Reviewed: April 19, 2007
Released: March 20, 2007
Ever played Marble Madness…how about Marble Blast or Marble Blast Ultra on Xbox Live Arcade? Ever wonder how that game would play if instead of moving the marble you were moving the world around the marble. Well, wonder no longer because Konami and Hudson Soft are about to show you in Kororinpa: Marble Mania.
After the first few levels of Marble Mania I felt like I was revisiting the Wii version of Super Monkey Ball, only without the monkeys. Marble Mania consists of more than 40 mazes, or puzzles, that you must navigate your marble around, while avoiding obstacles, rolling down narrow bridges, sticking to magnetic rails, and speeding down treacherous ramps. The game starts off as a puzzle, until you actually figure out the optimal path, then it turns into a twisted addiction of endless replaying as you try to best your previous score.
Marble Mania is as simple to play as its design. You start at one end of a maze and must roll your ball to the exit point, but to get the ball to move you must actually tilt the world around it. The Wii remote is the perfect device for doing this as it gives you real-time motion and an almost-tactile feedback when interacting with these puzzles. Your hand quickly becomes one with the screen and you can instinctively tilt the controller to precisely move the marble across the narrowest of passes or send is spiraling down curving paths.
Your goal is to obviously finish the maze in the shortest amount of time, but you are also required to collect an assortment of red crystals along the way. Failure to collect all of these crystals before rolling into the exit will send you back to the starting point. There are also green crystals – these are usually much harder to find and often put you in a dead end or result in you falling off the maze. It’s best to collect these on a separate run from the one where you want to set a new time record.
The faster you can finish each puzzle determines your ranking and trophy cup award. The top five times for each maze are stored making this a highly competitive game for friends and family. The further you get into the game the more new content becomes available to you such as new worlds, levels, marbles, and even music. The game promises 40 new levels but in reality, these are only mirror images of the original levels. Still, mirrored or not, they are new and different.
Fun objects like conveyor belts, magnetic rails, and even a marble-shooting cannon really help to mix up the gameplay and the challenge of each new puzzle. The game rewards and punishes for excessive speed. If you fall off the maze you restart from the beginning with the timer still ticking, although you do keep any red gems you already have. Plus, the first half of the game really isn’t all that challenging. You can make a slow initial pass to learn the layout then speed through on your second attempt and probably nail a record time. Even so, it takes a steady hand and near the later levels, nerves of steel.
There is a weird attempt at a two-player mode where the second player users the nunchuk to control another marble, but the marbles cannot collide (they will just pass through each other) so there is no competition other than a pure race to the finish. A little sumo wrestling marble rolling would have been cool here, especially with four players and everyone trying to knock everyone else off the board.
Marble Mania has considerable charm in its visual design with the 40 levels being spread across five distinct themes. Each theme presents a puzzle hovering high above the world below, creating an inherent sense of vertigo when you have to roll that marble across a bridge no wider than itself.
Considering you are moving an entire screen’s worth of polygons with the slightest twitch of your wrist, the framerate is fluid and the animation (a ball rolling) works. There are a few interesting effects, things moving around the background, sticky surprises on the maze, glowing crystals and such. It all works at a kid level, which is whom this game is targeting, although I suspect adults will catch the fever all too soon.
The soundtrack is not unpleasant, but it’s nothing to rave about either. Unlocking more BGM is hardly a worthy incentive for getting those fastest times, but you’ll do it anyway.
The rest of the sound package is merely the sound of a ball rolling on wood, stone, or whatever surface the current puzzle happens to be made from. There is an eerie silence when the ball is falling and a few other environmental noises, but nothing terribly impressive.
Most gamers will finish this game in one or two days or about 6-8 hours, and the 40 mirrored levels are just that, mirrored levels, so even though the directions change, the solutions and crystal locations remain the same. Younger gamers will probably find a far greater challenge in store for them, and Marble Mania is a great way to build up some dexterity in the hands and wrists.
I appreciate the attempt for a two-player mode although having player two tethered to my remote is a pain and not being able to bump or knock them off the board makes for a non-competitive game. Marble Mania could definitely use a level designer and support for WiConnect24 to share those levels.
Kororinpa: Marble Mania is without a doubt a fun and engaging game that works well on the Wii with its accurate and intuitive motion control. You’ll become one with the game and totally lose yourself in the competitive thrill of shaving off those precious seconds from the top times.
This is definitely a game that all Wii owners should look into getting, even if you just rent it for the weekend. Very few games showcase the controls and abilities of the Wii console like Marble Mania, and the entire family will have a blast learning those controls as they perfect their routes through more than 40 challenging levels of marbles and mazes.