Marble Saga: Kororinpa
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-03-17 Wii Puzzle E (Everyone) Hudson

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to go hands-on with a then "work-in-progress" demo of Marble Saga: Kororinpa, Hudson?s sequel to the Wii's Kororinpa: Marble Mania. Now that the game has hit store shelves, I've had a chance to tackle the full version, with the full results being just as entertaining as I had hoped.

Marble Saga: Kororinpa has a storyline, but it is a bit shallow and altogether unnecessary. Anthony the Ant is after a seed from the Golden Sunflower, and you must help him find one by traveling through dozens of maze-like levels, collecting gems, and pieces of a magical tree stump along the way.

The game's iffy storyline aside, the gameplay is much more intuitive and to the point. Each level is comprised of multiple curving paths (some of which may or may not have walls on the side to prevent you from falling off into the abyss) and multiple obstacles like moving platforms (some of which must be manually transitioned to their proper location by tilting the environment and some that move automatically), magnets, cannons, speed boosts, size changers (of both the jumbo and miniature varieties), ice covered tiles, and so on.

Needless to say, the level variety is quite impressive. While each set of 10 levels has their own overarching theme (desert, glacier, sewing room, candy land, haunted house, big city, etc.) that even extends its reach to the menus and loading screens, each individual stage is entirely different from the last.

In trying to describe the game any farther, it would be almost impossible to do so without at least one mention of Super Monkey Ball, so let's get that out of the way right now. Where both franchises have you controlling your environment as a marble moves around the landscape due to the help of gravity, in Super Monkey Ball, you were forced to control the environment via use of the analog stick or directional pad, but in Marble Saga: Kororinpa, environmental control is instead achieved by rotating the entire Wii Remote in the direction you wish the level to tilt.

And while it may outwardly appear that you are controlling the marble, you are instead simply rotating the path on which it sits. Tilt the top of the Wii-mote forward, and the landscape tilts in the same direction. Pull the Wii Mote backwards from a horizontal position to a vertical one and the landscape moves at the same angle.

This Wii-mote rotation allows for the environments to be rotated a full 360 degrees. That is, in certain instances, you will find that your path ends at a perfect 90 degree angle. In order to continue, what once was a wall must become the floor, as you tilt your Wii-mote onto its side and continue on. Obviously, the more or faster your tilt your Wii-mote, the more dramatically the environment moves, allowing you to have a firm control on your speed.

One unfortunate is found when scaling said vertical surfaces, in that the camera goes a bit wonky and tends to transition to a weird entirely overhead perspective of your marble, forcing you to slow down almost to a stop until you can figure out not only which direction to move, but which way is "up."

After the first 35 or so levels, you will undoubtedly notice a sharp increase in difficulty, resulting in not only longer levels with more gems to collect in each, but also more traps, obstacles, and overall danger coming in the new found lack of sidewalls for most paths. But this increase in difficulty is actually a good thing.

Since the Wii-mote control allows you to move the environment much more delicately (and in fact, stop the movement of the marble without even a hint of over-correcting), it is entirely possible for you to take the "slow and steady wins the race" approach, never truly experiencing defeat until the sudden increase in challenge. After the switch, ramps are added into the mix, along with surfaces that must be rammed into at a certain speed in order to be activated, literally forcing you to speed up your progress, thereby also increasing the challenge.

Another level of challenge can be found by those who own a Wii Balance Board, which is an interesting control option to say the least. While I wasn't able to try out the option for myself, I can only imagine it would be a bit like surfing.

Two last additions come in the multiplayer options (up to four player multiplayer and even online leader boards) and the ability to create your own levels using bits and pieces you automatically collect as your progress through the game.

In terms of the actual appearance and sound design of the game, there are a few comparisons that are easily made. While the entirety of the graphics are crisp, bright and very colorful, the Haunted House levels in particular are something to behold, which a lack of light and object design that immediately struck me as something out of a Tim Burton film. Likewise, the soundtrack is designed as a mix of both calm and intense tracks, with the voice work of every ant character sounding identical to the gibberish heard in Animal Crossing.

With games in this "environmental manipulation" genre, it's absolutely imperative that the game handles perfectly and for the most part (the rare camera issue aside) Marble Saga: Kororinpa does just that. And by adding in a level creator/editor, plus online support, Hudson has provided for a great sense of replayability, sure to keep fans coming back for more long after the "story" has come to a close.

Special thanks to Laura Weir and Hudson for providing a copy of this title.