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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 brilliance. 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 constipated duck. Stick with this + A learning curve that nears perfection. + A genuinely original idea, faultlessly executed + Clever level design that rewards exploration and punishes impatience + 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 + SMASHHHHH 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

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