Version tested: GameBoy Advance
Round and round and round...
KuruKuru Kururin is one of a rare breed of modern games which manages to transport players back to when videogaming was about pure gameplay. There's nothing fancy about Kururin, it's just pure Japanese lunacy, and incredibly addictive with it. The developer has attempted something resembling a storyline, which has absolutely no bearing on the game and is just there for completeness' sake. Basically, a mother duck has lost her 10 baby ducklings (at least... I think they're ducks), and it's up to you as Kururin the swirly-headed duck to take flight in your curiously slow-moving helicopter and find each of your brothers and sisters. This all equates to a game which involves you piloting a spinning stick around narrow mazes trying to avoid the walls... like I said: lunacy. To liken it to something real world, you should think of those games at fairgrounds where you have to negotiate a metal wand around a curving metal bar without touching it, and it offers the same kind of adrenaline rush as people tend to duck and weave as they play. The main portion of the game is the Adventure mode which takes you on a linear route through 11 different "worlds" each comprised of several circuits to navigate. The journey begins in a short 5-level training section just to show you the ropes of controlling your stick, however you pick up extra tips during short mission briefings once you set out on your way. The task of finding your siblings isn't always as simple as passing through the level carefully, and as the mazes become far more complex and tricky to traverse you find yourself having to search hard for them. The learning curve from start to finish is a wonderfully crafted slope, with levels starting from the pitifully easy to the downright infuriating.
Against the clock
Graphically the game is almost sickeningly cheerful, packed to the gills with colourful epilepsy-inducing setpieces and cute animated backgrounds, but it doesn't particularly push the GBA to its limits which is especially important for the Versus mode. In this, you get to take on up to four friends using just the one cart and link-up cables in races around any of the 50 smaller "challenge" levels, which are also available in a single-player challenge mode. As if simply getting from one end of the mazes to another wasn't enough, you can also try and set time-trial records on every single level in the game, and it's on this that the game harnesses some precious longevity, as it's utterly compelling to keep going back and try to beat your own, your friends or the pre-set times. Also throughout your journey, you occasionally come across small flashing icons which contain upgrades for your stick which don't actually serve to help your quest in any way, only to make your rotating rod of wonder more eye-catching. These upgrades include the ability to change the shape from straight to wavy or to give it a fetching coat of hearts, and you can also apply a variety of paintjobs to add a bit more interest - for some reason it becomes absolutely crucial to locate every single one of the powerups in order to feel fulfilled, and the ability to backtrack to earlier levels in case you missed one enables you to do just that.
There isn't another puzzle game available on the GBA at the moment that can rival KuruKuru Kururin for its sheer addictiveness and fun-value. It's a fantastic example of quick fix gaming at its finest, and you'll undoubtably keep coming back to it as much as we do. As one of the distinguished launch titles for the GBA, it shouldn't be ignored by anyone and particularly not first time buyers. This is an essential purchase.
9 / 10