Over the years, we’ve seen Wario in a variety of games. Like Mario, he had his big debut in a 2D platformer, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. Although he was first played out as the main villain in that game. In a surprising turn of events, Super Mario Land 3 didn’t star Mario, but rather, Wario himself as the main protagonist. Since then, we’ve seen Wario plunder for treasure, race karts, play in a variety of sports, and most interesting, gang up with his crew for completely wacky micro-games. Game & Wario, developed by Nintendo and Intelligent Systems, is the latest in his “Warioware” series, but plays very differently than those did. Does his first debut on the Wii U provide enough impact to warrant a purchase though?
Game & Wario is a compilation of mini-games that Wario and his friends develop for this “new console that changes” gaming. Essentially they’re talking about the Wii U in-game and Wario is convinced he can make the “Best Game Ever”. Upon booting up the game, you’ll watch the game’s intro and then have a choice between three different modes: Single, Multi, and Miiverse Sketch. When you select Single, you’ll be brought to the Profile screen. Here you will use the camera on the GamePad to take a profile picture. From there, you’ll have a scrollable screen that contains 12 mini-games that take full use of the GamePad, but you’ll have to play them in order to unlock them all. The 12 single-player mini-games are Arrows, Shutter, Ski, Patchwork, Gamer, Ashley, Design, Kung Fu, Taxi, Pirate, Bowling and Bird.
Arrow has the player defending your position from robots trying to steal Wario’s strawberries. The controls consist of holding the GamePad vertically, while tilting it to aim your shots on the TV screen and using the stylus to pull the arrow back and launch. If you double-tap on Wario’s nose on the GamePad screen, you’ll power-up your arrow to increase the damage radius of your shots so that you can clear more enemies at once. Occasionally you’ll have to face a tank that fires directly at you, but the shots can be deflected by holding the GamePad up as a shield. Shutter has you playing as Mona, where you’re tasked to taking photos of alleged targets around the city. You will hold up the GamePad facing the screen (much like LEGO City Undercover or ZombiU’s scanner) which gives a zoomed-in view, while the TV gives a view of the whole environment. You’ll have to try to get the best photos possible by judging how much you need to zoom in on the target, while also being as fast as possible. Ski has you playing as Jimmy as he skis through courses aiming for the fastest time. You’ll hold the GamePad vertically, tilting it left and right to control Jimmy as you see an aerial view through the GamePad screen. The TV screen will be displaying a cinematic camera angle, so watching that while playing isn’t advised. Patchwork has you working alongside Kat and Ana as you place puzzle pieces on a grid (not “The Grid” from Tron) to formulate images of various objects. The TV screen and GamePad will show the same image except you will be using the stylus on your touch screen to drag the puzzle pieces onto the grid. Putting the pieces together to form an image as fast as possible is key to earning the most points. If you’re ever stuck, you can ask Kat and Ana for a hint, but will be in exchange for points. Gamer has you playing as 9-Volt, bringing about nostalgia for many gamers that used to be sneaky playing games at night. 9-Volt plays his portable gaming device in bed (when he should be sleeping) to try and beat his mother’s insanely high score. Here, you will look at the GamePad as your gaming device and play through WarioWare-style micro-games, but there’s a catch…you can’t get caught and you can’t fall asleep. The TV screen will show the room’s surroundings and you’ll have to keep an eye and ear out for your mother who’s making sure you’re sleeping. When she approaches, you’ll hold down the ZL and ZR buttons to hide under the covers but your energy meter will deplete rapidly as you’re doing that. You’ll be on edge not only playing the micro-games, but watching your surroundings as well. Ashley is a game where you’ll control…well, Ashley, as she gets sucked into a candy world and must fly with her broomstick to escape. You’ll tilt the GamePad to control her moving upward or downward on the 2D pane, while pressing the ZL or ZR button to do somersaults to try and nab as many collectables as possible. If Ashley takes a few hits, you’ll have to snap her out of it by swiping the stylus over her quickly.
