I've had an itch for pick-up-and-play, arcade-like experiences lately, which nudged me in the direction of an imported copy of Kururin Paradise to play on my lovely Game Boy Micro. And it’s reminded me of how much craft large teams poured into decidedly lower budget handheld game back when the majority of the market only consisted of these two, very distinct worlds of console and handheld.
Much has been written
about Kuru Kuru Kururin before here, but for the uninitiated, you pilot a helicopter (a helirin
) through a series of puzzle mazes in search of the level goal. Except it's not really anything that resembles a helicopter; it's a constantly spinning stick as seen from above and the direction it’s facing determines where you can lead it on the way to the goal.
The beauty of Kururin is it’s an idea that can serve an entire game and then some, much like Super Monkey Ball, which has you rotating a maze to guide your simian to each level goal. That's reflected in the game's name, where "Kururin" is Japanese for "spin".
What sequel Kururin Paradise has to offer, then, is an expanded version of this very concept. In the first game, your stick only spun at a set speed, making harder levels feel a lot more restrictive than they ought to. It was too easy to be stuck waiting for your stick to rotate back round to where you needed it to, and it meant there could only be a certain number of ways to tackle some of the trickier levels as a result.
Paradise lets you speed up your stick’s rotation with the R button, and it’s revelatory. Impatient players like myself can use this new move to try and “game” the game as much as possible, calculating when and where to speed up the stick’s rotation ahead of any upcoming obstacles and never slow down on the way to the goal.
Above and beyond opening up new opportunities to attempt speed runs, it simply gives you so much more control in dodging obstacles, and this is reflected in the game’s level designs. One level sees you try to avoid ghosts that latch onto your helicopter, slowing down its movement. Another sees you dodge a plethora of flames, danmaku style. There are minigames which ask you to perform abstract tasks – like mowing a lawn – against the clock. This all wouldn’t be possible in the game's predecessor.
I really enjoyed my time playing through Kururin Paradise. It has all the hallmarks of a great Game Boy Advance game: A super solid gameplay concept, excellent use of sprite scaling, beautiful pixel art sprites and backgrounds, and a catchy soundtrack that also manages to make use of Game Boy backwards compatibility.
There’s a GameCube sequel: Kururin Squash. I've yet to play my copy of the game, but when I do it’ll certainly be interesting to find out whether Eighting can improve the core gameplay concept once more with the addition of analogue control…