Some of the the most fun I’ve ever had on a Nintendo console has come through Wario, the awkward-looking antithesis of long-standing mascot, hero, and Princess-chaser, Mario. And it’s kind of funny, really, how many people feel the same. Because the WarioWare series of titles are made up of mini-games, the thing most people lambast if they appear in any other game, especially motion-controlled ones.
It’s the humour; it’s the simple, outrageous silliness, combined with the fact that when you get together with friends, Wario’s collection of mini-games are uproarious fun. Remember that? Fun? Isn’t that what games are all about? Thank heavens for Game & Wario, then. When games are constantly leaning toward a more serious side, full of explosions and general bombast, it’s good to know that someone hasn’t forgotten about the concept of getting like-minded people in a room, and tickling their funny bones in a way that both an older and younger audience can appreciate.
As usual, what we’ve got here is a collection of single player and multiplayer experiences of varying difficulty, fun, and quality. Each game has a pre-rendered animated scene that is full of vibrant colour and stupidity, and it just sets the scene perfectly. The difference this time around is that the Wii U’s GamePad is the focus of attention, and not a Wii Remote or DS handheld. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t get used very often in a hugely innovative manner, instead relying on tricks which, while still great, have been done before.
Take the opening gambit, for example: tasked with protecting his strawberries, Wario has to fire arrows at the would-be thieves by pointing the GamePad at the TV screen, pulling the arrow back, aiming, and releasing to fire. Things are changed up by the ability to double tap the arrow tip’s nose (oh Wario, you cheeky scamp) to transform it into a sneeze shot, causing more damage and taking out multiple oncoming enemies at once. Is it fun? Yes. Is it new? Not really.
Using the GamePad as a zoomed in camera to take photographs of thieves hiding in a town is simple enough, but isn’t one of the games I came back to very often, although for 8-bit’s and 16-bit’s games, using the GamePad as a literal game pad, and not as something else, is absolutely wonderful. As the youthful gamer in us all, 8-bit wants to play on his handheld console late into the night, but his mother has other ideas. So while you play all the games (and this is actually WarioWare-styled, and thus one of the best of all the on-disc games) on the actual second screen, on the TV you have to avoid being caught by mum, using audio cues. The visuals are quite frightening, too, as mum comes out of the TV, Ring-style.
There’s plenty of variation in the game-types, but most revolve around using tried and tested methods. Taxi and Kung-Fu utilise different viewpoints on the GamePad, and both are pretty fun. Motion controls are used, obviously, and often represent the weaker games. Playing as Ashley, the young witch, and guiding her through a magical land collecting small dots just isn’t much fun, and the levels feel too long. Design is a fun game, though, asking you to draw shapes to specific measurements and diameters, and although it appears to be a single player game, you can actually play this one in 2-player mode, taking it in turns to draw the shapes and lines while competing to be the most accurate.
The best bit about all of these individual games is that, really, the first time through is just a tutorial of sorts. Once you’ve gone through the 12 single player games, the real meat is in coming back to score-attack them, try harder difficulties, and so on. But there are only 12 games, and there’s no way that can’t be a disappointment. Coming back to some of them reveals that they aren’t as fun as you initially thought, especially given some incredibly repetitive music. There are smart ideas in play, though. Using 8-bit’s game as an example, you can instead play as 16-bit, the older dude, and thus eliminate the whole secondary “avoid mother” game, and just sit in the garden, playing the mini-games. It’s all very meta, this one, but unfortunately the selection of WarioWare style mini-games is actually fairly limited.
Multiplayer is a bit of a let-down, as there are only four multiplayer-specific games, and they aren’t all that brilliant. Each playable with up to 5 people, there’s a Pictionary-styled game, which is exactly what you’d imagine (and this is easily the top multiplayer game); a rhythm based dance-off, which involves two people holding the GamePad at the same time, tapping dance moves that the other player must defend, before then attacking themselves (and just isn’t much fun); a game which involves one player stealing fruit using the GamePad while the other players watch the TV, and try to identify the thief from a line-up; and finally there’s a game that involves throwing Fronks (tiny little square creatures) onto platforms to try and get the best scores – it somehow reminded me of a weird version of Boom Blox.
Rewarding you for playing repeatedly, is a mechanical chicken’s bottom. As you play, you’ll get tokens which you can access by holding the ZL and ZR buttons, and the mechanic chicken will pop them out, as eggs. As you do so, the TV screen shows the straining chicken, and the GamePad shows a close up of the “egg” about to plop out. Once out, you tap the egg and it will reveal one of many collectibles. Some are worthwhile, silly diversions, and others are merely hints that guide you toward maximising your scores in the already existing games. It’s a nice touch that there’s a menu item that shows you every player’s combined collection, as otherwise you’d only be able to see what you have unlocked on your profile.
VERDICT: Game & Wario can actually be a complete blast, but it’s just too light on content. It’s so disappointing that although you can score-attack the games, and play endless mode, you’ll have seen every game-type within a short space of time, and there are not enough truly brilliant modes to warrant long-term play.
It hurts to say it, because it’s a lot of fun, but due to the lack of content, Game & Wario is a game you’ll play a few times initially, then pull out to show friends when they visit – and it could have been so much more.
DECENT. A 6/10 indicates that, while this game could be much better, it still has a fair amount to offer the player. It might be an interesting title sabotaged by its own ambition, or a game denied greater praise by some questionable design choices. Don’t avoid it outright, but approach it with caution.