The Wii U is down, but not dead. Nintendo just had a moderately impressive E3, if not a spectacular one. Finally Wii U owners have some actual good games to look forward to, the only problem being that none of them come out for months, and some of the best aren’t hitting until the holidays roll around. So what does Nintendo have for us while we’re sweltering in the summer drought? Unsurprisingly, it’s Game and Wario, the latest entry in the WarioWare series.
I’ve always been mildly intrigued by WarioWare, but skeptical of it as well. It seems like something Nintendo goes back to when they have a thin release schedule for the next few months—a melting pot for all of the bizarre, utterly random ideas Intelligent Systems has, but can’t fit into the Fire Emblem or Paper Mario game they’re working on at the time. As such the WarioWare games are typically a rapidfire barrage of truly odd concepts, some too small and weird to be anything but freakish minigames, while others are brilliant and deserve to be expanded into full games but are sadly lumped in with all the rest.
Game and Wario takes a slightly different approach this time. It’s still all about minigames, but instead of just one weirdo challenge after another, the game is built around sixteen core minigames and a very large portion of extras. It’s kind of like Nintendoland, but with a bunch of Smash Bros-style fanservicey stickers, party favors and miscellaneous extras thrown in, along with several hits of acid for good measure.
I’m not joking—it’s the same basic structure as Nintendoland, just with the standard “Wario’s get rich quick scheme” framing story and without the amusement park theme. The sixteen main minigames all use the GamePad for various unconventional control schemes, and to varying degrees of success. While I had fun with quite a few, the quality isn’t as evenly spread across all sixteen as it is in Nintendoland. As with the rest of the WarioWare series, Game and Wario relies a little too much on novelty and spontaneity at times, which leads to some rather transient gameplay.
The first game you unlock is Arrow. It’s similar to Nintendoland’s ninja star dojo where you hold the gamepad vertically, except that you’re pulling back to draw an arrow this time. You also have to tilt the GamePad to change the arrow’s trajectory, but thankfully this is pretty forgiving. Shutter, the second game, has you snapping pictures by holding the GamePad like a camera and moving it around to move the viewfinder. The art style in this one is pretty funny, but almost the exact same idea and execution is present in Lego City Undercover, and personally I think it’s done better in that game.
Patchwork is a puzzle game where the two little girl ninjas Kat and Ana (heh) slice up pieces of fabric into patches, and it’s up to you to slot them into the correct outlines on the game board, even when the patches overlap. There are a LOT of puzzles to solve in this one so there’s plenty of content, and the art style here is very reminiscent of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, but overall Patchwork is a pretty flat and uninspiring use of the Wii U and basically just made me want to go play Kirby again.
One of my favorite minigames of the bunch was Gamer. You play as a little kid named Ninevolt who is basically playing classic WarioWare on his Game Boy while he’s in bed. The catch is that his mom periodically sneaks up in a number of ways to make sure he’s sleeping, so he has to hide under the covers when she opens his bedroom door or creeps past the window. It’s an ingenious use of the GamePad, as you’re trying to beat the WarioWare microgames on the controller screen while keeping a close eye on your TV to keep Ninevolt’s mom from catching him. The dual-screen interface clicked immediately for this one, unlike some of the more ham-fisted gimmicky uses of the GamePad Nintendo has tried over the past few months.
Taxi was also a lot of fun and was really the only game that remotely showed off any of the Wii U’s graphical power. You drive a taxi around an environment, with the view out the windshield on the GamePad screen and an overhead map on the TV. You have to spot flying saucers on the TV, then drive to their location, blow them up with a laser bazooka and catch the people they’re abducting. Then you drive to a dropoff point, unload your customers and collect your fare. The goal is to save and deliver as many people before the alien mother ship shows up, and then you fight a boss battle with the mother ship. The premise sounds utterly ridiculous but it’s a lot of fun and the GamePad controls are handled very well.
Unfortunately there are some games that kind of fall flat as well. The Ashley game is a pretty basic perpetually moving sidescroller, where you avoid hazards and collect pickups to increase your score. It reminded me a lot of similar smartphone games that are a dime a dozen, and the finicky motion tilt controls made the similarity all the more glaring. The Design game has you helping a scientist build inventions by eyeballing shapes and distances on the gamepad, but unless you break out a ruler and protractor it can be hard to just rough out precise lengths and shapes on a blank touch screen. Who can judge a perfect 70 degree angle with just their eyes anyway?
Wario’s Pirate Dance game seems like a solid idea but the execution leaves something to be desired. Basically you move the GamePad in direction and time with Wario’s dance moves, to block the suction cup arrows he shoots at you. It took me a few seconds to figure out how the whole thing worked and even then, it’s still hard to keep a solid rhythm with a huge tablet controller in your hands. Basically it just made me want a new Elite Beat Agents game even more. Seriously Nintendo, if you’re listening, that franchise is an untapped gold mine.
Beating successive levels in each minigame gives you tokens, which can be used to redeem extras from a vending machine chicken that lays capsule toy eggs (don’t ask). While some of these capsules yield bizarre distractions and microgames that are the series’ bread and butter, most of them are just hint and tip cards for the main sixteen games, which is a little disappointing.
I still have a few more minigames to unlock and the multiplayer mode to test, so stay tuned for my full review of Game and Wario. So far it’s a fun time waster, but I’m a little worried if Nintendo thinks a minigame collection is enough to keep its fans happy for an entire summer.