Review: Kolumno (Switch)

A fun puzzler marred by awkward controls.

By Achi Ikeda. Posted 01/21/2021 03:45 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Levels are more challenging than they appear to be
Poison Mushroom for...
Some levels can be irritating; the controls can feel awkward

Going in, I knew nothing about Kolumno except for the cover art. From this, my first impression was that it was a puzzle game. In a way, it is, but not the way I was expecting. Kolumno is a game about timing, accuracy, and, most importantly, patience. Overall, the game’s minimal looks and calming score highlights the simple, relaxing gameplay. Yet Kolumno provides both satisfaction from completing levels as well as aggravation at the tediousness of others.

Kolumno is a game where players must perfectly time the falling of a ball down the side of a column and into a hole. Each column has a different pattern of rotating parts or rings that expand and contract. Each of the 75 different levels have their own rhythm that you must learn to succeed. You could progress through pure chance and hope to succeed but that lacks satisfaction and your chances of success are fairly low. Players are also persuaded not to try at random since failure to get the ball to drop leads to the level resetting.

Kolumno also varies up gameplay by giving the player different abilities for certain levels such as pausing the ball mid fall for a few seconds or making the ball fall faster. Though these abilities may sound like they make the levels easier, that isn’t necessarily true. The levels are designed so that the ability must be used in such a way at the exact right time or the level is impossible to complete. Though I enjoyed the change up in gameplay, the controls for these abilities feel unnatural. Any button or movement on the joysticks will cause the ball to start falling, but the abilities are assigned to a specific direction on either the joystick or buttons. The use of the abilities requires such perfect accuracy that sometimes it was difficult for me to press on the first button and then the second one in time.

Overall, the satisfaction of completing a level did not outweigh the frustration of failure. Sometimes the solution is clear, but timing the ball fall just right takes many tries. Other times the solution is unclear and requires experimentation. Experimentation would be fine if it didn’t feel so time consuming. Waiting for a level to reset doesn’t take that long, but when you start resetting over and over it feels way too time consuming. I like puzzle games best when the challenge is discovering the solution, not trying to enact the solution. It is in this way I felt unmotivated to keep playing.

Kolumno could likely be completed in an hour or less, though this timeframe is likely to be spread across days or weeks. It is a good length for a game like this. The game feels as if it should be played in small bursts rather than long sittings. The kind of game I might play on a bus ride or while waiting for an appointment. Though Switch is great for mobile play, it is not as mobile as a phone which is what I think Kolumno is best suited for. It’s entertaining enough in short spans of time, but it feels a little out of place on Switch.

Ultimately, Kolumno is an interesting concept and will likely be appealing to some players. There is gratification to be had when completing the levels and watching them play out perfectly feels like viewing a satisfaction compilation video on YouTube. However, the frustration in repeated failure on the same level or the controls that are awkward enough to break the relaxing feeling of the game overshadowed the positive moments.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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