Game Review: Game & Wario

My first-ever Wii U review! Starting now there will be at least one exclusive Nintendo-published game worth playing, at least in theory, released for the content-starved console each month until year’s end. Is this one of those? Uh, well…

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Platform:
Wii U
Developer:
Intelligent Systems
Rating: G
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That devious entrepreneur wants to charge $80 for this.

That devious moustachioed entrepreneur wants to charge $80 for this.

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Games.
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The Wii U needs them. Pretty badly. Barring Lego City Undercover and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate back in March, admittedly both good titles, there has been a whole lot of nothing released for the console since December last year. But starting with Game & Wario, the gaming giant is set to release a relatively steady stream of quality leading all the way up to Christmas. Whether you enjoy Game & Wario will depend on whether you think it’s worth paying full price for a game that packs just as much fun and imaginative content as it does dull and lifeless “ideas”.

THE SET-UP

It wouldn’t be out of place to think of Game & Wario as more of a Nintendo Land pseudo-sequel than a more traditional WarioWare experience. The game is essentially a collection of 16 minigames rather than hundreds upon hundreds of microgames. Fans of the greedy ex-plumber’s usual videogame schtick may find this a little disappointing, and perhaps understandably so, but the new setup does allow for some more detailed gaming experiences. Unlike most other Wii U games, you’ll only ever need one controller while playing Game & Wario, the gamepad, even for its multiplayer offerings.

The gang is all here, even if not for very long.

The gang is all here, even if not for very long.

WHAT YOU DO

Gameplay in Game & Wario consists of 16 main minigames (each linked to one or more of the WarioWare series’ classic quirky characters), one additional app-like thing and hundreds of unlockable “virtual toy” things that allow you to stare at your screen and say “What?” For the sake of neatness and comprehensive coverage, and because there isn’t much to say on the game’s audio and visuals, here is a breakdown of the games, in the order that they appear in Game & Wario‘s “story”:

ARROW is a rather boring game involving using the gamepad to draw a bowstring and fire at an onslaught of upcoming critters before fighting a boss. It isn’t the best start to proceedings but it controls well enough, so shooting junkies might find something to enjoy there.

CAMERA is much better. It tasks you with snapping photographs of partially disguised criminals in a busy metropolitan setting, using the gamepad as the titular camera. It’s surprisingly difficult to get a good score because the criminals aren’t all that easy to spot and the photos have to be decently framed. The task absolutely requires dividing your attention between the big screen and the tablet and is one of the better experiences that Game & Wario has to offer as a result.

SKI is probably the worst game of the bunch. It’s essentially a poor imitation of the F-Zero attraction in Nintendo Land, as all you do is tilt the gamepad to control your skier, but without any reason to ever look at the TV, meaning it could just as easily have been designed for a Wii Remote. Bleh.

PATCHWORK isn’t all that much more interesting, particularly seeing as it’s tied to the normally badass ninja twins Kat and Ana (who appeared in Super Smash Bros Brawl as an assist trophy). The idea is to drag pieces of felt into their outlines on a jigsaw puzzle to make a larger picture. That’s it.

Oh this is so ninja-like...

Oh this is so ninja-like…

KUNG-FU is slow and not all that engaging. It gives you a top-down perspective and makes you jump across platforms, though the rhythm of your jumps is out of your control. You have to keep one eye on an energy meter but it is very easily replenished by generously scattered power-ups. A weak offering.

GAMER is probably the number one reason to play Game & Wario. It’s the only instance of old-school WarioWare gameplay in the whole package, but it comes with a twist that makes the frantic microgame fever even more tense than it already was. You use the gamepad to play a WarioWare-style game while your character lies in bed on the big screen with his slightly demonic mother patrolling outside his bedroom. You need to aim to beat the barrage of microgames without being caught by her, meaning if you see or hear her coming you must hide under the sheets, but you can only do that for so long because you have a “sleepiness” meter to content with as well. Over-cautiousness is punished but so is overconfidence, which makes for a very stressful experience in the best way possible.

Terrifying.

Pure terror.

