Excellent controls and addictive gameplay define this as one of the Wii's finest.
When the second entry of the Kororinpa series arrived at my door, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I had never actually played the original title, and the only point of reference for the gameplay I could come up with from watching videos was Super Monkey Ball. As a fan of that series, Marble Saga: Kororinpa was definitely of interest to me; conversations with NWR forum members also helped raise my expectations. I had heard them rave about the game's excellent controls and solid gameplay, and it turns out they were on to something.
Marble Saga: Kororinpa is a ball-rolling puzzle (adventure?) game. At the start of each level, the player's ball is placed in the world, and players must use motion control to tilt the world to make the ball reach the goal. Along the way yellow crystals must be collected in order to activate checkpoints, and eventually the exit. Yellow crystals are just one of several collectibles scattered throughout each level. Depending on the difficulty setting, players will have different collectibles to find that have different effects on the world as a whole.
The collectibles available on each difficulty setting tie into the game's rudimentary story. Anthony the Ant needs your help to save his colony and locate the Golden Sunflower Seed. On Easy, players are responsible only for collecting a Stump Temple piece in each level; on Normal, players must also collect the Stump Temple piece in each level, with an optional Green Emerald available for collection as well. Collection of these parts allows players to build the required ships that bring them to new areas, as well as grant them access to the Stump Temple itself (the game's final world). The Expert difficulty tasks players with collecting missing ants from Anthony's colony. As players retrieve these objects, it's clear that the storyline only serves to give purpose to the collection elements.
Hudson has taken a unique approach to the distribution of the game's 100-plus levels across its three difficulty settings. Rather than spread out the levels into tiers of difficulty, they have instead modified each and every level to work in each difficulty setting. This is done through the removal or replacement of certain key pieces of the core level. In some rare cases, small parts were even added in order to collect an object unique to that difficulty setting. By the time players reach Expert mode (which must be unlocked via completion of Normal mode), the levels that were once familiar will look nothing like they once did. While this may seem like a lazy choice in design, in execution it is actually brilliant. What was once a mere 100 levels quickly morphs into a massive 300 levels thanks to a few small tweaks.
While including such a massive selection of levels is great, they would be worthless without solid controls to go along with them. Thankfully, control couldn't be more precise. Players will see and feel a direct control correlation with the stage whether they use the Wii Remote NES-style or pointer-style. Simply tilting the remote rolls the marble around the stage, and players shouldn't be surprised when they need to tilt the remote nearly a full 360 degrees in order to move the ball where it needs to go. Climbing walls, flipping the stage, and a variety of crazy movements are all a part of the fun of Kororinpa. Those accustomed to the plain vanilla ball-rolling physics of Super Monkey Ball are in for a real surprise after just a few rounds. What's most astounding is the ability to give the ball a small nudge just when you need to, and to exactly the degree you intended. The degree of your connection to the in-game world via the Wii Remote is impressive to say the least.
Balance Board control is also included for use on a subset of specifically-tailored levels. In a party situation there is potential for fun, but the mode seems like more of a gimmick than a feasible gameplay option. With such a small subset of levels and extremely tough controls, the mode should only be a short distraction for Balance Board owners; those without the peripheral needn't fret, as they aren't missing much.
The level editing mode found in Marble Saga: Kororinpa is as robust as one could reasonably expect it to be. Recreating each and every level in the game is completely possible given the tools and level pieces provided. Interestingly, the full piece selection is not available from the start. Players unlock "Junk" as they collect extra items in single player mode across the game's three settings. This Junk is used to make new level editor pieces, filling in the gaps that once existed in the editor's library. While the editor is robust, building levels is unfortunately no easy task. Unlike the main game, controlling the level editor feels awkward and clumsy, with depth perception that's difficult to gauge when placing pieces.
Marble Saga: Kororinpa is quite pleasing, both visually and aurally. While neither is exceptional, the graphics and sound are done well, aren't distracting, and add to the game's unique, quirky, and relaxing ambiance.
Marble Saga: Kororinpa is undoubtedly one of my favorite Wii games. Ball-rolling has never been this much fun or this unique. The game's challenge creates for an addictive experience that will draw in players of all types and skill levels. With a large variety of extra collectibles, four-player simultaneous multiplayer, single-player trophy achievements, a level editor, and three difficulty settings, Marble Saga: Kororinpa is a huge offering in a tiny package.