Design has you drawing out lines and shapes for Dr. Crygor based on the instructions he gives you. You may have to draw a line 3cm long or a squiggly line that equals 12in. Upon completing the brief tasks, the lines and shapes that you drew will appear on the robot that Dr. Crygor was designing. Kung Fu has you doing anything but kung fu (sorry, no relation to the classic Kung Fu game from NES). You’ll take control of Young Cricket as he navigates his way to Master Mantis to feast on a massive meal. The TV screen will show you the environment in a 3D frontward camera angle, while the GamePad will show you an aerial view of the platforms in the area. You’ll tilt the GamePad forward, backward and to the sides to control Young Cricket’s motions as he’s constently jumping his way in the environment. The clock is ticking due to his hunger and there are food items that can be collected throughout to help increase the clock. Taxi has you playing as Dribble and Spitz, where you’ll have to pick up passengers and rescue animals from the UFOs invading the area. The TV screen will show a zoomed-out view of the entire area while the GamePad will give you a first-person perspective from the driver’s seat of the taxi. You have to shoot down the UFOs, while picking up passengers and dropping them off at the safety zone. You can only carry up to three passengers at a time in your taxi so plotting out which ones you pick up and drop off first will be integral when more action is appearing on-screen. Pirate is an interesting mini-game where Wario is providing commands at certain directions where you’ll have to point your GamePad towards the TV screen and turn to those directions being given to deflect plunger arrows. When the arrows stick to your GamePad, you’ll flick it down to rid them off your shield. To wrap it up, there’s a dancing section to finalize the mini-game. Bowling has you swiping the bowling bowl with your stylus on the GamePad, while then tilting it to give the ball some spin mid-roll. As it reaches the pins (which are all characters within the game), you’ll see a replay of your move on the TV screen and see if you nailed a strike. Bird is funny enough, a Game & Watch style game where you’ll control a bird on the 2D pane as you move back and forth to eat the falling fruit. The cool integration here is that the TV screen shows modern visuals while the GamePad shows 1-bit visuals that replicate a Game & Watch title perfectly.
Aside from the Single mode, there are also Multi and Miiverse Sketch. Multi provides four unique mini-games that are solely designed for multiple players: Disco, Islands, Fruit, and Sketch. Disco has two players battling it out by sharing half of a GamePad screen and tapping on the tracks to create custom beats that shoot to your opponent. The person defending must tap those beats as they approach their territory and afterwards, must then create their owns beats back on the attacker. It’s a unique take on turn-based battling. Islands has you launching Fronks onto a floating target hovering above the ocean (think Monkey Target from Super Monkey Ball). Controlled much like the Arrows mini-game, you’ll aim the reticule by tilting your GamePad and launch the Fronks by pulling them back with the stylus on the touch screen and letting go. The Fronks stay on the target so when the next player is up, they have the opportunity of knocking their opponents’ (supports up to five players) Fronks off-target. Sketch is basically a game of Pictionary, where the artist has to draw an object that depicts the word they have in front of them, while the other players have to look at the TV screen to guess what the player is drawing. When the viewers guess it correctly, the artist has to press the “Correct” button on their GamePad. If they’re stumped, you can press “Pass” which deducts 20 seconds from their 2 minute time clock. Lastly, Fruit has one player playing as the thief with the GamePad, blending in with the crowd of pedestrians in the city trying to steal fruit. The other 2-4 players will watch the TV screen and try to each figure out which pedestrian is the thief that’s being controlled with the GamePad. At the end, the players must guess which pedestrian it was and if they guess correctly, they win.
Finally, there’s Miiverse Sketch. In this mode, you will be given a selection of four random words and you’ll have to choose which word you can draw an object for. For example, one of the words may be “Game Boy”, so you’ll have to draw your representation of a Game Boy. Once done, you submit the artwork and see it posted on the Miiverse for everyone to see and comment on. It also displays the time you took to complete the drawing and your age range. This mode is quite addictive and is a great way to engage Wii U owners further into the Miiverse (if it wasn’t addictive enough already). You can also suggest certain words for Nintendo to integrate into the game if you’d like. You can also view a gallery of drawings based on specific words or phrases they were given to draw.
