Developed By: Devilish Games
Published By: Flynn’s Arcade
Release Date: 12.24.20
The best formula for an addictive game is to take a concept that is easy to understand and marry it to a steadily increasing level of difficulty. Today’s game, Kolumno for the Nintendo Switch, nails the first part of the formula, but maybe gets a bit too finicky with its controls to be as consistently enjoyable as it could be. The objective of the game is fairly simple; you have to roll a marble down a cylinder as obstacles rotate around the cylinder. If you hit one of the obstacles, you have to restart the level. You can’t control the marble after you start your roll; you have to let gravity do the work. One of the keys to the game is finding the proper timing to drop your marble down the side of the cylinder to find the proper path through the obstacles.
Just finding paths would be a fairly interesting concept all its own, but would probably get old within just a few levels. Luckily, Kolumno also lets you use up to four different abilities that can be activated, depending on the level. You can freeze your marble in place for a few seconds, allowing you to hit a window between obstacles even if they never sync up. You can temporarily turn your marble into a spiked ball, which lets you break through solid obstacles which don’t leave you any natural gaps. You can activate a burst of speed which lets you travel through long paths almost instantly. Finally, you can shrink your marble to a smaller size in order to hit smaller windows or present less of a target for windows that move too fast.
But Kolumno isn’t just about timing your marble drops and skill triggers to hit the gaps properly. There will be a small windup before your marble drops and activating a skill will interrupt your marble’s momentum, meaning the game isn’t just about spotting the right combination of skills to forge a path, it’s also about anticipation. For the more complex puzzles, this can be a major source of frustration; if you’re even a fraction of a fraction of a second off, you can make it through one or two obstacles on the cylinder only to crash into the very last one by a hair. The timing necessary is sometimes so precise it will make you question if your Joycon is even working right. I know I hit the button, game! I. HIT. THE. BUTTON!
Excuse me. Anyway, yeah, the gameplay is straightforward, but still manages to be plenty challenging, is what I’m saying. And that’s good, because that’s where an indie puzzle game like Kolumno lives and dies. It has to present a challenge – and an engaging one, at that – because of its limitations in other areas. Kolumno looks and sounds fine, but its visuals and audio design aren’t really going to be what draws anyone in. The graphics are very minimalist, using a limited palette and mostly solid colors for its shapes. It looks presentable, certainly, but a little bland. The game’s music is contemplative and unobtrusive; like the graphics, its main goal seems to be not actively distracting players from the gameplay.
So Kolumno isn’t the perfect experience; the graphics and soundtrack aren’t especially captivating, and the sensitivity of the controls with regards to timing can be – but most of the time isn’t – exceptionally frustrating. But it’s not a bad experience, by any means. The gameplay concept is interesting and engaging. Using only five different techniques (gravity plus the four special skills) Kolumno constructs 75 different puzzles that will challenge your spatial logic, sense of timing, and anticipation. It’s a solidly-built, no-frills puzzle game that has enough to satisfy any fan of the genre.
Digital – $1.99
Follow Devilish Games
Follow Flynn’s Arcade
The Switch Effect was graciously supplied a code for review purposes.