Inspired by those nasty games in which you have to guide an object through a maze without touching any of the sides (similar in concept to Operation, but with fewer tweezers and removed plastic femurs), the basic gameplay of Kuru Kuru Kururin is to guide a constantly spinning Helirin — a fancy word for a coloured stick — through an ever-vindictive maze of twists, turns, and nasty angles. You can speed up your movement by holding the A or B button, but the rotation velocity will remain constant. Occasionally you'll come across a set of springs that, when touched, will begin you spinning in the opposite direction. At the start of each stage, you're blessed with three hearts, lost by touching the sides of the maze; lose all your hearts, and the level ends. There's no other penalty than that, but having to start all over again is the devil's reward.
There, I've just told you about the gameplay. This isn't rocket science. It's moving a stick around. They may add a few extra ploys to try and pop your magical flying baton, such as throwing pistons or funky metal balls, but it's still just stickplay. And to what end? So you can save all ten of your siblings that were simultaneously daft enough to get lost all over the world that day? That is one heroic stick.
Yes, I'm aware that it's actually the collagen-lipped perriwinkle mallard-like creature...uh...thing, Kururin, in his personal helicopter unit. But my goodness, either the blades are way too long on that vehicle or Kururin can seriously suck in his gut for lengthy periods of time. Considering he's mostly head, I'm guessing he just has oversized blades. Speaking of which, I'm thankful there's an Easy mode that cuts your stick length in half, thus making the game a heck of a lot more enjoyable. Normal is for masochists; Easy is for people who actually like themselves.
Your goal is to get to the end of the maze without touching the sides and as quickly as possible, a feat capable mostly by cyborgs and people with the reflexes of steroid-infused jaguars. I am neither of those things. So I ask Kuru Kuru Kururin, "Do you want it done fast? Or do you want it done right?" And the game will reply, "Both. Now. Or you'll be considered a massive failure." Perhaps not touching the sides is humanly possible with a truckload of patience, but achieving the top time score, for most game players, will simply be too lofty a goal, with little reward to show for it other than being able to say "I did that".
"I'll tell YOU where you can put your stick! ...on Game Boy Advance, that's where!" -Game Designer
The game is broken up into ten worlds of three stages each, not including the brief five-stage tutorial. That's 35 stages in all, and they're relatively short. Some could easily take under thirty seconds. That means that Believe me: once you've completed this game, there will be little incentive to go back, unless you want to punish yourself for stealing a cinnamon bun or something. If you want to pass five or ten minutes at a time while aggravating your organs, pop this into your Game Boy Advance and let the rage reign.
And, should the main Adventure mode not be enough, there is also a Challenge mode with — dare you be surprised? — additional challenges, all involving — dare you be surprised? — more shuffling of a lengthy rotating stick through yet another series of mazes from the fiery depths.
If it's any consolation, Kuru Kuru Kururin is cute. I can't fault them for trying to get the most of the Game Boy Advance's palette. The actual game boards are all 2D top-down graphics, complete with every flashing casino colour available to human hands, while the very brief cutscenes (filled with conversation straight out of a first-grader's writing notebook) are stuffed with pre-rendered 3D graphics of the lowest-budget caliber. For a Game Boy Advance launch title, it looks decent. The game's soundtrack is generally peppy and upbeat, likely designed to keep you feeling positive in spite of the insurmountable odds of actually being a champion in this game. It's seemingly aimed more at a younger audience. (Too bad a younger audience won't be able to finish this.)
But we must remember: there's an audience for everything. Someone's going to really love this game. That person is not me, however, because to me, this game simply doesn't have a strong pull factor. Kuru Kuru Kururin is just like that game Labyrinth where you twist and turn a wooden board to move a silver ball through a maze to a hole at the other end, except this time, there are more hazards, your piece can explode, and I still can only get a few minutes' pleasure out of it.
Kuru Kuru Kururin received two sequels, both of which stayed in Japan. Guess they enjoy playing with sticks more than we do.