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A.P.I Review: KULA WORLD
Developer: Game Design Sweden OPTIONS: S.SHOT
SCREENSHOTS:
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Sony 1-2 Player
Game Type: Puzzle Memory Card
Review Date: July 1998 Standard Joypad

Setting the Scene

What gamer doesn't rise to the challenge when faced with a damn good 
puzzle game?  Sadly the Playstation is lacking in this department with 
only a handful of quality tiles presently available.  

3D Lemmings was the first to appear on the 32-bit games system and offered 
much in a visual context but retained so little of that addictive gameplay 
that led it to become everyone's favorite pastime when first unleashed on 
the Commodore Amiga. The only other titles worthy of a mention are 
Bust-a-Move 1 & 2, Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo and the mind 
numbing Kurushi.

Well it's time to rejoice because Sony have picked up on a game from 
the strangely named developers Game Design Sweden and it's a cracker.

Genre

Kula World is a highly addictive puzzle game which involves guiding 
a beachball around a network of suspended cubes that form an elaborate 
maze.  Your main objective is to find the keys that will unlock the exit 
by rolling forward, turning left or right and occasionally jumping.  
It may sound complicated but the game has such a gentle learning curve 
which is guaranteed to draw you in and keep you hooked until the early 
hours of the morning.

Graphics

Perhaps the reason for naming this game Kula World is because visually 
it looks so cool and original.  As each level begins the camera quickly 
pans the entire playing area before swooping in to settle down on a first 
person perspective view behind the beachball.  Using the directional buttons 
to look left and right I was amazed at the clarity of the high resolution 
graphics.  The multi-colored beachball comes in a variety of bright shades 
and outrageous patterns and when glued to the spot appears to be breathing 
in and out.  The suspended cubed maze on which it is resting takes on many 
appearances such as smooth sandstone blocks covered with Egyptian style 
engravings, dark and dusty cubes of pointed brickwork, many styles of hand 
carved timber boxes, cubes of ice, solid steel crates, invisible glass blocks... 
the list goes on and on, but each is a perfect graphical representation of 
the material used.

Scattered all around the maze are a selection of collectibles.  Golden keys 
pirouette in suspended animation, various types of succulent fruit look good 
enough to eat, sparkling jewels await confiscation while multi-colored coins 
forever spin on their ends.  As you advance through the levels you will 
doubtlessly come across a selection of tempting capsules.  Beware of these 
drugs as some have a hallucinogenic effect and when collected your sight 
becomes temporarily impaired creating the effect of blurred and unstable 
vision which makes you feel extremely dizzy and disorientated.

The game is set in a fully three dimensional world in which you can rotate 
the cubed platform through 360°.  To help you decide on your next movement 
the shoulder buttons are used to look down at platforms below or above at 
over-hanging ledges.  To help get your bearings the suspended maze is 
surrounded by a misty blue sky above and a hazy desert below.  If you look 
carefully through the misty clouds you can just make out the position of the 
sun which can be used for a compass bearing.  Of course some of the levels 
take place at night therefore you can only use memory and wits to find your 
way through the darkness.

Sounds and Effects

Most of the time your mind will be too occupied to take notice of any 
sound effects or game music.  There isn't really a great deal to report on 
concerning the sound effects department - the ball has a hollow bouncing 
sound, each coin gathered offers a crisp chinking noise, a jewel is rewarded 
with a rather pleasant jingle while collection of a segment of fruit provides 
a juicy slurping sound.

The background music is fine for this type of brain blasting game being 
neither offensive on the ears nor grinding to the nerves.  
All very pleasant stuff.

Playability

I was dreading the point in this review where I had to explain how you 
play the game, but alas, here I am.  I will try to keep this as simple as 
possible but bare in mind that to play is far easier than to describe.

There are two modes of play for the single player game and a further two for 
the two player game.  As a single player game Kula World offers a Time Trial 
against the clock.  You begin with a set amount of time on the clock depending 
on the level of difficulty.  Select easy mode and you get a massive 26 seconds 
head start to complete the first level, while hard gives you only a measly 6 
seconds - barely long enough to fall off.  Your times are accumulated and you 
may continue through the levels as long as you remain in credit.

