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Animal Kororo DS is an extremely cute puzzle world populated by round, smiling creatures. Beneath this saccharine exterior lies a deceptively challenging microcosm built on strict time limits and careful strategy.
My neighbour's new kitten was a sweet little thing. It was so tiny and soft, and everyone would "ooh" and "aaah" as it curled up and went to sleep in their lap. It's hard not to feel affection for such a tiny creature.
The adorable kitten soon grew up and revealed its true identity. It would run wild, terrorise the local wildlife, and scratch at anyone who tried to stop it. It was still cute, but we knew better than to mess with it. Animal Kororo is a bit like that.
It's almost too cute, but I have to admit I'm not immune to the charms of cartoon animals.
The fantasy world of Animal Kororo is simple to understand. A hole appears in the Kororo Kingdom, and all the Kororo have fallen through and need your help to find their way back home. Oh no! I'll save you little creatures! It's almost too cute, but I have to admit I'm not immune to the charms of cartoon animals. I found myself smiling at the cheerful artwork in spite of myself.
Starting Animal Kororo I needed to choose a Piggy or a Bunny Koro. I chose the Piggy, which is apparently friendly but scatterbrained. I was then all set-up to start earning currency to decorate their home.
Animal Kororo is a puzzle game built on a very simple concept - Kororo are spherical animals, which are good at rolling in straight lines. They only stop when they hit something and so the aim is to roll Kororo around a grid to form matching pairs of animals, which then disappear.
Obstacles, time limits, and random positioning of Kororo increase the challenge level. You are also limited to rolling in only one direction per turn. It all sounds simple enough, but it's surprisingly tricky to complete levels within the time limit. There are three game modes, although I didn't try the multiplayer mode.
Challenge Mode requires you to clear all the Kororo on the board, while navigating any obstacles and hazards in the way. This really is the most difficult mode, and itís possible to put yourself in an unwinnable position. Rolling into hazardous spikes is an instant game over. The challenge is to think ahead under strict time pressure to avoid getting any Koro stuck in dangerous or awkward positions, where they cannot be matched up successfully.
I went in expecting a game to match the candy-floss coating, and discovered the whole thing is actually kind of mean.
It's tricky to set the difficulty level appropriately in puzzle games. The most satisfying examples provide a challenge without becoming too frustrating and that balance is different for everyone. In this case, the difficulty ramps up fairly quickly, and although three difficulty settings help, they aren't quite tuned as I would expect. The Easy difficulty setting was achievable, Normal was a decent challenge, and Hard was far too brutal for my reflexes and brainpower to cope with. I would have liked to see it increased to four difficulty levels, to give younger or lower-skilled players a bit more to work with.
I don't mind a challenge - Demon's Souls and the Monster Hunter series are even some of my favourite games, but Animal Kororo tripped me up by being trickier than the bright, all-ages-friendly exterior might suggest. I went in expecting a game to match the candy-floss coating, and discovered the whole thing is actually kind of mean.
Life is full of these kinds of deceptions, but I'm used to being able to predict the nature of game microcosms more easily. Expectations count for a lot, and I was disappointed Animal Kororo wasn't more relaxing and accessible.
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