Review: Game & Wario (Wii U)

Game & Wario is an interesting departure from the refined and acclaimed WarioWare series: the games are much longer, more robust and focused, though there are fewer of them. It’s very much a successor, with returning characters and the series’ staple humour but it’s more akin to Nintendo Land or Wii Play than the previous quick-fire WarioWare games.

It is, essentially, a compilation of mini games designed to utilise the Wii U’s features, in a much more complete and stylised way than Nintendo Land. The premise has Wario and his friends designing games they want to play and, although the story is loose from there on, it’s one that works, with the crew of madmen coming up with some mostly wacky – and one or two utterly brilliant – ideas.

[drop]It’s at first difficult to decide whether Game & Wario is successful or not, due to the nature of the compilation: some of these mini games are absolutely brilliant and some are almost fully-developed indie games that could easily stand alone as downloadable titles.

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But others completely miss the mark and have a disappointingly short playtime.

Take Patchwork for example, a puzzle game by Kat and Ana, in which you use the GamePad’s screen to fit complicated tiles into shapes; it’s a brilliant and original puzzler which could have easily been released as a standalone title on an App Store, with around 100 levels to complete and plenty of variation throughout.

Then you’ve got Design, which involves using the GamePad’s screen to draw shapes accurately, with Dr. Crygor commanding you to draw lines of a certain length. There’s only really one level in this mini game, with variations for multiple players and time limits – you’ll essentially do the same thing over and over to get the best scores.

These polar opposites – one with a wealth of levels and one restricted by its own design – show just how divisive the game can be. There’s definitely more hits than misses, though it’s hard not to feel the misses should have been developed more or cut out entirely, only really existing so that each character has their own game.

Sixteen mini games are available in total, with four of these being multiplayer only. The twelve single player games are extremely varied however – there are the aforementioned Patchwork and Design, along with other titles that do what they say on the tin, including the fun Arrow, which involves using the GamePad to fire arrows at a host of enemies and Kung Fu, a platformer which is top-down on the GamePad’s screen and third person on the TV screen.

In fact, most of Game & Wario’s merits come from the brilliant interplay between what’s on the TV screen and what’s on the GamePad’s screen, expanding on some ideas introduced in the DS title WarioWare Touched.

The best example of this – and honestly one of the most refreshing and fun ideas I’ve seen in gaming this year – is 9-Volt’s Gamer stage. Inspired by WarioWare, you’ll get an alternate version of Balloon Fighter on the GamePad which features various quick-fire microgames and four lives – very similar to any previous WarioWare title. But that’s only on the GamePad.

[videoyoutube]Up on the TV screen is a scene of 9-Volt, a young boy, playing his handheld console late at night after being warned by his mother to go to bed. As you play the Balloon Fighter WarioWare clone on the GamePad, you also have to be watching the TV so that 9-Volt doesn’t get caught by his mother.

You’ll hear footsteps as she charges into his room or a window creak open as she walks past, replaced by a demonic, exaggerated version of his mother which plays on children’s fears of being caught at night.

It’s a heartwarming and even nostalgic experience, from the Balloon Fighter game on his handheld to the idea of not being caught up late resonating with the target audience. And it plays great, too – the GamePad game is relatively simple, using only the D-Pad and A, while holding down the triggers will make 9-Volt pretend to sleep, which you can only do for so long when the mother isn’t there before he’ll fall asleep for real.

Unfortunately, not all of the games are as good as this one, even though all could be considered fun in some form. Other notable games include Bowling, with which you’ll strike pins on the TV by firing a ball in a direct line with the GamePad and Taxi, which is a fantastic mash-up of Crazy Taxi and an isometric alien-abduction game.

There’s a heavy dose of humour, which matches the 2D presentation perfectly. Although mini games are often 3D, all cutscenes play out in true WarioWare style. The humour ranges from absurd to mental but never fails to evoke a smile or even a laugh. Most of this humour can be found within the extras – the collectable trinkets – of which there are hundreds, ranging from additional microgames to interactive videos and playthings.

Your collection will be built by using the Chick-N-Win, a chicken-shaped capsule vendor which accepts coins. These coins are collected by first completing stages and then reaching milestones, such as collecting all of the items, getting a high score or even a fastest time. It’s really impressive how much there is to collect – I’ve been playing for weeks and completed everything and still have under a hundred – so there’s a lot to keep you occupied and coming back.

As a party game, Game & Wario works – there are not only four strictly multiplayer games, but the single player games offer some out of the box multiplayer opportunities, unique to the Wii U. This is due to the TV screen’s image, which usually has something different to the GamePad, allowing other people in the room to point out solutions to puzzles or warn you of TV-only events such as 9-Volt’s mother appearing in the Gamer stage or a spotting a target in the Camera stage.

That’s not all, as well as the multiplayer offered in Bowling and Design, there are four other multiplayer stages for up to five players, including Artwork, which is a new-age version of Pictionary; Thief, in which one player has to sneak around in a crowd using the GamePad without being noticed by the others on the TV; Disco which allows two players to participate in a Rock Band-esque touch rhythm game where the players control the notes; and Islands, where you fire little mutlicoloured creatures – Fronks – at targets. Sounds quite barbaric, I know.

Add this to the fun multiplayer found in Bowling and Design and the twelve single player modes with their various stages and Game & Wario is really something special – a robust game that truly uses the Wii U to its full potential, showing just how great the GamePad controls can be.

And, in the end, that’s what it is: a way off showing off your Wii U, as well as a brilliant collection of fleshed-out games.

What’s Good:

  • Demonstrates a brilliant interplay between the TV and the GamePad.
  • Mini games such as Gamer and Patchwork are fleshed-out and very fun.
  • There are more hits than misses.
  • Features the outlandish yet brilliant sense of humour that Wario games are known for.
  • Lots to do and collect with the variety of mini games.
  • Presentation is excellent.

What’s Bad:

  • There are a few underdeveloped mini games.
  • Nothing else quite matches the ingenuity of Gamer.
  • Compilation style might not be for everyone.

Game & Wario is, to put it simply, what Nintendo Land should have been. There’s tons of things to do and it really nails the game compilation genre, without (with most of the games, anyway) feeling too much like a collection of tech demos. If you’ve got a Wii U and you want to see why two screen gameplay is the future, then look no further.

It’s fun, it’s mad and it’s often hilarious. We couldn’t have expected anything less from Wario and his friends – WarioWare, you’re no longer required; the next-generation of Wario is here. It might not be all as great as the Gamer stage but the majority of the games manage to really shine.

Score: 8/10

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6 Comments

  1. Sounds great. Batshit crazy, obviously, but great.
    Out next week, yeah? Might have trudged through The Last of Us by then and be looking for some light relief!

  2. Love these games, ever since the GBA.

  3. Wario-land 3-4 handheld especially Wario-land 4 on GBA, utterly addictive!

    • Are they on GBA? I’ve only known them to be just Gameboy colour games.

      • Yup, Wario Land 4 was released on GBA

        Wario land – Gameboy
        Wario Land II – Gameboy
        Wario Land II – Gameboy Colour updated re-release
        Wario Land III – Gameboy Colour
        Wario Land IV – Gameboy Advanced

        I think I enjoyed Wario Land 3 and 4 more than the Super Mario series for portables!!

  4. I love Wario, if I had a Wii U I’d prolly end up buying this…

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