Do you remember those corridor sections in the Star Fox games? You know, the ones that had you dodging closing doors and shifting your Arwing sideways to blast through narrow openings like Indiana Jones? No? Okay, one last try. Have you seen those whacky Japanese game shows that force contestants to contort their bodies into impossible positions to squeeze through the holes of giant foam boards that rapidly move towards them? If somehow that explanation has gotten through to you, you’re on the right track to understanding what Ketzal’s Corridors is all about.
Platform: 3DS (eShop)
Players: 1 to 2
Release Date: April 12th, 2012
ESRB: “E” for Everyone
The game starts off deceptively simple. You will only take control of one puzzle piece at a time, something similar to the shapes you see in Tetris. While the first one is a miniature “L”, the pieces do get quite complex as you move through the game. There are various types of levels, but the main ones will have you physically moving your piece in different directions to get to a hole, and then twisting it in such a way that it goes through the hole. I should also mention that your puzzle piece will be flying towards each wall automatically.
Holes are often larger than they need to be, and for good reason. They allow players to get more acquainted with the game before utterly destroying their spirits–yes, it does get very difficult. For those players who have been gifted by the gods of gaming, there are extra challenges from the start. For example, if you can manage to manipulate your piece to cover up the different parts of the current wall’s holes before moving through it, you have performed a “trick” and will be rewarded more points for it. There are also hearts which can be captured by simply touching them as you move through a hole. Sometimes these hearts are in two different holes, which makes getting them all seemingly impossible. However, to get all of them, you have to cover up every single hole on a wall, and then touch a heart as you pass through the wall. Consistently grabbing hearts will build up a combo meter which will also reward you with more points at the end of the stage.
As for the controls, the d-pad physically moves pieces left, right, up, and down. The four face and R buttons rotate the piece in different directions. Again, it seems simple at first, but when you get to those complex shapes, it will become increasingly hard to know what will happen when you rotate the puzzle pieces in specific ways.
Here’s a video to give you a better idea of how the game plays:
This game can get nail-bitingly intense in some of the harder stages. Whether you’re just further into the game, or with enough hearts collected you’ve opened up some bonus stages, some levels will have you attempting them over twenty times just to pass. In particular, the ones that require you to cover up various spots on a wall before you’re allowed to pass are the hardest. You’ll have to twist your puzzle piece one way, then manage to remember how to twist it another way and…you just died. Okay, again! These levels, named “Tunnel of Trials”, certainly are trying, but in a good way. I found myself strategizing after each failed attempt, wondering how I could make my puzzle manipulations more efficient. Other times I was having a difficult time just wrapping my head around the difficulty of flipping the object the way I needed it to go.
There are a few other types of levels too. One type keeps the puzzle piece in place while you flip it around to fit the current hole. It’s a totem pole of holes, with you starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. The closer to the top you get, the less time you’ll have to match each hole. Another, named “Mysterious Grotto”, will test your memory and reflexes, forcing you to quickly remember sets of colors and shapes to get by. My least favorites, and thankfully the least abundant, are the “High-speed Caves”, which have you zooming as fast as you can through holes to the finish line. They don’t require much skill, and somewhat unfairly put moving doors in your way, making you re-do them because you don’t know from which direction a door will come on your first attempt.
The overall presentation is pretty good, and it looks much better on your own 3DS screen in 3D mode. There are essentially four types of areas in the game: desert, jungle, snow (tundra), and volcano. Flourishes of art such as bushes, vines, flowers, rivers, trees, and fog are strewn throughout the levels. They may take place at night or during the day too, adding even more variety. Though, to be honest, you’ll be far too engaged in what you’re doing to be able to fully appreciate the art.
The music is pretty pleasant to listen to as well. It’s a mix of jazz and a tiny splash of electronica with some tribal and Egyptian-like vibes thrown in for good measure. I don’t think I’d throw it into my play list, but it was fun to listen to while playing the game.
The story involves a presumably good god, Ketzal, whose hearts are taken away by the evil god Koruptal. Xolo, the loyal servant of Ketzal, elicits the help of the guardians (the puzzle pieces) to collect the heart and bring peace back to the land. The short story scenes are shown on a wall, similar to ancient Egyptian drawings, and there’s a little bit of animation to them. They are aesthetically pleasing, but won’t probably be a significant source of entertainment for anyone. They’re simply there to bring a bit more personality to a puzzle game.
If only one player owns Ketzal’s corridors, then only one mode will be open for multiplayer (the totem pole levels). This mode allows two people to play on one 3DS system, though it would have been nice if players could temporarily download the game to access both modes. The second mode allows players to race through the “normal” levels, collecting hearts and performing “tricks”. The multiplayer mode will extend the life of the game, but probably not by too much.
You shouldn’t buy Ketzal’s Corridors for the multiplayer, the story, the graphics, or the music. Though those things increase the overall quality of the package, the main reason you’ll want to play Ketzal’s Corridors is for the intense single-player experience. It will challenge your reflexes and your memory a lot more than you may expect. There is an almost never-ending challenge here, because like any good puzzle game, you can always come back to challenge your highest score. The gameplay is also enjoyable enough that you may just want to do that.