Submitted by: Retro Gamer
Kuru Kuru Kururin debuted on Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance and was a launch game for the console both in Japan and Europe. It’s loosely based on a funfair-style game of skill featured in Japanese TV game show Ucchan Nanchan no Honou no Challenger. The original game involved hapless contestants navigating a large metal stick through a series of awkwardly designed wire mazes and having to prevent it from coming in contact with their barriers to avoid an electric shock. Quite why it’s never made the transition overseas we’ll never know.
Interestingly, Kuru Kuru Kururin wasn’t the first time that this popular TV game show was adapted into a videogame – perhaps the most widely known example being the earlier Irritating Maze/Stick – but it’s certainly the best example. It’s also proved to have the most longevity, spawning two sequels (although they were both released only in Japan). Its creator, Eighting, is a studio that’s far better known for producing shooters and fighting games, with previous works including the Bloody Roar series and popular arcade shooters such as the excellent Battle Garegga, Kingdom Grand Prix and the marvellous Terra Diver. Still going strong today, its more recent projects include Tatsunoko Vs Capcom Ultimate All-Stars, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Marvel Vs Capcom: Fate Of Two Worlds for Capcom.
Kuru Kuru Kururin therefore sticks out like a spinning, duck-piloted glow stick against the studio’s hardcore gaming back catalogue – or rather it would do if it hadn’t fallen under the radars of so many Western gamers, possibly because they were put off by its simplistic visuals and craved something with a bit more power to it. While the franchise failed to carve itself a global following (it wasn’t actually released in the US), the series can be seen as a wonderful dalliance with the puzzle genre for Eighting, one that makes us wish the studio had experimented inside it a bit more. We’ll happily accept this one experiment, however.
While games like Irritating Stick were pretty forgettable, Kuru Kuru Kururin takes the basic concept of getting something through a maze without it hitting anything and expands on it greatly. The most notable tweak it makes is that players are not guiding a static stick but a little duck inside a helicopter, dubbed a Helerin. It’s a great idea, adding character to an otherwise dull inanimate object. Interestingly, Nintendo tried a similar approach with Alleyway on the Game Boy and stuck Mario in a spaceship cum paddle. It didn’t work though, probably because Alleyway was a bit rubbish.
With Kuru Kuru Kururin’s gameplay viewed from above the vehicle, you have the obvious headache of trying to deal with the movement of the chopper’s rotor blades when passing through the winding tunnels and tight corners of the mazes, and naturally this adds a new layer to the gameplay.
In addition, players must also consider springs that are scattered around the mazes. If the Helerin hits a spring, its rotor blades will change from moving clockwise to anticlockwise, or vice versa. Using them soon becomes an essential part of success, though, as many require the blades to be spinning in a certain direction to give you enough room and time to edge through the gaps.
Thankfully though, while Kuru Kuru Kururin does get challenging when you hit its later stages, it does throw you a few lifelines. You have three lives with which to get the Helerin to the maze goal, with a life lost every time a barrier is hit. The stages also generally have at least one health replenish point, which stocks up your hearts and give your nerves a much needed break from the wracking the game continually gives them.
The controls are also sensibly mapped and make life easier. You control the Helerin using the D-pad and can increase its speed by pressing the A and B buttons – pressing them simultaneously makes it move even faster. Kuru Kuru Kururin also has a nice number of play modes and challenges that expand its longevity. The meat of the game is its Adventure mode, which kicks off by pitting players against five easy tutorial stages before unleashing them on 30 themed ones. And this is complemented by a Challenge mode, which adds a further 50 mini-stages to beat.
You can also pick up various accessories for your copter by rescuing birds, which are discovered by venturing off the beaten track and doing a bit of exploring. If all that wasn’t enough, there’s a great multiplayer mode that allows up to four players to link up their consoles and battle to complete the courses first. With lots of puzzles, a nice array of modes and plenty of stages to beat, Kuru Kuru Kururin is a cracking hidden gem for discerning puzzle fans.
Why It’s A Future Classic
To play Kuru Kuru Kururin is to fall in love with it. It’s an excellent puzzler that won’t fail to hook you from the outset thanks to its utterly brilliant concept. Its game world is bold, bright and colourful, its controls wonderfully simple and gameplay incredibly addictive. It has that ‘one more go’ feel in abundance, and the excellence of its gameplay comes from the satisfaction felt when you complete a stage. It’s been a firm favourite in the Retro Gamer office for years, with regular competitions played over many a lunchtime. The real beauty of it is that often you find yourself struggling with a stage, but then all of a sudden everything just clicks into place and it becomes a doddle to complete. When this happens it becomes one of the most rewarding gaming experiences on GBA. If you’re at all a fan of dexterity- and timing-based puzzle games, we urge you to give Kuru Kuru Kururin a spin (that terrible closing pun obviously intended).