Review: Game & Wario for Wii U

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I have to admit: When it comes to Nintendo’s latest releases, I try to keep up with as much as I can, but sometimes I pay more attention to some games than others. As it happens, Game & Wario wasn’t one I was following particularly closely, but I still had my eye on it in the hopes it might live up to the legacy of its WarioWare precursors.

As it turns out, Game & Wario wound up being rather different than I expected.

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So, what was I expecting? To be honest, I somehow came to believe that there would be a greater emphasis on multiplayer games in this title. Why I expected this, I’m not sure– even when multiplayer was sometimes included, all of the previous WarioWare titles focused primarily on single-player. I think some of the marketing through Nintendo Direct videos and the like might have had something to do with it.

In fact, truth be told, that’s the main reason this review has taken so long: I expected more to do with other players, and I thought that going solo wouldn’t be sufficient, so I had to wait until I could line up more players. Looks like the joke is on me, and let it serve as a reminder to aspiring reviewers that you should research these things.

That said, the game isn’t bereft of multiplayer content. There are only 16 main games available here, with four exclusively multiplayer, and two available for one or two players. Percentage-wise, that isn’t too shabby, all told.

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That brings us to the number of games: Compared to the 190 microgames in WarioWare Touched! and the 205 in WarioWare: Smooth Moves, 16 seems like a rather paltry number. Of course, those games were designed so that you would beat each in a mere matter of seconds before moving on to the next, speed and difficulty building all the while; here, each game offers quite a bit more depth and duration than any of those.

Progression is fairly simple, as you basically have to complete each challenge only once before moving on to the next and being introduced to another of Wario’s friends. It’s rather linear in that regard, and doesn’t give you the freedom to experiment as you wish of a Nintendo Land, but in most cases, beating the challenge once isn’t too difficult. Once that is done, you’re free to either proceed or replay the unlocked games as many times as you wish.

In addition to the 16 main games, there are tokens you can win for the “Cluck-a-Pop” vending machine. Deposit your token, and you’ll get one of 240 different “egg” capsules. The prizes inside range from tips to microgames, as well as other strangeness, such as a rope you can pull on to trip people walking by, a heart-shaped box with a surprise inside that uses the GamePad’s camera, odd phone calls that sound like they were recorded from Microsoft Speech API or BonziBuddy (to humourous effect), and a rather unique and interesting version of the game’s credits which give you a look into who made the game like nothing before.

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One interesting aspect of the games included in Game & Wario is that none of them use anything but the GamePad. I thought that maybe some of the multiplayer games, such as the oft-shown “Fruit,” might use a Wii Remote to complement the GamePad, but no– all GamePad, all the time. When necessary, players will pass the controller around, or in one instance, both use it at the same time.

The games themselves, both main and micro, manage to show off the potential of the GamePad for unique experiences like few others. In truth, some games have a kind of tech demo feel to them– which stands to reason, as at least two of them were formerly tech demos at E3– but they remain fun and engaging all the same. Few of the games alone really rank as outstanding, but Game & Wario overall proves to be a sum greater than its parts.

There is also some additional Miiverse integration that’s fun. One of these is a game where you’re instructed to draw one of four randomly selected words chosen from Miiverse submissions, and you have only 60 seconds to draw before the time is up and whatever you drew is posted to the Miiverse. It’s a little harsh– you can’t back out or anything until it’s finished, and if you don’t choose something to draw, the game draws it for you. But even so, it’s still fun once you’re set on doing it.

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One set of games in particular– 9-Volt’s “Gamer”– is a definite nod to the WarioWare games of the past. Though it doesn’t boast as many microgames as previous titles, it is by far one of the more intense experiences as you try to avoid detection by 9’s mother, 5-Volt, who has told him to cut the games and go to bed. It’s a must try, only hampered by the fact you must go through five games beforehand to even play it.

Incidentally, it’s worth pointing out that the microgames included in “Gamer” can be unlocked in the “Cluck-a-Pop,” and you can play them each to your heart’s content– and no need to look out for Mom!

Meanwhile, Kat and Ana’s “Patchwork” is a more relaxing game in which you simply have to find each place on the board where different puzzle pieces fit. It’s a bit trickier than it sounds, more so as you advance to higher difficulties and new rules are introduced. Nonetheless, it’s a fun way to wind down and may appeal to gamers who are less about fast reflexes and precise movements.

Between these two and many others in-between, there is a wide variety of styles for different types of gamers to enjoy.

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Helping to bind everything together is the unique sense of style which permeates throughout the game. The cutscene-styled introductions to each game have a certain Flash or vector-style sense about them, and the title cards (such as the one seen above, courtesy of Super Mario Wiki) possess their own individual styles as well.

The looks change from game to game, though the overall style should seem familiar to fans of Rhythm Heaven, which stands to some reason, as both games were developed by the same development team within Nintendo. In fact, some of the characters from Rhythm Heaven Fever make cameos in Game & Wario.

Not only are the visuals and sounds quirky and delightful, but the story has an odd sort of metatextual sense about it. A new game system has just been released, this one featuring a controller with a screen (sound familiar?), and Wario decides to get in on the action and make some games for it. Afterward, though, we see his development computer covered in cobwebs and dust, which might hit just a little too close to home for Nintendo at this point– it’s kind of surprising they left something like that in, truth be told.

Following that, each of his friends are inspired to make their own games based on their wacky adventures and escapades in their day-to-day lives. These include skiing, photographing criminals for the newspaper, getting sucked into a storybook about a land of candy, or… er, getting stuck in the toilet after leaving the seat up. Yeah, it might be good to mention there is some rather light “toilet” humor included here as well.

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One wonky aspect of the game, which we got a glimpse of in New Super Mario Bros. U, is the odd convergence of your Miiverse accounts and save files in the game. In addition to the Miiverse profile you have to log in with when turning on the Wii U, you must also create a second save file with a file photo (which can be run through one of several filters) and named.

Any Miiverse profile on the machine can access your save file, or they can create their own (and unlike some other games, Game & Wario is rather generous with the number of files you can keep). You also have to close the game program entirely to be able to switch Miiverse profiles, and a second Miiverse profile can’t sign in for the multiplayer games, meaning that if you’re signed in and they beat you at a game, the only place that victory could be posted is on your own profile.

Of course, starting a new file puts that player at Step 1 in the whole thing, but another player who has opened up other games can be “enlisted” to unlock them here. What’s more, all save files get to contribute to one big pool of the “Cluck-a-Pop” games and prizes, which is useful in its own way.

That said, it’s cool that players can pool their resources together to a degree here, with more experienced gamers able to help others along, but it seems just a little convoluted at the system level.

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Despite its shortcomings, Game & Wario is a veritable buffet of fun times, especially if you have some friends to help you enjoy its full range of offerings. It’s quirky, lighthearted fun that anyone can get into and enjoy, and will hopefully help inspire some developers in how to utilize the Wii U’s unconventional controller in new and unique ways.

Truth be told, though, while Game & Wario is fine as a lower-priced stand-alone game, I can’t help but think that Nintendo would be– or at least would have been– better served by including this game in a bundle with the console and Nintendo Land. The game would certainly increase the out-of-the-box value of the machine with a title which further demonstrates what it can do, almost in a way reminiscent of the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet multi-game cartridges from days of yore.

i_39317Game & Wario was released for the Wii U on June 23rd, 2013, at a price of $39.99 at retail and in the Nintendo eShop.

A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.


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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.