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Wii Review - 'Kororinpa: Marble Mania'

by Geson Hatchett on April 18, 2007 @ 12:35 a.m. PDT

Prepare to rock and roll as your brain does a loop the loop with Kororinpa, the ultimate Wii puzzle game! Tilting the Wiimote with poise and precision, players must seek to navigate their favorite cute and quirky balls, each with their own look and varying benefits, through complex 3D mazes.

Genre : Puzzle
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Hudson Soft
Release Date: March 20, 2007

Kororinpa: Marble Mania is one of those games that, at first glance, you just don't expect to be of any sort of significance.

Ooooh, look. It's a game where you roll around marbles! On the Wii, no less — a system already infamous for its library consisting of too-simplistic mini-games than anything else! Didn't Super Monkey Ball already get released for this thing? Yeah, it did! What do we need another "roll-the-ball-somewhere" game for? Where are the first-person shooters and lightsaber games already?

That's when you try the game, and realize that you've been repeatedly turning the world upside-down and twisting it every which way in order to get to the goal, and wow, is your brain tired after all that. Maybe this isn't so bad after all. Still could use more destructive weapons, though.

Kororinpa's made by Hudson, who's had spotty luck in game development lately; after "gracing" the world with Bomberman Act:Zero, Fuzion Frenzy 2, and Wing Island, we finally get this. Well, at least now we know where all the real work went. The concept is indeed simple: a marble (of your choosing; some are weighty, some are slow, some are fast, some are cute, some make funny noises, some are cute and make funny noises, at least one is a piece of fruit, and one is actually a rugby-style football that doesn't go where you want it to at all) is dropped into a playing field. You then use the Wiimote in one hand to tilt, turn, and move the maze every which way so that the marble, powered only by gravity, moves along said maze. You must collect crystals along the way before being allowed to exit the maze. Once you do so, feel free to find said exit, and it's on to the next world.

If you were lucky enough to own one of those tabletop wooden Labyrinth marble games (I wasn't), this game is very much in tune with that. The only difference is that this variety's controlled entirely by your single wrist, and due to the Wiimote's precise sensitivity and motion detection, it's a game whose experience absolutely could not be duplicated on any other system.

This experience is quite addictive, all told; once you get past the 15-second learning curve, you may just find that in an hour's time, you've gone through 20 stages and completely forgotten that you were playing a video game. The entire showcase feels like an extension of your wrist, to the point where if you've got caffeinated shaky hands, you're going to be throwing lots of marbles into lots of bottomless pits. It's that sensitive.

The visuals are pretty much last-gen, but are still up to the task. The backgrounds are as plain as can be, but the actual mazes sport some good-looking textures and surfaces.

A tip: when you hit Candy Land, don't look at it too much. The hunger that will ensue is more than distracting enough to make you lose a few balls. In addition, the soundtrack doesn't fall under any particular genre, but fits the game all the same. There's some slow violin music, some fast synth music, and everything in between. Combined with the nature of the game, the looks and sounds honestly give Kororinpa a sort of Katamari Damacy-esque feel. That's a compliment, by the way.

If there's a single problem with Kororinpa, it's that it's far too short a game for its asking price of $40. The first half of the game can be blown through with no problems, and the other half, while exponentially tougher, can be soldiered through at only a slightly slower pace. All it takes is repetition to conquer Kororinpa, as well as a little bit of experimentation in some situations.

There are roughly 50 levels in all, with some unlockables (super-advanced mazes, along with the extra marbles and bonus music), but it really won't be all that long before you've seen everything this game has to offer, and it becomes yet another Wii Mini-Game Paperweight(tm). This game ends up being one more so than others because of its lackluster two-player mode, which is merely a race to the goal. Even Marble Madness for the NES allowed people to play dirty as they raced, and stage hazards to trip up competitors. Not so in Kororinpa. Had Hudsom found ways to make the two-player more interesting, it may have been better able to stand the test of time.

Kororinpa: Marble Mania is the type of game that the Wii needs more of. It's instantly accessible, yet there are times when its genuine challenge and excellent design can cause the player to pull out his or her hair. Hudson needs to make a sequel to this ASAP, with many more stages, and perhaps some variables in the vein of power-ups or more environmental hazards than what the game currently sports. Most of all, though, it needs some competitive multiplayer to spice things up. This is a must-rent. It's not a bad buy, either, but it's priced about $10 more than the amount of content that's contained inside. Either way you go, make sure that you play this. It's a sign of things to come in the realm of interactivity, and a definite showcase piece for Nintendo's current "gameplay uber alles" mantra.

By the way, Namco, if you're reading this: go play this game, then make Katamari Damacy for the Wii with this as a basis. Please.

Score: 8.0/10

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