Marble Saga: Kororinpa is the sequel to Hudson’s Kororinpa: Marble Mania, and this version of the game seems to have met many of the complaints about the original head on to make for an enjoyable experience. Let’s start with the basics though. Marble Saga: Kororinpa is a puzzle-adventure game where you roll a marble around different courses, collecting crystals and “junk” on your way to the goal. You need to collect all of the crystals in a level in order to proceed, which on occasion is more difficult than it sounds.
The story follows Anthony the Ant as he searches for the Golden Sunflower in order to save his ant colony. You go from level to level and all over the world in your search for this elusive sunflower, which in turn means you have levels in different areas; I had the chance to test out a marble puzzle covered in ice, which increases the difficulty and changes the strategy significantly compared to levels that just have regular flooring.
The controls are handled entirely by the tilting of the Wii Remote in various directions. In the options menu you can decide to either hold the controller as you normally would or sideways like an NES controller, whichever is more comfortable. Once you get the hang of the sensitivity, it becomes a very intuitive control scheme that controls better than analog, and it feels more immersive to boot. This is good news, as the point is not just to blow through the level as fast as you can; sometimes you will need to slow down, or make very subtle movements or change direction entirely.
Out of the complaints for the first game in the series, two things stood out. First of all, the game was far too short, and the game was too easy. Hudson has remedied this problem by increasing the difficulty of the puzzles, which makes for a more satisfying puzzle experience, and by significantly ramping up the number of levels you could play. In Marble Mania, you had 40 levels, and then 40 mirrored versions of those same levels. This time, Hudson is promising 150 total levels, in a variety of forms.
You get the levels that come with the game, but Hudson will also have levels ready for you over the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection at launch. You can also create your own levels and store 20 of them, and then store an additional 20 levels made by your friends. There are also 20 levels designed for use with the Wii Balance Board, but if you lack a balance board, they can be played with the Wii Remote just like all of the others. The fact that you can swap your friends levels and your own in and out all the time also means that the title has far more replay value than the original, so those who already own and love that version should have no issues running out to get the improved one.
What makes creating levels intriguing are the number of “widgets” you can use to customize your levels in order to make them more than just a marble rolling over a floor until he reaches the exit. There are magnets, shrinking machines, acceleration tubes, movable bridges, cannons…there’s a lot you can do when creating these levels; my one complaint is that there doesn’t seem to be a central hub for uploading strangers levels. It would be a neat feature if Hudson checked out some of the better levels people were uploading to their friends and made them into downloadable packages, just incase your friends lack any kind of imagination (or don’t own the game in the first place).
Though there isn’t any online play, there are online leaderboards, so you can see where you rank among the fastest and most efficient marble rollers. I’m a sucker for time trial based levels, so that’s something that appeals to my inner competitive gamer.
Not only did I test out the sequel to Marble Mania while at Comic Con, but Hudson gave me a demo for the game to play back at home on my Wii, which allowed me to give the multiplayer a shot. You can play Marble Saga: Kororinpa with 2-4 players in multiplayer mode, and it’s a race to the finish line here. You will have to move faster than you do in the single-player mode, since you are not just racing your own personal time, you’re going at it against friends. Thanks to the nature of some of the more difficult levels, this is a mode that is sure to give the game replay value, as competitive puzzle solving makes for a fun night gaming at home with friends.
I didn’t play the first in the Kororinpa series because the game seemed short and was considered easy, but the concept showed promise if Hudson just worked on their formula a bit to enhance it. After sitting down with Marble Saga, I can say that they did just that, and have created a very enjoyable game that looks to be well worth the $30 asking price. Marble Saga: Kororinpa releases March 17 of this year, and we will have more information for you and an eventual review as that date approaches.