"The Wii Remote lets you instantly tilt the playing field in the corresponding direction. Suppose youíre coming up on a fork in the path. Just turning your wrist slightly will cause your marble to roll in the appropriate direction. Itís intuitive in the same way that Super Monkey Ball was, but more instantly accessible thanks to a gentler learning curve."
Kororinpa: Marble Mania was announced not very long ago at a Konami press event, and already itís on store shelves. Often, a lack of fanfare in the crowded game industry means a publisher is anxious to sneak a title out to retail and maybe sell a few copies before people realize itís bad, but thatís not the case here. Though itís not the most dazzling game on the market and doesnít offer as extensive an experience as some of its competition, Kororinpa is still a worthwhile product with a price tag that wonít make you cringe.
The basic idea behind Kororinpa is that youíre rolling a marble through a maze, collecting gems on your way to the exit. Thatís it. Anything beyond that exists merely for the sake of variety. You must complete 45 stages and their mirrored selves, as well as 15 special areas. Once thatís all out of the way, the adventure is mostly complete.
Fortunately, said stages are quite interesting. While Super Monkey Ball was content to toss you up against extremely brief stages, Kororinpa: Marble Madness only does that once. After that, things grow increasingly complex.
Typically, hazards arenít dangerous in and of themselves. A giant pair of scissors snips rhythmically and you have to slide through when thereís an opening, or youíll roll into a bit of goop and it slows your progression. Patches of ice are more noteworthy since they can send you spinning off a rail-free ledge or through a dangerous hole. In two levels, you must avoid mobile rays of fatal energy, but otherwise death comes from bottomless pits.
Kororinpaís stages are suspended high above various landscapes. There are only four settings in the main adventure--a fifth is just one of those first four with colors inverted--but that doesnít matter; youíll hardly notice because youíll be too busy trying to avoid premature death. The Wii Remote lets you instantly tilt the playing field in the corresponding direction. Suppose youíre coming up on a fork in the path. Just turning your wrist slightly will cause your marble to roll in the appropriate direction. Itís intuitive in the same way that Super Monkey Ball was, but more instantly accessible thanks to a gentler learning curve.
Many of the railings that you can rely on in early stages soon vanish altogether, until youíre rolling your marble along catwalks and slopes and bits of cake or even toys and conveyor belts. This makes everything a bit tense, but there are other issues. Some stages are particularly crowded, and youíll come to places where you must tilt the stage just to see where youíre supposed to go next. When that happens, you might well roll off the edge of a narrow ledge because you couldnít keep track of your marble the whole time. Such instances donít arise frequently, and theyíre mostly limited to the final few areas that some players may never even see, but they frustrate just the same.
Around the time you make your way into the fourth zone, there are so many twisting slopes and Ďleapsí of faith that only the most patient of gamers will persevere. Thatís where checkpoints come into play. Getting from start to finish in one piece is sometimes almost impossible, so a few of the more expansive areas let you activate special seals. Then when you go hurtling to your death, you donít have to do everything all over again.
The checkpoints are definitely a welcome feature, but they donít mean you can breeze through the stages without paying attention. Thereís a timer to keep in mind. Though you can take as long as you want to complete a given stage, there are times to beat in each and every one. You can get a gold or silver trophy if you move with enough hustle, so you may very well find yourself replaying a lot of the later challenges. Additionally, each of the main 45 fields hides a hidden green gem. Theyíre always in an out-of-the-way place, and fetching some of them practically guarantees that youíll lose at least one marble. Still, youíll want to snag each and every one to unlock special marbles, selections from the soundtrack and those special stages mentioned earlier.
By the time you get to the later stages and things really get rough, you might find yourself Ďcheatingí just to survive. When I played, I started to get sick of some of the twisting catwalks and the way even a slight shake of my hand would send me to my doom. I began looking for shortcuts, and I found them. Often, since stages wind back and forth upon themselves, you can take leaps of faith and collect a hard-to-reach goodie along the way. The developers even included the ability to tap the ĎAí button if you want to restart at the last checkpoint without watching the annoying animation of your marble falling into the abyss. Itís handy and thereís a good chance youíll frequently take advantage of that fact.
If Iíve made Kororinpa: Marble Mania sound like a forgettable game, I apologize. It has charming presentation, difficult stages that get tougher and then brutal, unlockable content, mirror courses, a two-player mode (you donít even need two controllers, just a Wii Remote for one player and a nunchuck for the other) and even a system that keeps track of your best five times in each area. Forty bucks gets you an addition to your gaming library that youíll love playing with friends, long after youíve completed the single-player adventure. The time may come when I get sick of rolling balls and marbles around three-dimensional stages, but as long as such games are as good as Kororinpa, that day is nowhere in sight. Try it soon.
Staff review by Jason Venter (March 24, 2007)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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