Review: Pallurikio

“Everyone would love to stay with Pallurikio all day long.”

That’s one of the opening lines from the tutorial of Pallurikio, a new puzzle/platforming game on WiiWare. It’s also a lie. Everyone would not love to stay with Pallurikio all day long. Upon first glance, I didn’t want to spend any time with Pallurikio at all. In screenshots, it looks like a free Flash game, made to mildly entertain as many people as possible, while truly satisfying no one.

Still, this is WiiWare we’re talking about, where games that look like they should be a lot of fun (like Diatomic and Gyrostarr) often offer nothing in the way of good times, and titles that look like they’re going to suck (like Bonsai Barber and Pokemon Rumble) are actually pretty good. You never know what to expect from WiiWare. It was with this perspective that I fired up Pallurikio for the first time.

Hit the jump for what happened next.

Palluriko (PC, WiiWare [reviewed])
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: December 21, 2009
MSRP: 1,000 Wii Points

Okay, so I work for a gaming blog. Do you know what that means? That means that I have an insatiable need to talk about about videogames. There are hundreds of thousands of more potentially profitable, fame- and fortune-finding pursuits I could involve myself with. I could write about celebrity gossip, or play the stock market, or Hell, I could even try to make it big on a reality show or something. All of those things are awesome, but I just don’t have time for any of them. When I’m not trapped doing something else, my mind immediately turns to the subject of videogames. I can’t help it. It’s like a sickness.

That’s what makes Pallurikio such an anomaly in my life. It’s a cure for my sickness. I actually don’t want to talk about it. Actually, I do want to talk about it, but for better or worse, there is absolutely nothing interesting to say about the game. It does not inspire like, dislike, hate, love, boredom, or excitement in me in any way. It truly inspires nothing. Playing the game is neither fun, nor not fun. Try describing the taste in your mouth an hour after drinking a tall glass of water and a plate of rice cakes, or how it feels to be touched by nothing. You can’t, can you?

That’s what I’m struggling with here in trying to review Pallurikio, the most mildly enjoyable, wholly forgettable game I’ve played in many years.

In lieu of an actual opinion about the game, I’ll describe it to you. Pallurikio is the story of some kids and a dog who get sucked into a Jumanji-type board game. To get out of the game, you (the player) have to guide a little ball named Pallurikio through some 2D platforming levels. Taking a cue from LocoRoco, the game doesn’t let you directly control Pallurikio. Instead, you tell it where to move with the Wii Remote’s pointer controls. Point at Pallurikio, hit A, then point away from it. An arrow will appear. The farther you point from Pallurikio, the longer the arrow; the longer the arrow, the farther he’ll go in that direction when you let go of A.

Oh, and you can do this while he’s in mid-air too, for a “double jump”-style effect. You can only do this once before Pallurikio touches the ground or a wall. Getting around the game’s 50 or so levels under these conditions before you run out of time is what you are tasked with in Pallurikio. The usual 2D platformer environmental hazards (spikes, collapsible walls, moving floors, etc.) all make their expected appearances. So do the the expected “ice,” “fire,” and “tropical” levels.

Crap… and with that, I’ve already run out of things to say about Pallurikio.

Don’t worry (and trust me, I know how worried you are right now); I can force some stuff out, and who knows, maybe some of it will surprise you. For instance, the graphics are actually pretty good. The art direction is clean and easy to look at without appearing cheap or phoned in. There are some nice visual flourishes in each level, like the clothes you can knock off the clothesline in the city level and the snow plows in the ice level, to name a few.

On the other end, Pallurikio‘s music is painfully, painfully uninspired. When people who don’t like videogames make fun of videogame music, this is the stuff they’re talking about. I don’t doubt that the composer for this game can write good stuff, but the tracks here scream “I wrote this to pay the bills while I was working on my symphony.” I’d be shocked to find that the writer of Pallurikio‘s soundtrack really loved listening to his own work. Come to think of it, the music in the ice level was actually sort of catchy. The rest of it either demands to be ignored or is actively annoying.

The game’s level design is generally competent, and has a few moments of greatness, but for the most part, it matches the quality of the game’s soundtrack. It’s hard to imagine that even the people who made Pallurikio really love playing Pallurikio. I mean, if you have to choose between playing Pallurikio and doing something you don’t like, such as office work or writing a term paper, then yeah, the game’s a fine alternative. However, if you’re playing the game on the Wii, a console with hundreds of endlessly replayable classic games, it’s hard to see why one would choose Pallurikio over something else.

Pallurikio would have done a lot better as a free PC game. Mouse controls would work great for the game, and I could see Facebook users spending hours wasting time with it while waiting for new notes on their wall or messages to pop up in their inbox. As a home console game, though, it has a lot of trouble justifying its own existence. An old friend of mine had a way of describing games like this. She’d say (with a really entertaining British accent), “It’s sort of like the later work of Phil Collins. It just sort of washes over you, occupying your attention, but eventually leaves you completely unaffected either way.”

That’s my definition of a…

Score: 5 –– Mediocre (5s are an exercise in apathy, neither Solid nor Liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit “meh,” really.)

Jonathan Holmes
"Where do dreams end and reality begin? Videogames, I suppose."- Gainax, FLCL Vol. 1 "The beach, the trees, even the clouds in the sky... everything is build from little tiny pieces of stuff. Just like in a Gameboy game... a nice tight little world... and all its inhabitants... made out of little building blocks... Why can't these little pixels be the building blocks for love..? For loss... for understanding"- James Kochalka, Reinventing Everything part 1 "I wonder if James Kolchalka has played Mother 3 yet?" Jonathan Holmes