Kororinpa

(Called "Kororinpa Marble Mania" or "Kororinpa Ball Move Thing" or "Kororinpa: Dumbed Down Name For Yankee Pig Dogs" or something like that in the US)

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The Wii is all about innovative control schemes. In the case of Need For Speed Carbon the innovation was to find the least successful combination of control methods possible to maximise frustration. In Red Steel, the use of the Wiimote and nunchuck together for first person shooter goodness was pulled off rather well. Kororinpa.. what does that mean? I don't know1*, I drank a lot of cough syrup this morning and I'm still trying to find my pants. However, I can tell you that Kororinpa is a "move the ball" game where you move the environment around with the Wiimote and attempt to guide your ball around collecting all the requisite crystals and making it to the goal without falling off the course.

It should probably sound familiar as a concept - ever play the older Atari arcade game Marble Madness, or one of the Super Monkey Ball games on various platforms (including the Wii)?

Kororinpa is probably a bit closer in concept to those toys some of us may be familiar with where you have a maze with a ball in it, and dials on either side of said maze you turn to angle the maze, roll the ball around and attempt to solve it. Remember those? No, I don't really either. It's true, though.

You're probably thinking it's just another retread, but the game offers quite a bit of diversity - fairly early on into the game, some of the stages get positively MC Escher-esque, with the requirement to flip the ball through 90 degrees onto a different plane. Some of the mazes get quite devious, but I for one always felt like the difficulty level was perfectly balanced. Certain other games in this genre (*cough* Monkey Ball *cough*) have had rather unbalanced levels - blow through three or four without trying then slam into the asymptote of infinite impossibility on the next one. Kororinpa always feels like it's just a little bit harder, and it's great that way, it really encourages you to continue, to try harder. The fact that the controls are easy, perfectly sensitive and reliable reduces the "this control sucks" form of frustration games often grant in spades too. I won't tell on you if you blow at the game and want to use poor controls as an excuse anyway, but I will probably laugh at you behind your back, so take that under advisement.

If you still want a reason to keep playing, as you make progress you can unlock extra ball types - most of these don't have any effect on the gameplay, for example a ball shaped like a cat that meows as you move it around the screen.. but some do have an impact. A bowling ball is heavier and more difficult to steer, a soccer ball bounces more, etc etc. Choosing the right ball for the right level can have quite an impact on your times. You have infinite attempts for each stage, but to impress your mates, you can try to beat the gold, silver or bronze medal par times for each level. In order to clear a level at all, you have to collect all the orange crystals. There are bonus green crystals on each stage in hard to reach places, but these will unlock the aforementioned balls, some extra music and other features.

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It's pretty good looking, even if it doesn't support 480p. Then again, I don't have plasma or LCD.

There's a two player split screen mode too which is rather notable for one thing - you only use one set of Wiimote and nunchuck - one player for each. This can make for some rather amusing and frenetic tugs of war if you're not mindful of the cable between them!

Negatives? Once in a while the camera can get a little annoying, but not very often, and certainly nowhere near as much as in the vast majority of third person action games pumped out over the last ten years or so. Not that I'm bitter, or thinking about Tomb Raider. Also a lot of the music makes Erasure sound like Cannibal Corpse, so be warned in advance.

Kororinpa definitely differs enough from Super Monkey Ball to warrant a purchase, but not so much that you'd love it if you hate other entries in this genre. In Australia, it's a "budget" title - in that it's $AUS80 full retail rather than the usual $AUS100 retail. However, if you shop around you can probably find it in the neighbourhood of $AUS65-70. You're on your own as far as the prices in the USA or Europe go, kids. It was a launch title in Japan, so it's probably 500 yen with a free pack of smokes.

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