I totally missed out on the original Kororinpa. Every time I asked for it in stores, I stupidly called it "Cornucopia: Marble Madness" because I couldn't remember what it was really called. Now the game has been permanently recalled due to having a name that sounded too much like, well, Marble Madness, and the only way to get it is to pay $70+ on the eBay.
Luckily for us, Hudson is putting an all new Kororinpa game out later this Spring, called Marble Saga: Kororinpa. This game seems a lot better than the original anyway, featuring way more levels and "characters," the ability to build your own levels and then up/download them from WiiConnect24, and engage in offline multi-player competition with up to four people.
I got to give the game a test run at New York Comic Con. Hudson even let me hop on the Balance Board and give one of the 30 unique Balance Board-compatible levels a try, which wasn't embarrassing at all while on camera and in front of hundreds of people.
It cost me all my pride to get you these impressions, so the least you can do is read them after the jump.
Unless something goes drastically wrong between now and the game's launch, Marble Saga: Kororinpa is going to be a must-have for many Wii owners.
The game looks great. Despite being a budget title, there is a great deal of polish on the game's textures. On the levels I played, there is sort of a reflective texture map deal on many of the surfaces, and it really does a lot to make you feel like you're playing a game that wasn't just crapped out for cash.
Another thing the game has going for it is level design. It's way more complex than stuff I've seen in similar games like Super Monkey Ball. There will reportedly be up to 40 different hazards that you must contend with, like pinball bumpers and dissolving platforms (please Hudson, include the killer slinky tubes and green slime puddles from Marble Madness! They owe you one!), so a lot is being done to make this game feel like a videogame, and not just a virtual hand puzzle.
The game is controlled by holding the Wii Remote and titling it; no buttons necessary. Tilt the Wii Remote, and you tilt the game's world. It can be a little hard to tell exactly at what angle you're tilting things until you spot the on-screen compass, which shows you exactly how you're tilting. Once you get the hang of it, it feels very natural.
Things get creative when you realize that you can't expect to beat every level by keeping the Wii Remote more or less face-up. You have to turn the Wii Remote (and the world) on its side, and completely upside down, to beat even some of the earliest levels in the game. It seems like a little thing, but it takes a great leap of faith to flip the world over on your precious little marble, and the process itself is pretty damn exciting.
Why would you care about whether a marble lives or dies? Well, that's another thing the game does really well: it makes you actually feel attached to marbles. You'll care about them because these are the cutest goddamn virtual marbles you've ever see in your life. There are the fat, limbless cat, dog, or hedgehog marbles; the marble that looks like your Mii trapped in a hamster wheel; the SD TV marble (I miss you, old fashioned TVs!); and 15 other types of "marbles." They aren't all playable at first; you have to unlock them as you go, which I'm sure will add to the game's replay value. Also adding to the replay value is the fact that they don't all have the same controls. The TV is way slower than the hedgehog, because the TV isn't round and therefore doesn't roll very well, whereas the hedgehog is the fastest thing alive.
This is all well and good for folks who like this sort of game, but what about those in need of a game offering more than just a marble and a world for it to die in, in order to get excited? Well, for starters, there's the multi-player mode. It works really well in split-screen, in a very chaotic, swear-inducing, Mario Kart sort of way. The levels are designed so that you will die many, many times on any given play-through, with a lot of areas where you have to get your marble going pretty fast in order to clear an uphill area, but then have to stop it practically on a dime in order to keep from falling off. Skill will get you through them after hours of practice, but on the first few tries, you're going to need more than a little luck to survive.
Then there are the Balance Board levels, which make all previous levels seem like a cakewalk. Now, I'm no stranger to Wii Fit. I actually really like a lot of the mini-games that it contains, especially the one with the pool balls (which plays like a super-primitive version of Kororinpa), but nothing could have prepared me for this. Marbel Saga: Kororinpa's Balance Board controls are really responsive, but that doesn't change the fact that playing a real videogame that requires real coordination is incredibly hard when it requires you to move your entire body. After just a few levels, I was sweating, swearing, and practically hurling myself from the level of physical coordination the game required.
In other words, I loved it.
Looks like I may have to fight Conrad for the right to review the game when it comes out on March 17th. Until then, I'm going to keep playing the five-level demo that Hudson gave me, and hope that I don't hurt myself too badly in the meantime.