We all knew that Nintendo’s newest console would be home to some truly quirky Japanese titles. We caught our first glimpse of Kororinpa when the big N displayed their upcoming Wii launch lineup at last year’s Tokyo Game Show, and much to our surprise, this eccentric little game has finally made its way onto our shores for US Wii owners to snatch up. The question on everyone’s mind though is, is it worth the forty bucks or simply another gimmick to promote Nintendo’s waggle-fied console?
Developed by Hudson, a little known but highly respected Japanese company, Kororinpa: Marble Mania is essentially a modern day Marble Madness with motion sensing controls. Fans of Sega’s famed Monkey Ball may recognize the scheme, but I assure you there are several differences that keep this game from being in the same league as the aforementioned primate simulator.
For starters, Kororinpa gives the player full 3D control of the entire board, thus allowing more intricate puzzles that require the player to completely flip the level upside down whether to solve a puzzle, or simply send their marble to an untimely demise. The camera system is also pulled back from the action and fixed in position giving the player a better angle on all the onscreen action. Tilting the Wii-mote feels intuitive and responsive and works surprisingly well.
The core of the game consists of navigating your marble through a maze of obstacles all while collecting gems and racing against the clock. Upon completion of the level, you are awarded with new challenges and even customized marbles such as basketballs and even penguins. Each new marble contains its own unique properties so say for instance you are using a basketball you will have to deal with more bounce than perhaps a soccer ball. While this does add some nice variety to the game, it is still more eye candy than anything else.
Now while all of this sounds nice and peachy, especially with the current lack of software available on the Wii, there are some miniature discrepancies that hold the game back. The biggest culprit is the amount of levels; with just 40 mazes to conquer you will undoubtedly find yourself wanting more. The game does promise 40 new puzzles once you complete the original set, but you soon learn that these are simply mirrored versions of the standard layout.
What makes this even more disappointing is that most of the levels are so easy that most gamers will blast through them in less than a minute. Combine this with the fact that the entire game is based around time and you have a package that can actually be completed in less than a day. There is a split screen mode for two players, but it only puts a ghost image of your opponent on your half of the screen so it still amounts to a test of time rather than competition, in other words no marble fights.
The lack of content is really what hurts this game the most. Outside of a few marble variations, there really isn’t much to keep you coming back for more outside of beating your top times. Support for downloadable levels or even a lower price tag would have benefited this game profoundly, but as it stands it feels more like a Virtual Console title as opposed to a full retail outing.
On the presentation side, you get a nice streamlined menu that is easy to navigate and visuals that are certainly easy on the eyes. The level design shines in some spots, but for the most part feels a bit rushed and recycled. The music is decent and catchy at times, and the sound effects are standard fare for a simple title like this. They won’t annoy you nor will they send shivers down your 5.1 surround sound system.
What all this boils down to is simple; Kororinpa is fun, but only in small doses. The lack of more levels, characters, and modes really hurt this otherwise solid game. Most players will rip through this game in one afternoon and really never find a reason to come back for more. However, if you are looking for a solid experience that is just generally fun to play, you will be hard pressed to find a firmer experience. What Marble Mania lacks in content it almost makes up for with great control and solid fun factor.