Sokoban-style games, which involve solving puzzles by pushing blocks, boxes and any other items from one place to another, don’t need to be complicated, involved or even pretty to be good games. All they need to do is challenge players by making them to think critically and logically to proceed through an area. They can be simple and succeed. It’s rare that you get such a game that finds it can expand on that simple formula and do so in a way that sticks with you and doesn’t detract from that core mechanic. HAL Laboratory, the people you may know from all those Kirby games, did so with Adventures of Lolo, creating a more active and involved puzzler with new challenges in every level. With Adventures of Lolo 3, the developer made what might be one of the best and most laudable Sokoban style game of all.
It all starts with a story, though you’ll only see this if you don’t immediately press start to begin collecting hearts. King Egger has transformed everyone in Eggerland into statues. Fortunately, Lolo and Lala are okay. This means they can go about saving the day by traveling through 17 areas. Yes, areas. Unlike previous Adventures of Lolo games, Adventures of Lolo 3 gives you a world map and choice of playable characters. You decide who you play as, with the difference being cosmetic, and where you go. This means you determine which sets of levels take you through to the end.
Let’s focus on those levels for a second. Adventures of Lolo 3 has more levels than either of the previous NES games. You get 100 standard levels, which is pretty amazing. The previous two had 50 and 54. It gets even better if you go out of your way to get the North American and Japanese versions of the game, as HAL Laboratory had a habit of including different levels in each iteration. The North American version is essentially “easy mode”, in case you’re curious, though it’s the most challenging version of easy you’re likely to encounter. Add in the nine boss fights, and you’re up to 109 levels.
“Wait a second, Jenni. Boss fights in a box-pushing puzzle game?” Yup. Adventures of Lolo 3 introduced boss battles to the series, giving us an opportunity to face larger versions of traditional enemies. While these are far more active than the standard levels, offering more of a shooter experience since you’re making Lolo or Lala avoid opponents while shooting unlimited magic bullets, they still require quite a bit of thought. Each enormous enemy follows patterns similar to their common counterparts. You have to think ahead to survive and succeed.
Not that survival is such a difficult thing in Adventures of Lolo 3. Instead of tampering with the difficulty level, the game instead offers unlimited lives. If Lolo or Lala falls due to your mistake or misstep, they’ll be back again unharmed in a moment. Even better, you don’t lose lives for resetting. It’s easy to accidentally or inadvertently get a character trapped or trounced when working through solutions. Especially since these levels can get mentally taxing as you work your way through locations. You can even take a break whenever you’d like by pressing start twice to get a password.
Adventures of Lolo 3 is a masterpiece. It’s not only one of the best NES puzzle games, it’s one of the best puzzle games period. Anyone who loves being challenged will appreciate this game that will throw some incredibly tough levels at you, but not penalize you for experimenting and trying new strategies. If you’re always up for some Sokoban, find a way to bring Adventures of Lolo 3 into your life.