Now, every mini-game does does a great job of highlighting the GamePad integration, but they’re not all perfect games. My personal favorites that had me coming back quite often were Arrows, Ski, Gamer, Taxi and Bowling. These were just plain fun and Gamer especially wins the award of providing one of the best GamePad integrations thus far on the Wii U. The others are good also, but didn’t have me rushing back into those as much as the ones mentioned. On a more positive note, not a single mini-game here is awful…which is surprising as there’s usually that one notable standout mini-game that can easily detract from an overall experience. The one feature that really bugged me on the other end was the lack of a proper multiplayer experience. Yes, there are the multiplayer mini-games I mentioned before and those are fine, but the single-player mini-games just demand for swapping the GamePad with friends. The thing is though, you’d have to back out of the menus and log in to another person’s profile, then go back to the game you were all playing and competing against in. Granted, you could just swap the GamePad and have all the records saved under your profile name and picture, but that’s not really much of a solution. The setup just feels a bit disjointed.
Game & Wario has a very vibrant artstyle going for it, not to mention that every single mini-game has an entirely different visual style. For example, Gamer blends colorful modern visuals on the TV while the GamePad is showing retro graphics, Kung Fu has a cel-shaded sketch style to it, Ski has a vivid 3D representation and Taxi has a 3D 8-bit style that’s reminiscent of Atlus’s “3D Dot Game Heroes”. Every game was designed as a unique style (since the story is about Wario and friends making their own games for the “Wii U”). More importantly, the game runs at a silky smooth 60 fps. While the game won’t showcase the Wii U’s graphical capabilities, the game’s varied style looks great without question.
No matter the case, Nintendo games are synonymous for having catchy tunes in their games and Game & Wario follows that trend. From the dramatic music that plays for the “Press Start” screen for most mini-games to the quirky, cheery tracks that play mid-game, there’s a nice blend of music to be heard. In particular, the music played during Gamer is incredibly catchy and found myself having that song stuck in my head (still is as I write this review). Sound effects are all appropriate for the mini-games and suit them quite well. There’s nothing of “masterpiece” quality to be found in the audio department, but what’s here is still very good.
Replay Value: 3/5
Here’s the weakest element to Game & Wario…the replay value. Well, you can experience all the mini-games within under two hours. However, going back and tackling the extra modes and difficulties of those mini-games will certainly increase some longevity. Additionally, you’ll be collecting tokens to cash-in for collectibles at the Cluck-A-Pop…and there are a ton of collectibles to unlock for the gallery. Also, the lack of an online mode for the mini-games (while not hurting the Replay Value score) doesn’t help either. At the same token, the game is retailing for $39.99. There are certainly some games that you will be fond of and stick with time after time. One of the most addictive games to come back to is Gamer, especially given the ability to play the micro-games on their own without worrying about “getting caught”. The main thing is you’ll play the game for a decent amount of time, but it may not be something you’ll have in your system for months on end.
Overall Score: 15/20 = 7.5 out of 10
Game & Wario is one of those games that does an excellent job showcasing GamePad ideas, but falls a bit short on replay value. The visuals are crisp and clean, the audio is weird yet catchy, and the gameplay is pretty engaging. Unfortunately, the multiplayer setup takes a step back, which is strange given what the game is trying to be. Complaints aside, Game & Wario may not be “the best game ever” as Wario advertises it to be in-game, but it’s a very good game that I still recommend Wii U owners add to their game library.
+ Excellent GamePad integration
+ Varied, vibrant visuals
+ Quirky, yet catchy audio
+ Some great mini-games, “Gamer” is very relatable
– No online connectivity for mini-games, not even leaderboards
– Multiplayer setup feels like a missed opportunity for most “Single” mini-games
– Replay value is a bit on the short side
Copy purchased by author for review purposes.
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