Metal Gear and Metroid use the Password Pak technology, but the downside is they have such long and arduous passwords, which can lead to potential mistakes in copying it down and entering it again when you want to fire up the game. Although this is single player affair, I found it to be a really great one to play with a friend or even a small group. Working though the puzzles together and taking turns is a very viable way to tackle this game, a rarity on the NES.
The music is one of the sole downfalls. The tune is fine and does stick in your head, but the same 10-second theme plays throughout the entire game. The game features 10 floors, with 5 stages on each. It would have been nice to feature a different theme for each of the floors, but it is clear the developers went all-in on the gameplay rather than the sound. Still, with amazing music showing up in all sorts of games these days, it’s a big miss and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear from readers that they mute the game after a few hours with it.
From a quick glance most of the stages look pretty similar. You’ll mostly find brick flooring with scattered bushes, flowers, boulders, and water. Although fairly simple looking, the green bushes and blue water contrast pretty well with the dominating brown layout. The enemies are creatively designed and range from cute to menacing. For a puzzle game the graphics get the job done and are better than others in the category.
I love puzzle games and I’m extremely pleased to see one with so many positive qualities. Adventures of Lolo is a game that a large variety of gamers can play and enjoy. Instead of placing the challenge on hand-eye coordination or navigating complex mazes, you use your IQ and logic to figure these rooms out. Many of these levels might take a long time to complete, and with 50 total rooms, this is a game that should last you for quite some time. The visuals get the job done for a puzzle game, and although the music is lacking, you can mute the TV and crank up the stereo without missing anything important.
Adventures of Lolo Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 5/105/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Although most gamers will find a steep challenge here, it’s very approachable and easy to learn. This is a unique title that I can envision people who may not normally enjoy video games (girlfriend, parents, grandparents) taking a shine to. I highly suggest giving Adventures of Lolo a shot!
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.