Posted by Sean Aaron
Rolling, rolling, rolling, keep that ball rolling...
Nintendo's WiiWare service has had some good platforming games on it right from the start and Pallurikio is the latest entry in the genre. While it's certainly a well-constructed game featuring a round protagonist without legs, it lacks sufficient personality to stand out in an increasingly crowded WiiWare marketplace.
When you first fire up the main game mode you're treated to a short comic book intro laying out a Jumanji-esque story about kids entering an abandoned house, where they find an old board game and - of course - get sucked into it. Apparently the titular ball is one of the kids and his dog trying to navigate through the various game worlds to get to safety (though nowhere in the game proper is this story referenced at all.) It has no bearing on the game and is completely tacked-on, but the art is nice enough and if you require all your games to have a story, this will get the ball rolling.
There's a nice tutorial which will show you the play mechanics, moves and objectives. Pallurikio is played using the Remote pointer and the button, but despite the simplicity of the controls you have a lot of influence over Pallurikio's journey. Pressing causes the ball to move in the direction of a pointer-controller cursor. The distance from the ball and orientation of the cursor determine the strength and arc of the ball launch. Taking off from a horizontal surface will give you the greatest initial boost and you can hit the button a second time for another, weaker jump, which is handy for course corrections or reaching a special item or wall just out of reach. If you hit any other non-horizontal surface you can perform additional weak jumps and in this way navigate through the game's fifty main levels and five bonus stages.
The fifty main levels are divided into five groups of ten, with each grouping being a different "world" with an unique theme as has been seen in platforming games since the dawn of time. There's a city world, ice world, tiki world, space world and medieval world (and then the bonus "land of chocolate".) The different worlds have different art design, but there are common elements in the form of hazards and switches to unlock different parts of the levels. Your goal in every case is to get from the start to the finish grabbing swirled "sweets," stars and cards along the way for bonus points. There's a time gauge constantly running down and you'll find clock items to boost that, giving you extra time to get to the exit or grab those extra bonus items.
Hazards take the form of surfaces or objects that result in instant death, which means going back to the start or most recent checkpoint. Your game will end if you run out of time; otherwise you just carry on navigating vertically and horizontally through moving and static obstacles to reach your goal. Bonus items collected during a single attempt will stay collected, but all hazards reset. If you run out of time you have the option to restart from scratch, but there are no continues. Some of the levels are quite tricky to navigate, but checkpoints are plentiful and the simple controls and good level design mean even people who are rubbish at platform games have a decent chance of completing all fifty levels given sufficient patience (a good thing since there's no adjustable difficulty.)
There's a decent enough variety amongst the ten levels in each world and each world changes things up a bit from the previous one with slippery ice world surfaces or funny gravity games in the space levels. The designs are nice enough with background animations using a parallax effect to convey the sense of distance from the main game area and everything has a good amount of visual polish to it. The sound effects and music are okay, but nothing special and this is ultimately the main problem with the game: it's competently executed, but there's nothing to really grab you - no "wow" factor that invites a replay. You can collect all the cards to unlock five bonus levels (which are also insanely difficult, having fewer checkpoints and far more difficult hazards - we're talking Super Mario Bros. 3 "repeat death syndrome" here), and there's a time attack mode where you try to do speed runs through the levels, but really once you've played through a level, it's just not interesting enough to do it again.
Pallurikio isn't a bad game, but it's just not a terribly interesting one. Playstos should be commended for putting out a nicely constructed piece of bug-free software that will occupy platforming fans for several hours. In the end, the biggest issue is that it's just not special enough to give a firm recommendation when there are other, better games in the same genre available.