Korokoro Postnin

Anybody remember the bonus stages from the original Sonic the Hedgehog? The ones that surprisingly never found their way into another Sonic game after that? Well, Korokoro Postnin is almost exactly that stretched out over the course of an entire game. At heart, this is an arcade game, and not only does the game know that, but it uses it to its best advantage. The game takes a simple concept and finds just enough variations to keep the game interesting throughout. Narrative and possible pacing problems aside, Korokoro Postnin remains one of those hidden gems I’m proud to shine some light on.

Like a lot of these unsung gems I’ve encountered, Postnin’s premise is a simple one. Your job is to guide a delivery girl through the streets of Japan, delivering newspaper to all the town’s mailboxes. You do so by rotating the environment Super Monkey Ball style, trying to get the highest score you can by quickly ferrying the girl through these levels while keeping her feet firmly planted on the ground. (You don’t have to keep her on the ground at all times, but it does result in a higher score.) However, while the score is certainly a welcome addition to the game, it’s by no means necessary, despite all the focus it gets.

No, this game derives all its fun from rotating the environment, although I can’t easily explain how. The execution’s just so multifaceted that you can’t really point to one cause for why it works. The biggest I could find was the indirect sense of control. As novel as the idea sounds, it also feels very physical. Playing this game is less about moving pixels about on a screen, and more about playing with a toy or manhandling a pinball machine.

Of course, that gameplay premise alone isn’t enough to make the game fun. It also requires interesting levels, which this game has in spades. Each area is a beautiful geometric mess of winding paths, mailboxes, and assorted dangers. However, despite the abstract premise, the levels always appear natural to the world rather than specifically designed for it. I don’t know why or how, but the levels contribute a lot to the ever-engaging sense of fun that the game thrives on.

There’s also speed to consider, but this is where things get a little weird. Not because it contradicts anything I’ve said about the game until now, mind you. In fact, the speed with which you literally fly through these levels is an obvious fit for the game’s physicality. Yet for as fun as the speed is, it also contributes to the game’s very odd pacing problems. Postnin itself is only an hour or two long, which isn’t a problem on its own. The levels are meant to be played in bite-sized portions, anyway, and the game does enough within that length of time that you don’t feel cheated out.

Somewhere between the levels and the game, though, lie Postnin’s pacing problems. Whenever the game introduces some new idea, it only sticks with it for maybe a couple of levels before losing interest and moving onto something else. That’s not nearly enough time to see what the game can do with, say, icy roads or high gravity. And these are all legitimately fun ideas that change what you do in each level. The game’s rushing through its best ideas completely by accident. A couple more levels per big change would absolutely fix these kinds of problems.

However, I don’t consider the pacing detrimental to the experience, at least not the way the story is. I’m aware that a game like this doesn’t need a strong story, and thankfully, the game understands this, too. What little narrative there is consists of our delivery girl protagonist humorously driving the plot forward with her robot dad. The story might contain a theme about sticking with what you know and the inherent value of older traditions like newspapers, but the story only exists to break up the gameplay. On those basic terms, it succeeds.

PSOGL134The problem is that the plot lacks any sense of cohesion. Instead, it achieves a confusing and unsatisfying balance between one-off jokes and something resembling a narrative. This may sound like a minor problem, but it’s more apparent than you’d think it would be. A story can hardly give a game a sense of purpose when it lacks one itself. While this problem might be a symptom of the game’s more general pacing problems, that doesn’t change that the game has a problem. Postnin’s story definitely needs more unity, or at least a basic plot line it can commit to. As it is, the story isnt’ operating at full capacity.

OK, so maybe all the stuff surrounding the game is more suspect, but that doesn’t change how solid its core is. Korokoro Postnin is a game that strongly embraces arcade sensibilities, and not in a way you’d usually expect. Although the game is certainly challenging, the game doesn’t draw you in with it. The game instead entices you with how fun the actual interaction is; how it only needs this one basic idea to engage you at every turn. Novel as that idea might be, Korokoro Postnin remains an enjoyable game in the brief time that you know it.

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