There are an abundance of puzzle games on the Nintendo DS, so it's easy for a new one to fall under the radar. Animal Kororo though, is a new game that's rather quirky and it's been brought to Europe by Rising Star Games. Does it manage to stick out from the crowd?
The premise in Animal Kororo is essentially really simple. A huge hole has appeared in the Kororo Kingdom and all the Kororo have fallen through it. Players are asked to choose between a Piggy or Bunny Kororo and are then tasked with aiding them in returning all the Kororo to their home. The task is very simple - a number appears on the upper screen which starts at 0% and when it has reached 100% all the Kororo have been returned safely.
The game has three play modes, one of which is based purely on wi-fi multiplayer. There is a helpful tutorial section as well which explains how the game works, however, most of the features only apply to the Challenge mode. The game is played through the simple use of a rolling mechanic, with several Kororo appearing on the screen in equal pairs. Players must then collide two of the same kind to make them "return" or disappear back to the Kingdom. There is a catch though; rolling Kororo will only stop when they hit the side or another Kororo and players can only move in the order dictated by the right side of the screen. This order follows the set pattern of Left, Up, Right, Down and there is no deviation to this. So the puzzles do actually require some logic to get the Kororo to match up.
Don't be fooled by how simplistic it all sounds though, as all the modes can be played with multiple difficulties and Hard Mode literally borders on being impossible. Time limits are imposed and can be reduced by each pair matched, however, on Hard this really does nothing to the time limit and having lightning reflexes is a necessity. As the stages progress, players are expected to cope with three different objects as well as about 10 different kinds of Kororo. The objects are walls, balls and thorns. The walls when touched will just act as barriers, balls will roll when a Kororo collides with them and thorns result in an instant game over if touched. The game isn't totally unfair to players as each stage can be attempted multiple times if failed and there is no limit to how many attempts a player can make. But by the time a player reaches the later stages of Normal Mode it's quite clear that the game does have a very challenging aspect to it.This challenging aspect sadly comes down once more to the timer again. Later levels will involve players needing to look at the bigger picture. Simply matching Kororo as fast as possible is one thing, but being able to match the last two pairs is another. Certain stages will make it impossible to bring Kororo to one another without touching thorns and inadvertently being forced into a position where players can only lose. The imposing time limit makes it very difficult to initially see a plan that will enable a level to be completed smoothly and in the end it boils down to a certain amount of luck. Part of this is due to the Kororo, as their appearance on each stage is totally random, something which has been done to make the game fun to play multiple times. However, it also makes it hard to figure out how to get around a problem if it constantly changes.
Attack mode on the other hand is much more forgiving in this respect as instead it removes obstacles completely and instead asks that players fill a quota of each Kororo. The stage is swamped in Kororo and then a pair will be spawned approximately every 5 seconds. This seems much more akin to typical puzzlers and is much easier to deal with. However, again on hard the time limit is extremely limited and it's very difficult to keep on the ball, even in the later stages of normal mode.
Graphically the game looks like its designed to please gamers of a younger age, but it's difficulty strongly sways against this. It does have a very cute style to it though and wouldn't totally detract from the older audience - the Kororo also have a rather Japanese anime feel to them. One thing though that will detract is the music. It's not that different to the stylings of the music in PokÃ©mon, but with very limited tracks and an extremely short loop it will, after a short session, stick in a player's head and probably bother them all day. It isn't that it's bad, more that it becomes very repetitive, very fast. Thankfully there is an option to disable the music separately from the sound effects.
The game has quite a lot to unlock, but all the unlockables are only visual. On the upper screen the chosen Kororo has a small room in which they bounce around and chat to the player - they also make rather strange expressions. This room can be decorated via a shop with tables, chairs, racks and goods. Some of which look quite fun but are only really visual. They also cost quite a lot of in-game currency and most would involve repeat play-throughs in order to afford. The potential of making players come back repeatedly to obtain them all is there, but it's not a very strong one. That said, there is always the multiplayer mode too which pits two players up to match Kororo and by doing so each pair made will affect the other player's time limit.
Animal Kororo does something a bit different to most puzzle games and tries to keep things simple. It is enjoyable to play and quite addictive, although it's strictness with the time limit does make the game become more of a chore. Put simply, not being able to work out ones mistakes upon attempting a stage again makes it all the more frustrating. Despite the fact the game has the potential for longevity, it's also just as likely to become very stale, very quickly. If gamers are looking for a game that challenges the mind in terms of making quick decisions, it's probably worth a look. Otherwise there are much better choices out there.