We get to grips with this fantastic GameCube import release from Nintendo.
By Jonti Davies
Rotating sticks have been amusing mankind since, quite possibly, the Stone Age. And there remains something ineffably amusing about the prospect of navigating mazes. Combine the two concepts and you have Kuru Kururin Squash - a generous helping of concentrated gameplay genius presented in a lovingly sugarcrafted way.
Before discussing the gameplay (buck trends), we'd like to give special mention to this little game's little soundtrack because it is quite a treat. The tunes in Squash bear all the hallmarks of classic Koji Kondo cuts, but there's some eccentricity in there which can only have arisen as a result of escalator journeys up and down Kyoto's jingle-soundtracked department stores. These are memorable humalong songs.
Now: the game. Those of you who have been paying attention will be well aware of the splendid Kururin Game Boy Advance releases, and if you've had the privilege to play those games there will be little in the series' GameCube debut to rock your world. However, Squash does innovate nicely and is as perfectly playable as its diminutive cousins.
Each game starts out with our lovable friend Kuru (a plump tweety bird not dissimilar to one of Kirby's friends) sat in his extremely narrow craft--that is, The Stick--at the beginning of a twisting maze populated variously with baddies, mines, coins, power-ups, switches and springs. The trick--and it's wonderfully intuitive, so don't bother reading the manual--is to make your way around obstacles and foes while being sure to stop off for coins, power-ups and energy replenishment. Which is easy and straightforward in principle, but, in later stages especially, often devilishly difficult in practice.
The main adventure mode is interspersed with cutscenes which spin a typical children's yarn concerning Kuru and his journey into the unknown. Very nice, and nicely presented too. Time Attack mode puts another spin on matters (sorry) by challenging your rotating stick to speed through tricky courses in the fastest possible time. Both modes complement each other perfectly--yin and yang, salt and pepper, peanut butter and Marmite.
One of the main draws in this GameCube realisation of Kuru Kururin is found in its multiplayer modes. Two, three, or four players can join in races and battles across tight paths, with the screen splitting accordingly. It's not quite in the league of Monkeys and Balls, but Squash does offer some hours of fun for four. And the great thing is, like Super Monkey Ball, anyone can pick up a controller and join the fray: this is communist game design, and we bow to Nintendo's regime.