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July 3, 2007Glenn Turner

I just wrapped up Hudson's Kororinpa: Marble Mania which is, fundamentally, the same game as Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, executed in the same manner, but far more memorable. In Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz you're indirectly piloting a monkey, sadistically trapped in a plastic ball, throughout an array of slopes and planes all while nabbing bananas on your way to the level's goal. Kororinpa has you manipulating a banal marble, again indirectly, by controlling the level's plane. You direct this marble through a series of precariously placed slides and ramps and collecting crystals as you head to the goal. Both games use the Wiimote in practically the same manner: You tilt it the way you want the level to tilt, thus moving your monkey/marble whichever way you want them to roll towards. But it's how Kororinpa executes its controls that places it above Super Monkey Ball while truly showing the deft potential of the Wii.

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It all comes down to the Wiimote. Super Monkey Ball's levels don't really angle all that much. By that, I mean you find yourself sharply tilting to roll your monkey 'up' a 90 degree incline. However, with Kororinpa it's not uncommon to maneuver the world in order to 'roll up' a wall and locate the next crystal, literally changing the level's perspective (not unlike some of the later, more astounding, levels in Psychonauts). The full use of the third dimension induces a mindbending quality and, normally, you'd think that it'd be utterly confusing to navigate this world with the Wiimote but no, it's smooth as silk, with the sole caveat that it does result in the Wiimote finding its way into some odd positions.

While these intriguing level designs require finessing the Wiimote, Hudson didn't require such byzantine motions to punish gamers though – quite the contrary. In fact, these motions come off as completely intuitive, as long as you're actually holding the Wiimote in a flexible and comfortable position. Trying to clench the Wiimote in one hand like you would a standard remote won't cut it here. I ended up holding it with both my hands, using my right hand's forefinger and thumb pinching the front of the controller while my left hand gripped the back. This approach allowed me to easily maneuver and twist the Wiimote in whatever position necessary, even if the resulting position looked more like I was aiming the Wiimote down towards the floor, or over at a sleeping cat on a chair. And I learned this naturally, through the (almost too easy and abundant) introductory levels, to the point where I didn't even notice that I had adopted a somewhat uncommon controller stance.

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Which, I'm sure, is rather the point. By the end of my short, four hour tour to Kororinpa's end I had ceased to think of the Wiimote as a nebulous object, but instead wielded it like a Rubik's Cube, deftly tilting and bending with my left hand while twisting with my right. The Wiimote motions felt tactile. The controller was so responsive to my twists and tilts that it felt as if I was holding the Koroninpa levels in my hand. The game realized its goal in making me feel as if I were physically controlling the world and not just a simulacra. I'd slowly tease the controller when coming to hairpin turns with an level of precision I normally would reserve for wielding an exacto knife, and the level of intuition and responsiveness afforded by the game's marble and the controller allowed for it!

Of course, it's not just the controls that molded this tactile feeling – the consistent physics, the satisfying sound effects, the adequate graphics and interesting level design, they all helped to provide a concrete experience but, it's the controls that made it memorable. Unlike my time with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz which, even though I enjoyed the previous Monkey Ball games, I can recall practically nothing about my playtime with this Wii-based one. And while Kororinpa's a bit too shallow (and expensive) to wholeheartedly recommend that everyone purchase it's certainly worth a look, if for no other reason than to try out another great Wii control scheme. I can only hope that morph ball-Samus responds this well in Metroid Prime 3!

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5 comments for ‘Lilting Through Kororinpa’

#1 Servo Jul 3, 2007 09:34pm

Nice review, even though you caused a resurfacing of Marble Madness-induced nightmares

#2 Max Walrus Jul 4, 2007 04:24am

Fuck Marble Madness.

#3 Soup Jul 5, 2007 01:07am

Max Walrus wrote:
Fuck Marble Madness.
quiet you fool! you'll bring the wrath of the evil Black Marble down on us all!

I'll prolly pick this up when it hits a lower price point. Hopefully Dewey's adventure will also handle as well.

#4 Glenn Turner Jul 5, 2007 02:05am

Servo wrote:
Nice review, even though you caused a resurfacing of Marble Madness-induced nightmares

I'm glad ya liked it, although my mind still boggles at the amount of lip service Marble Madness has received due to this game. I love Marble Madness, but the control method is very direct in the game - you pilot the marble, not the level. Consequently, apart from a shared avatar, the games really don't share much in common. Right?

I actually never got the chance to play the game in the arcades (I know it was trackball based, so that might have changed things), but I do recall playing it with a joystick on the C64 and the control method was very much direct afaik.

#5 Servo Jul 5, 2007 08:33pm

G. Turner

I suppose it would only have been fair for me to also bring up the single player experience of Super Monkey Ball (2, I think) when I speak of ball rolling frustration. However, the multiplayer features made up for all the crying I did trying to solve the maze puzzles.