Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Obscure Retro Gems - Kuru Kuru Kururin (Gameboy Advance)

You spin me right round

I must admit, I am having an absolute ball with casual games these days. Whether on my Android phone, or via the excellent emulation on offer on the PSP, I have been blissfully immersing myself in quick fire games that are easy to pick up and and play, yet extremely hard to put down. Old school arcade games and action puzzlers are my current genres of choice, and I have been loving such addictive titles as Amazing Penguin (Game Boy), Klax and Doki Doki Penguin Land (Mega Drive), Cameltry (Arcade), and now Kuru Kuru Kururin on the Gameboy Advance.

Ready for action. Our hero comes to the rescue!

A bizarre title for a game, certainly, and even more surprising that it kept this moniker for it's European release. That it ever saw the light of day on these shores is both a shock and a blessing, as the game is absolutely dripping with Japanese insanity. The story involves an odd duck-like creature being asked by a panic stricken mother to locate her offspring who vanished when she turned her back for a minute. Rather than fly, our hero takes to the skies in a bizarre helicopter craft of some sort. It also has a duck head as the cockpit. Did I mention this game is weird yet? Well anyway, off you go to locate and rescue the missing critters in a top down action puzzle game that will leave you feeling like someone with ADHD who has eaten too much sugary treats.

Navigating around bends is what makes up the bulk of the game.

The game uses a top down viewpoint, so you see the rotating helicopter blade as a stick that turns in a circle. It constantly rotates very slowly in a clockwork motion, and your objective is to move this stick through the maze to the end without touching the sides. It couldn't be simpler, right? Well, not really. You see, apart from the fairly easy training stages, most of the maze is too narrow to accommodate your rotating craft. This means that you have to move at the exact right time in order to successfully navigate your way to the end without brushing against anything. So, for example, if the maze curves round in a U-bend to the right, you must start moving around the bend as your stick is at the correct position and will rotate with the curve. It's a lot simpler to grasp than my clumsy description would lead you to believe. If you think back to those wire buzzers they had at County Fairs, where you must move the metal loop along without touching the wire, then you will have some idea of the type of gameplay on offer here.

Using spaces like these to wait until you are rotating with the curves is key to your survival

The graphics are eye-meltingly bright and cheerful, with flashing lights and colours that bring to mind a circus or Las Vegas – heck, even the end of level point resembles a flashing roulette wheel – but it always remains clear and precise and never confuses you to the point where you make mistakes. The audio is also exceptionally cutesy and lively, with catchy tunes and fun sound effects adding greatly to the zaniness of the experience. I love the look of the game and it reminds me of the wonderful Cameltry, only with more vivid colours and more likelihood of an epileptic seizure.

As you rescue the little 'uns, they appear on this love branch to chill out.

Kuru Kuru isn't just a pretty face, though as it contains some of the most maddeningly addictive gameplay you will find anywhere. The concept is so simple, that anyone can pick the game up and instantly understand what to do. The hard part, like any puzzle game worth its salt, is mastering it. Navigating your stick via the D-pad couldn't be easier and is extremely intuitive. The slow rotation speed of your craft and the laid back nature of the first set of stages means you can ease into the game slowly and get your bearings before things start to get tough. The learning curve is perfectly set, with new objects and trickier mazes introduced at a steady pace, so you will soon be adept at using the springs that reverse your rotational direction and using small breathing spaces to ready yourself for the next tricky section. Your craft can take 3 hits before being destroyed, with each hit adding 3 seconds to your time, but there are large heart panels dotted sparingly throughout the stages which restore your life bar to the max. There are also flashing objects that you can collect which grant you new shapes and colours for your craft, which can be customised via the main menu – this has no effect on gameplay, but it's still nice to pimp your stick.

You can get some funky looking stick modifications along the way.

The main adventure mode - in which you tackle the stages in order over 11 different worlds - tasks you with rescuing the flock of runaway ducklings. They can be located on certain stages and, once collected, will sit on your craft until you reach the end. Once rescued, you can add them as a permanent fixture via the customisation screen. Who wouldn't want a bunch of fluffy pals sitting on their stick? (hmm, that sounded a bit weird). If the game is too hard for you then you can always select easy mode, which shortens the length of your stick, but everybody knows that size does matter, so best stick with Normal mode.

Success! It is time to breath a sigh of relief and enjoy the fireworks.

There is also a time trail mode that gives you new, more compact, stages to tackle in a race against the clock. These are also great fun, but are maddening difficult at times, as you feel far more pressurised when the clock is ticking down. You can also use practice mode to sharpen your skills, and there is even a link up multiplayer mode – though I am unable to test this out (you try finding anyone else out there with a GBA and a copy of this game to play against, in person!).

Collecting the little critters is the main objective of Adventure Mode.

Overall, Kuru Kuru Kururin is bloody great fun. It is visually appealing – like watching a fireworks display at a carnival – and has a great sense of fun and madness in equal measures. It is also more addictive than crack, and will drive you just as crazy at times. You will be hooked from the offset, but be prepared for some tense times as youryour palms get sweaty and you try to resist the urge to blink in case you hit the sides. You will laugh, you will swear, but you will certainly be having lots of fun – and at the end of the day, isn't that why we waste the precious hours we have on this planet staring at these colourful lights on a small screen? (note – this is a hypothetical question. You do not have to answer).

So grab a slice of bonkers Japanese puzzle action and just remember to blink once in a while!

Title : Kuru Kuru Kururin

Developer : Eighting

Publisher : Nintendo

Year : 2001

System : Gameboy Advance