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Jun 24, 2009

Review: Marble Saga: Kororinpa

Marble Saga: Kororinpa
Konami, Hudson Entertainment
Available for Nintendo Wii

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 and the marble mini game in Wii Fit. Hudson released its own take on the marble maze game with Kororinpa: Marble Mania, now a hard to find title and this game was fun but flawed. The problem was that you essentially only got one level per dollar of the $40 price tag, so rising to criticism, Hudson has released the sequel, Marble Saga: Kororinpa, with 150 unique levels, but will this sequel out do this predecessor?

The main course of Marble Saga is a story mode featuring an extremely simple 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 maze to maze, it's your job to collect stump pieces and crystals as you roll through the perilous passages. As you complete each maze with all collectable items in tow, you’ll unlock new marble pieces with unique traits that you can use inside each maze.

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 can open up the next area on the world map to explore. It's not however 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.

The early mazes will have quite a few railings to protect your marble from falling off and very few obstacles to move around, making them an easy challenge to run through. Elements like slick floors, pinball bumpers, cannons, tubes and deathly spikes will start appearing in the later mazes as you work your way long in order to make things more challenging. Thankfully, most levels have multiple checkpoints, so you won’t have to keep running the maze from the beginning every time you lose a ball. Annoyingly, you do get a three second penalty each time you fall which you will do a lot.

Unlike the original Kororinpa, Marble Saga gives the player the choice between two control schemes for the story mode, both of which are available through the wii remote. There are a few dozen levels which support Nintendo's balance board peripheral, but you don’t have to own the board to finish the levels. To actually control the game, you must use the motion sensor inside the wii remote to tilt the maze to move your marble around the board. This must be done gently or the marble will roll out of control and you’ll lose it to a trap or over the side of the maze. This control concept wasn’t too bad to work with, except for the few times you had to twist the board around in a strange angle and really just ended up twisting your wrist. Ouch!

Further frustrating was the camera which is always facing one angle which sometimes resulted in you not being able to see your marble as its rolling and would cause you to lose your marble over the edge or something.

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 game play as almost every worthwhile construction piece must be made by combining multiple materials. And 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. If you rather avoid the “Do it yourself” route, Hudson promises to provide additional mazes through the downloadable content menu in game.

For all my issues with the controls, Marble Saga's presentation isn't too shabby. A comparison of backgrounds from the original Kororinpa to backgrounds of the sequel, Marble Saga is like night and day. Marble Saga has much more detailed backgrounds filled with things to make it look busy and full of life. Some of the music can get stuck in your head as it's quite catchy while other tracks can be completely forgettable.

With so many bad third party Wii games coming out every day for the Nintendo Wii, I’m always the first to point out the good and the bad games for the system as to spare my readers a waste of their valuable dollars. Anyone who enjoyed games like Marble Madness back in the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System might actually find themselves loving this game, if they can get passed the cheesy storyline and cutesy exterior. I definitely think this is a neat title and well worth a look see.

Rating 7 out of 10
Rent it!

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