The preferred single player game begins when choosing Arcade mode.  
At the start of each level a small hour-glass sand timer appears at the top of 
the screen.  It's is the sort of gadget that was once found in many kitchens 
to record the time it takes to boil an egg.  You have the length of time that 
it takes the sand to run out of the top section and into the bottom to reach 
the level exit.  To the lower left of the screen are a set number of symbols 
which denotes how many keys must be found to open the exit.  These usually 
range in numbers from one to three but having only completed 100 of the 250 
game levels this may change later.  

As soon as the timer begins you must quickly negotiate the 3D maze to find 
all of the required keys.  Your beachball may move one square forward, turn 
left and right or jump down onto a lower level of the maze.  Although the 
ball can roll on any side of the platforms, it can only change sides at 
specific end points, which act like junctions in a maze. Once all of the 
keys have been discovered, the exit is opened but you may wish to use up 
any spare time to collect as many bonus items as possible.  Should you 
collect every single item then your level score increases dramatically.  
Should you fail to reach the exit before the sand runs out then every single 
point you have collected, plus a penalty bonus (being 200 times the level 
number i.e.. level 10 x 100 = 1,000 points), is deducted from your total.

Here is an example of level one.  Collect the key and go to the exit rewards 
you with 1000 points.  These are carried through to the next level.  However 
should you collect the key, an apple and two coins then reach the exit before 
time runs out you are awarded a whopping 4,000 points to carry through.  Now 
should you collect 2,000 points on the second level but fail to reach the exit 
in your allowed time then the 2,000 points are deducted plus a penalty of 200 
(level 2 x 100= = 200).  The 2,200 points are deducted from the 4,000 to leave 
you with 1,800 to try the level again.  Run out of points and it's game over.  
Thankfully your progress can be saved after every six levels which should 
allow you to protect those precious points.

Certain levels are impossible to complete in the allowed time therefore you 
must seek out one of the spare hour-glass sand timers that are spread across 
the level.  Take care when collecting one of these time bonuses because rather 
than increase the allowed time it actually flips your original sand timer 
upside down.  Therefore collecting one of these when you have only used up 
20 seconds actually leaves you with only 20 seconds to complete the level.  
However, grab one with 3 seconds left and you will have then only used up 3 
seconds of the game time.

Moving further into the game you will come across many different types of 
hazards and obstacles but surprisingly I found none of these remotely 
frustrating.  As soon as you begin to bore with a certain style of level, 
up pops a save point and the whole scenery, type of puzzle and game challenge 
completely changes to offer a fresh test of your brains and reflexes.  
Each one presents the player with a unique test of mental agility. Some of 
the hazards you can expect to face include spikes that will burst your ball, 
ice patches which send you skating off the edge of the platform, and fire which 
will ultimately melt your ball.

              
Of course which puzzle game would be complete without a two player mode.  
Here you may take on another player in a timed battle to complete each 
level in sequence.  Players take alternate turns and the difference in 
times is accumulated to provide a game score.  
The second two player mode is a game called Copy Cat.  
It is very similar to the old memory game 'I went to market'.  
Player one makes any two moves which player two must copy and then add 
on two further moves of their own.  Player one must then do all four 
moves, and add two more. This continues until someone makes a mistake. 

Value for Money

If you like a puzzle game then you will just love Kula World.  
It's fresh! It's addictive!  It's gripping good fun!  
Throw out the Tetris, there's a new Kool-a Kid on the block.
Opinion
MARTIN
GRAPHICS: 18/20 What I loved most about Kula World is that rather than just make each group of levels more and more difficult with less and less time to complete, you are offered a fresh challenge using new ideas after every half dozen levels.

Therefore, when reaching level 90 the game does not become a massive maze that is frustratingly impossible to complete in a ridiculous time but a similar size playing area that uses a brand new set of enigmas and perceptions. Brilliant.

Every so often a game comes along with gameplay that is so uncomplicated and incredibly easy to pick up, and yet is so fiendishly addictive you find yourself unable to put it down. Kula World is one of those games.
SOUND: 5/10
PLAYABILITY: 48/50
VALUE: 19/20
OVERALL 90%

 

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