DESIGN is a pretty neat idea, as it asks you to draw certain shapes neatly, and with exact dimensions, off the top of your head in order to design a robot. Making an educated guess on a 70 degree angle and pulling it off really is quite satisfying, as dull as it may sound, and higher scores are rewarded with better robot constructions. It’s over a bit too quickly, though.

ASHLEY is the only game named after the character associated with it. There isn’t really anything else interesting about it. You fly a broomstick through obstacles by tilting the gamepad, doing loop-the-loops to collect magical orbs and such. It’s only mildly more enjoyable than SKI.

TAXI, though, is right up there with the best of the bunch. On the gamepad you’re shown a first-person view of a taxi with gliding wings and a bazooka, with the object of the game to track down and destroy some UFOs before rescuing their potential abductees. The catch is that you have no map, but you can see yourself and the UFOs on the zoomed-out fixed perspective of the level showcased on the big screen. To get a good score you’ll need to make quick decisions on your next move based on two very different sources of information, using space as effectively as possible. It is an absolute blast to play and made me wish for the idea to be expanded into a full game.

TAXI gameplay on the big screen...

TAXI gameplay on the big screen…

...and the same moment from the gamepad perspective.

…and the exact same moment from the gamepad perspective.

PIRATES is a rhythm game which involves lots of gamepad movement, with the tablet functioning as a shield to block incoming arrows from different directions. You need to listen for the right call from a voiceover to determine which way to face, but the poor clarity of said voiceover means that sometimes I just ended up guessing where the arrows were coming from, which rarely ended well. Meh.

BOWLING isn’t an original idea by any stretch of the imagination. Different arrangements of inflatable pins stand at the end of a bowling alley and you have to draw the path of your bowling ball on the gamepad in one stroke, tilting it after the “throw” to add spin. Not exactly remarkable, but I did actually have some fun with it. It controls well and there’s just something about bowling that is kind of timeless.

BIRD is simply a dual-screen adaptation of the classic 1980s Game & Watch fruit-eating game Pyoro. The gamepad shows a nostalgic, very basic monochrome display of the game while the big screen presents a funky pastel version of the same game. It’s a cool idea, but it’s still just Pyoro. You can play it elsewhere.

ARTWORK is the first of Game & Wario‘s dedicated multiplayer minigames, and despite the fact that it’s essentially just Pictionary, it’s still so much fun to play. I mean who doesn’t love Pictionary? You get points both for guessing correctly and for being guessed correctly and the system works like clockwork. There are no paper problems and despite the fact that I’ve already put several hours into the game with friends, I still haven’t run into the same word twice. Classic fun.

My artistic talent knows no bounds.

My artistic talent knows no bounds.

ISLANDS seems basic enough, but holds hidden and often hilarious strategic depths. Up to five players take turns launching creatures called Fronks onto floating islands divided into different scoring zones. The trajectory of your throw is controlled by angling the gamepad and the way you throw can really matter when it comes to scoring highly. Depending on the level and turn order, it can be advantageous to go for a lower pitch to knock opposing Fronks into oblivion, or a higher, slower and more accurate one for a last-minute win. Islands can be tilted based on Fronk placement and hilarity often ensues. There is a bit of luck involved, particularly when a scumbag seagull swoops in to take a random Fronk to meet his maker, but this only makes it funnier.

DISCO is a two-player game wherein each player holds a different end of the gamepad, taking turns to tap out the trickiest rhythms possible for the other player to try to match while a theatrical display of the battle lights up the big screen for spectators. It’s solid enough but it’s the weakest of all the multiplayer-focused activities, if only because it supports only two people.

FRUIT is the final minigame of Game & Wario and it’s the game I’ve spent the most time playing thus far. One player holds the gamepad and he or she has to hide amidst a crowd of NPCs, trying to move and behave like them in order to fool up to four other controller-less players into thinking he or she is merely one of them. The gamepad player then has to steal a number of fruit from right under the noses of the other players (the number depends on how many others are playing, to counteract the chance of being caught by more people) while trying to stay hidden. It’s great, highly accessible fun and represents one of the best uses of the Wii U’s unique control system that I’ve seen since Nintendo Land.

