IGN Review of Kororinpa: Marble Mania
When we first saw glimpses of the Japanese Wii launch line-up during the Tokyo Game Show last year, there were a few titles in the bunch that we simply needed to check out. Some of them - such as Tamagotchi No Pika Pika - were absolutely random in their design, while others caught us with a simple display of fun gameplay. Kororinpa was one of those. We imported the game, reported on our impressions, and waited for the inevitable US release. Now that it's here, we're finding that, while the gameplay is still pretty entertaining, the game still just isn't "all there," as Kororinpa: Marble Mania is just a bit too shallow, a bit too rushed, and a bit too lifeless.
Anyone who had a chance to check out our previous hands-on write-up for the game a few months back already knows the score when it comes to Kororinpa, but luckily for all you slackers out there it's a pretty simple concept. The game is essentially a more simplistic Marble Madness clone, which takes the same marble-rolling gameplay as the 80's classic and emulates world-tilting with the Wii remote. Fans of Monkey Ball may be interested in the game simply due to the tactile feel it brings, but we assure you Kororinpa is a different beast altogether. The camera is pulled back, it's fixed to a specific spot, and - unlike Monkey Ball - you're given full 3D control of the level. If you want to flip it upside down, sending your tiny marble to its undeniable death, you can do it. If you need to roll the controller in your hand to execute complex 3D mazes (the ground becomes the ceiling, walls become the new ground) you can definitely do that as well. It's full 3D control of the world via the Wii remote, and it works.
Kororinpa is all about grabbing every gem on a level, moving your marble through the 3D labyrinth, and hitting the goal as fast as possible. At the end of each level, more are unlocked, as well as over a dozen unique marbles to control. Each has their own property to them, so while the cat-ball or penguin bank on their slower (but adorable) movements, the soccer ball and basketball have a faster roll, and a bigger bounce. It isn't much, but it does add some flavor to the game.
But while that amazingly tactile experience is truly a winning concept on Wii (you really feel connected to the playfield), and the use of different marbles is a nice touch, the game's design is surrounded by tiny inadequacies. First of all, the number of levels in the game rests just above 40, and though the game promises to unlock "40 New Puzzles" once you finish it, they're simply mirrored versions of the ones you already beat. Secondly, for any Monkey Ball veteran, or players whose Wii skills are beginning to hone in, moving a virtual marble around a maze isn't exactly the hardest challenge out there, so many hardcore gamers will find that the first 25 or so levels can be beat within 45 seconds on the first try. Since the game works off a time score rather than lives (you actually can't die), most players will cruise a bit too fast for their own good, make it 2/3 of the way through a level, get a slap on the wrist for being speedy, and fly through the now-familiar landscape with ease. Yes the game is all about getting fast times, so replay through each level is strongly encouraged, but it's still far too short. If this was an arcade game, most players could trounce the majority of it in a couple bucks.
And aside from a few other gameplay oddities, the sheer amount of content is really where Kororinpa fails. There aren't any driving characters in the game, so the title's personality has to come from using different marbles, and the lack of depth really hurts. We've beaten the game twice now (Japan and US versions), and we're still having fun with it, but the charm can only last so long, and in the end Kororinpa is a game that needed more levels, WiiConnect24 support for even more additional stages, and a few more modes. The game supports single and two player arcade, which adds a ghost image of a second player on each of the split screens (no bumping allowed), but aside from that it's all about getting faster times and unlocking each marble.
As for the basic presentation, Kororinpa has a simple charm that keeps it from being hard on the eyes, but we wouldn't go as far as to say it's a truly beautiful package. The game has some decent level design, simple d-pad interface, generic music, but an overall look that's very inviting and warm. In an odd move, the game's original Japanese release included a strange 16:9 mode, that was actually an in-game adaptive widescreen substitute (almost like Resident Evil 4 on GameCube), and it caught a lot of negative flak for it. When checking to see if 16:9 had been changed for the US version, we found that the spot in the options menu where it previously existed was now blank. Apparently it wasn't a quick fix, or at least not too cost-effective, so Kororinpa is 4:3, and 4:3 only.
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