Kororinpa: Marble Mania - hands-on

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz is already out, so do we really need another rolling-things-through-a-maze game for the Wii? Simple answer: sure. This one's different and fun in its own way. In our brief playtime with the game, we came to grips with the control instantly, which is always a pleasure. And after that, it became obvious that this game offers a different sort of challenge than Super Monkey Ball.

The mazes in Kororinpa: Marble Mania are just that... mazes. The levels in Super Monkey Ball tend to be almost more like tracks - but Marble Mania has you dealing with multi-layered levels of twisty passages, tubes and traps. The difference sounds subtle... but it definitely lends this game its own distinct flavor when you play.

What's very cool is that you'll end up twisting the world completely around - almost upside down - as you navigate, as what was once a wall becomes your floor. The level design can get pretty aggressively tricky to deal with.

The down-to-earth ball in Kororinpa also behaved differently than the bouncy monkeys of SMB - and, apparently, you can choose a ball that best suits your needs. We were able to take on the world with an inflated pug dog, yipping and barking as it tumbled through a world made of desserts (and later, levels created from pieces of two-lane blacktop highway.) Other balls look different but also behave differently, being heavier or lighter and bouncing higher or lower, creating different styles of play.

While the game doesn't feature a minigame festival like SMB - or many other Wii games, for that matter - it does support two-player races. We didn't get to check those out, but given that it took real finesse to get quick times on the mazes, this might be appealing... if you can find a friend who gets really hardcore about Marble Mania, that is.

We liked what we saw; the game was just simple fun, the kind of simple fun the Wii has been promising since long before it came out. Marble Mania looked polished and ready to roll (no surprise, as it's already out in Japan.) We'll fill you in when we get the final version, due this spring.