Deception is the name of the game.

Deception is the name of the game.

There’s also MIIVERSE ARTWORK, which isn’t really a game – more like some kind of app. A random word is fetched from a selection of recently suggested words on Miiverse and you have one minute to draw it to the best of your ability. Knowing you only have a minute, and that your drawing will be pinned up for the world to see even if you can’t finish it, makes it a surprisingly engaging distraction. If you are artistically minded, which I certainly am not, there may be some value for you there.

WHAT YOU SEE

Nintendo wishes its console got this much attention.

Nintendo wishes its console got this much attention.

Game & Wario packs a unique, if extremely basic, aesthetic that matches well with its vapid and inconsequential story (which covers the usual topic of a greedy capitalist Wario scheme). Its cutscenes comprise a colour-saturated comic book style and not a lot of animation, while its minigames keep 3D and 2D models alike as basic as possible. Fans of the WarioWare series will know what to expect in this area and likely wouldn’t have it any other way, because this look is part of what gives the series its notoriously wacky charm. If anything, the HD sheen that now accompanies the aesthetic makes it pop even more. Newcomers who are just looking for something to play on their Wii U, however, may be horrified that something that like this can be passed off as a modern high definition gaming experience. Which would be missing the point, of course, but a warning is necessary nonetheless.

WHAT YOU HEAR

The music is often frantic.

The music is often frantic.

There’s very little voice acting in Game & Wario, which is to be expected from this kind of game. What is in there is almost deliberately bad to fit the game’s crazy feel. Ashley’s incantations and Wario’s nonsensical greed noises are the B-grade highlights, as per usual. The music in the game is suitably crazy, mixing circus style tunes with faux-epic movements and featuring some delightfully dissonant audio-to-video chemistry. There isn’t all that much more to say about the audio, really, other than that the tunes truly add to that crucially zany atmosphere. I will also say that I really enjoy the opening menu tune, a bleeps-and-bloops homage to the Game & Watch era with a cool melody to boot.

WILL YOU GO BACK?

This is the million dollar question when it comes to Game & Wario. How much value you get out of the game will depend on how much of a completionist you are and how often you have friends over for some local gaming goodness.

The game’s “story” is easily finishable within an hour and a half, but its primary purpose is to serve as an introduction to each of the twelve single-player minigames. Beyond that you will find that every minigame features a number of variations on its initial form. As you might expect, the poorly conceived games hardly get more enjoyable simply by introducing more ways to play them, with the possible exception of PATCHWORK, which just throws so many puzzles at you that defeating them one by one has a nice rhythm to it. However, the likes of TAXI and CAMERA take on another life with the variation, DESIGN unlocks a two player competitive mode that can be a lot of fun (particularly if you pit two graphic designers against one another – trust me) and GAMER gives you a mode that allows the crazy WarioWare microgames to be played on their own.

It poops capsules.

It poops capsules.

Playing through these additional modes and obtaining high scores will grant you tokens to be redeemed at the capsule machine, which looks like an insectoid chicken. This creature will pop out one of hundreds of capsules that could contain anything from a collectible card featuring one of the game’s characters, to a hint on how to play certain minigames better, to a short animated skit, to a tiny original “game” without any point to it other than seeing stuff happen, to an individual microgame from GAMER, to a scroll containing a recipe for some oddly exotic dishes and who knows what else. If the main reason you play WarioWare games is to lap up all that quintessentially Japanese zaniness, this collection will be a goldmine to you. Otherwise, you may find yourself scratching your head at their inclusion.

Ugh, what?

Uh, what?

The bottom line, however, is that if you aren’t a fan of local multiplayer or a compulsive collector, then you will likely find Game & Wario just too expensive for what it is, considering how brief and inconsistent it is overall. And that’s a real shame.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Three excellently conceived minigames (GAMER, TAXI, FRUIT), a handful of good ones, typically crazy aesthetic
Bad:
Too many bland minigames, not enough universal replayability to justify full price tag
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3 VsS O L I D

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Shannon on August 3, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    FRUIT Thief! We have been playing so much of that game.

    Reply

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