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What a Gas

This panda is flatulent. Every step he takes. Every move he makes. This panda needs Beano. Why do this panda’s rumblings remind me of Tim Allen’s grunts more than magic-store whoopee cushions?

Flatulent Panda (my nickname for him; he doesn’t have a real name) adds cuteness to "Kororinpa: Marble Mania." His friends are cute, too — a meowing cat, an oinky pig, a squeaky penguin and more than a dozen other little, round creatures you guide through mazes.

This is a simple game. "Kororinpa: Marble Mania" is just another "Marble Madness"-type brain teaser. You control a marble. No, actually, you control gravity. You tilt gravity to make the marble roll. Over and over. Is it repetitive? You bet. Addictive? Absolutely.

If you get tired of playing as a marble, that’s when you can choose to roll around a different item. These items are panda and pals. Some animal marbles (and watermelon marbles) roll faster or slower than others.

Flatulent panda is fuzzy, so he rolls a little less hurried. This helps you roll him across the hardest, roller coaster-esque mazes, and wobble him across tightropes made of warped, wooden floors, riddled with nutty dents, bridges and ramps.

Guiding marbles around mazes sounds easy, but it’s not. It’s a physics challenge.

Your marble/panda always starts someplace silly, like rolling along an empty highway suspended 40 stories in the air, above a city, while a blimp putters around.

You don’t have to push any buttons. You balance and twist your wireless Nintendo Wii remote in your hands, and the game reads those movements as a means to change gravity. Changing gravity forces the marble forward, back, left and right along the highway’s curves.

There are lots of obstacles. Potholes. Killer laser beams. Other things on your path help you, such as magnets, conveyor belts and cannons that shoot you someplace safe.

But it’s the gravity that gives you fits. It changes suddenly, as if you were walking down stairwells in an M.C. Escher illustration, but then the gravity of the stairs changes to adhere to the wall or ceiling.

Not all the courses are highways. Sometimes roads are made of toy-store playthings, or delicious-looking wafers, chocolates and gumdrops.

Other reviewers seem to enjoy the game but knock it because it offers only several dozen marble courses.

But I’m giving "Kororinpa" a solid three stars out of four, because I can play a lot of these courses repeatedly by using faster-rolling marbles, and it’s a good player vs. player game.

I don’t have young kids, but if I did, this would be a game I’d force on them, for the fun coordination it demands, the science of it, and its "E" rating. It’s a nonviolent Wii game that probably will appeal to my lady friends, as well. They love lighthearted Wii games like this.

It can be easy or hard. You can finish early courses in 30 seconds or three minutes. Later roads can take seven minutes or more.

Those difficult, late stages convinced me to trade in my hard, fast marble for slow Flatulent Panda. He grips courses better than slick marbles and candy ball marbles. Which is strange. You’d think Flatulent Panda would be so gassy, he’d just float away, the little stinker.


("Kororinpa: Marble Mania" retails for $40 for Nintendo Wii — Plays fun. Looks good. Easy to very difficult. Rated "E." Three stars out of four.)

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