Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Marble Saga: Kororinpa (Wii) Review

I really liked Kororinpa: Marble Mania. It didn't set my world on fire, but it was a very enjoyable experience regardless. Now we have Marble Saga: Kororinpa, one of my most anticipated Wii games. It's only thirty dollars, too. Why? Because that's how it rolls. Here's my review of Marble Saga: Kororinpa.

Get Ready to Lose Your Marbles.

An object rolling through multiple perilous mazes, attempting to reach the goal in each one, isn't a new concept at all. Of course, they've been around long before the days of Marble Madness with those wooden labyrinth toys you'd tilt to get all of the iron balls into the goal. Wii owners especially have already seen an abundance of these types of games with Super Monkey Ball, Mercury Meltdown, the marble game from Wii Fit, and a little known title called Kororinpa: Marble Mania, now one of the rarest titles in the Wii's library. The game was fun but flawed. Controlling your marble through the many Kororinpa or levels the game threw at you was very intuitive and easy enough to do. The only problem was that you essentially only got one level per dollar of the $40 price tag. Rising to criticism, Hudson has released the sequel, Marble Saga: Kororinpa, with 150 unique levels and an editor to boot, but is this package all that it should have been?

The main course of Marble Saga is a story mode featuring an extremely simple and superfluous tale revolving around an ant named Anthony. He needs the Golden Sunflower to save his land, but the catch is that the treasure is sealed up inside the Stump Temple. Traveling from area to area, level to level, it's your job to collect Stump Pieces as you roll through dozens of levels. This is what you'll be playing through to unlock most of the content inside Marble Saga. Thought-provoking narrative this ain't, but it does the job all the same.

Spider-Marble does whatever a spider can.

There are several themed areas you and Anthony must travel through from sandy dunes to the ocean blue. Each area has ten main levels to conquer. These can be tackled in any order once you've unlocked the latter five levels of an area. Once the eleventh level, a slightly more difficult challenge level, is completed, you open up the next area on the world map to explore. It's not as simple as going from point A to point B. It's about going from point A to point B while collecting all of the orange crystals to unlock the goal. This isn't that elementary of a task either as the levels in Marble Saga aren't as simple as rolling down a straight line. No, no. Quite the contrary. The early areas will have more railings to protect your marble from falling off, small hills and curves to roll through, and small challenges. Slick floors, pinball bumpers, cannons that shoot you across the level, tubes, marble ball-obliterating hazards like spiked balls, and much more aim to cost you a good time. Thankfully, most levels have multiple checkpoints. Annoyingly, you get a three second penalty each time you fall... which you will do a lot. There's also a green crystal hidden in a dastardly location in each level, most of which are either hard-to-find and/or hard-to-reach, that unlock new marbles with varying stats from a hard-to-slow-down baseball to a flatulent panda of ultimate win.

Let your marble experience a mosh-pit firsthand
by getting between two of those bad boys.

Unlike the original Kororinpa, Marble Saga gives the player the choice between two control schemes for the story mode, both of which are Wii remote only. There are a few dozen levels which support Nintendo's balance board peripheral. Those without the accessory can still play the levels, but the mazes really were made for the balance board in mind. Heading back to Wii remote controls, you can play with the Wii remote vertically or horizontally. The question is if you'll want to even bother playing horizontally as it's pretty poor-- especially for moments where you have to turn to the level to its side. What I mean is that in Kororinpa you aren't controlling the marble. You're tilting the level to make your marble move. The majority of levels require the player to twist the Wii remote in order to turn the level over so the marble can cross a platform perpendicular to the one it's already on.

Those with vertigo should not play Marble Saga: Kororinpa.

This is where part of the trouble with Marble Saga rears its ugly head. Holding the remote flat levels out the maze completely, but many levels force you to twist your wrist every which way but Subway to manipulate the movement of your marble. Oftentimes, you'll need to twist the remote completely upside-down. Now this would all be fine and dandy like the controls of the original Kororinpa expect in Marble Saga, for some unexplained reason the way you hold the Wii remote doesn't necessarily match how the maze is currently titled causing not only confusion but great frustrating. Add into this that nearly all of the marbles are a pain to maneuver in this sequel. Why keep a good thing-- the original's fantastic physics-- when you can ruin them to be borderline broken on most levels? Let me ask Hudson some time. In the original twisting the Wii remote slightly would slightly tilt the maze, slowly moving your marble. This isn't the case in Marble Saga. Tilting a little bit will do nothing, or your marble will move so sluggishly that doesn't have any momentum whatsoever. Tilt the Wii remote enough so it actually moves, and now it's too fast to stop before teetering off the edge of the maze. To further cause frustration is the camera which is always facing one angle. Moving the maze can sometimes result in not being able to see your marble as it's rolling or having your marble fall over the edge on a horizontal straightaway due to an odd angle, altering your depth perception.

If constantly failing the story mode mazes gets you down, you can always check out the robust level creator. If you can think it, you can most likely build it, and then send it to your friends via WiiConnect24. Unfortunately, the "quirky" design choices don't end with the gameplay. Almost every worthwhile construction piece must be made by combining multiple materials. Where are these materials found? Why, in story mode, of course! Look forward to playing through the same levels over and over again just to grind for materials needed to build cool doodads and gadgets. The chore of collecting materials will probably be worth it to some as you can make some really intriguing levels for your friends to tackle. Additionally, Hudson will be continually supporting online with new mazes of their own.

This little piggy rolled all the way home.

For all my issues with the controls, Marble Saga's presentation isn't too shabby. A comparison of backgrounds from the original to backgrounds of Marble Saga are like night and day. Marble Saga has much more detailed backgrounds filled with things to make it look busy and full of life without being distracting. The music can get stuck in your head as it's quite catchy while other times songs can be completely forgettable.

It's somewhat baffling to me the decisions made by third parties on the Wii. It's as if the Wii makes them do incredibly foolish things. In Hudson's case it's totally taking the perfect physics and feel of Kororinpa and mutilating them horribly to a shallow shell of their former selves. Regardless of my abundant disappointment with this sequel, for $30 you may find that you don't care either way. For me, it made the game much more difficult to control and enjoy. Marble Saga: Kororinpa rolls off the edge and plunges into the bottomless abyss below.

[SuperPhillip Says: 4.5/10]

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