Kuru Kuru Kururin
Reviewed by MaxH
A basic puzzle game that makes you think 'Why hasn't
this been done before?', Kuru Kuru Kururin (Which,
thankfully, didn't undergo a name change along the
lines of' Magical duck's spinning stick) is a
charming and difficult game, and the best game of the
GBA's launch. It's quite a simple concept, you must
guide a slowly rotating stick of varying colours
around a long and winding course with lots of corners
to take and obstacles to evade.
The story that Nintendo have slotted in with this is
presented in truly Japanese fashion. Basically, you
are Kururin and all of your brothers and sisters have
got 'lost' around the world. You must go and save
them. The dialogue is so devoid of personality it's
almost as if the characters don't give a toss whether
the duck family is reunited again. Lines such as 'Oh
your brothers and sisters have gone missing' and 'Yes
the certainly have, how about that' litter the story
sections and are amusingly bland (Although obviously
I've exaggerated). And it all comes to a head with an
awful awful ending sequence in which the mother
doesn't seem to have acknowledged that her children
were missing it all. Why she'd have wanted them back
in the first place I don't know, since she seems
content in leaving them hanging on a bush.
So fine, the story isn't anything to shout (Or even
produce a mild cough) about. But Kuru Kuru Kururin
(It's extremely hard to type, so I'll call it Kuru. I
think I'll avoid branding it KKK for obvious reasons)
is ALL about gameplay. I've seen many say it's a
title that you can't just pick up and play, and that
it takes a lot of intense hours of play to get into,
but this isn't what I found. Although the game does
get more engrossing as you go along, I thought Kuru
was instantly accessible and enjoyable.
Apart from the basic get from the beginning of the
winding maze (Well, it's very occasionally a maze) to
the other, there are other gameplay elements. You are
given three hearts at the beginning of each level, if
you hit the wall or an object (Such as a spiked
cannon ball) then you will lose one heart. I think
you can guess what happens when you lose all three.
Scattered across some of the trickier levels are
'heart squares'. Moving onto these replenishes your
health fully. Otherwise you must search the levels
for small flashing circles representing your family,
and other circles that made my stick flash for a
little while in amazing colors (It couldn't have been
invincibility because it was literally flashing for a
second). So I have no idea what that did.
There are also springs which change the direction of
your stick's rotation. These can both help and hinder
your progress depending on the corner you are about
to face (Luckily the map option lets you have a view
of the whole of the level at any time). So to know
when to use the springs requires tactical thinking.
And while Kuru eases you in gently, once it's got
going it's immensely difficult and often infuriating.
Although lots of thought is required, this game is
all about timing. You'll have to completely meld your
thumb with the D-Pad before you navigate your way to
victory on the final castle levels (Unless you count
the secret level. I won't give anything away though).
And the thing is, although it's hard and often pushes
you to the limit, it's a vast and enthralling game
that is impossible to dislike. Although it may not
have the simplicity and addictiveness of Tetris, it
has far more variety. It may not be as timeless as
Tetris but, in truth, it is more deserving of your
attention. The course design is sheer genius.
Screeching around the tight corners and bouncing off
the springs will have you waving your GBA in the air
in succession with the stick movement. It's just an
incredibly good idea executed with flawless design
and probably the best learning curve ever found in a
puzzle game. The story and multiplayer (Which I'll
get to in a minute) may seem tacked on rather than
important, but what Kuru offers in gamepay more than
makes up for it. Never a dull moment, and I'd be
surprised to see it described as anything below
However, if you're buying this for the multiplayer,
you won't get much. I only tried it out because I was
planning to review the game, and the kindest way I
can describe it is 'fair'. It pits you and your
opponents in the levels in what is basically a race
to the finish line. It's certainly not awful, just
completely unmemorable. In a game that is such a
deep, involving experience that demands
concentration, you can't really expect multiplayer madness.
So does it last the test of time? Certainly, there
are loads of levels many of them extremely difficult.
And for a puzzle game they are strangely memorable.
Every level is always harder than the last, so it can
further it's challenge subtly. It takes the player
along as far as that player can go. Whether they can
make it to the very end is all down to their skill,
Kuru's nothing if not fair. And playing for better
times is a good excuse to race (Or, more often than
not, stop pause and think) your way around your
favourite levels. And also there is that secret level
to unlock. You can't bear to leave that uncovered
when you know the challenge will be so gripping, can
you? Can you fishcakes. Of COURSE you can't.
And with the gameplay all in place, it wouldn't be
surprising to find a bland lifeless look to the game.
Far from it. Although not exactly a showcase of the
GBA's abilities, it's a vibrant colourful game that
never ceases to please the eye. The level 'worlds'
(Jungle, ice, castle etc) are all wonderfully
realised in cartoony style, and there's a surprising
amount of details. Cogs and pistons twist and turn in
the background of the factory level and the cake
level is littered with delicious looking sweets and
the like. Everything just looks so busy and fun. Just
like the game really. The character animation too, is
superb. Most of the characters are just ducks, but
they've all been given a 'personality' of sorts,
there's prostitute duck (Excessive lipstick and
mascara) and my personal favourite beefy duck, who
looks as if he's trying to defy constipation. Oh, and
MaxH loves the flashy effects, they make him drool.
But enough about my mental deficiencies, what of the
sound? Well, it's the usual cheery Jap techno but
slightly more catchy than usual. They also set the
mood quite well. The factory ones are mechanical in
rhythm and the castle levels are accompanied by a
sinister (Well not really, but it tries) and less
upbeat track. The sound effects are wonderful, when
you crash into the wall a dramatic glass shattering
sound will come into effect. Okay, so that's the only
sound effect, but it's a brilliant one. SMASHHHH! It
Never gets old.
I should also dedicate a paragraph to the voicework.
there's only one line in the entire game, but it's
absolutely wonderful. In fact it's the title, that's
all. But the excited young Japanese girl who
performed it has (I think) exceeded any past records
of speech speed. You have to hear it a few times
before you realise it's not her just having some sort
of epileptic fit. That's the Japanese for you.
Overall Kuru is an absolute classic. With no hype and
fairly poor sales, it will never get the recognition
it deserves. No, it isn't as mind-shatteringly
addictive as Tetris. But there's so much variation,
fun and challenge to be had that I can't imagine
there's anyone who wouldn't enjoy it (Once they got
over the initial difficulty of course). You must have
this game, if not for the dangerously absorbing and
novel fun on offer then at least for the sight of a
Stick with this
+ A learning curve that nears perfection.
+ A genuinely original idea, faultlessly executed
+ Clever level design that rewards exploration and
+ Once it has you in it's grip it will never stop.
Prepare to dream about spinning sticks!
+ It does have a good lasting challenge
+ It's very replayable, beating your best times is
better incentive to play on than it is in most other games.
+ There's no luck here, it's all about refining skill.
+ Cutesy, but vivid and likeable visual style
Stick it in the bin
- Vile (but amusing) piece of excrement story
- Once you've got very good (About halfway through,
or soon after) it becomes a lot less difficult.
- And that means it ends sooner than you'd like it to.
- Well it's a puzzler, so essentially it's the same
level task repeated over and over again.
If you like this....
Tetris - various systems (Best on gameboy Color): The
ultimate puzzle game. As simple as simple can be, but
the most timeless piece of software ever.
Bust-a-Move 2 - various systems (Best in the arcade):
Yes, another shape moving puzzle. But it's the best
one besides Tetris, and different enough to warrant
it's classic status.
Overall: 9 out of 10