Game & Wario is a bizarre mini-game experience that feels quite different to Nintendo’s originals. Dave Cook takes his Wii U GamePad in hand and plays silly buggers here.
Back in May, Game & Wario director Goro Abe confirmed that the Wii U mini-game compilation started off as a game called ‘Pirates’, and it was intended to launch pre-installed on Nintendo’s console.
It never starred Wario or his weird group of pals at all, but at some point Abe and his team found they had enough zany concepts to give it a red-nosed makeover and slide it neatly into the series. Game & Wario is the end result.
Where previous WarioWare entries have traditionally fired a barrage of insane, three-second mini-games at you with increasing speed, Game & Wario offers longer, more fleshed out experiences in fewer numbers.
As a person who loved the old, rapid-fire nature of WarioWare Inc, Twisted, Touched and not forgetting Konami’s incredible BishiBashi Special series, I’m not a big fan of Nintendo’s new format. That said, Game & Wario could also be the greatest showcase of GamePad innovation seen on Wii U to date.
No really, it’s insanely clever. It also shows what developers can do with asynchronous devices if companies actually put their collective minds to it which, in turn makes me feel a bit sad that more studios and third-parties aren’t thinking about Nintendo’s console in this manner.
Because each of Game & Wario’s attractions are quite different in how they play, I thought I’d go through them one by one and appraise them all on their own merits before judging the game as a whole.
They all contain many levels, their own leaderboards and many control methods that are difficult to explain through words and captured footage alone. So to make things clearer I’ve taken photos of each game in action – excuse the mess. Lets-a-go shall we?
This is a lot like some of Nintendo’s tech demonstrations back at E3 2012. The idea is to basically hold the GamePad flat and flick forward on the screen to fire arrows at waves of advancing Wario-bots. You can smack them into each other for combo bonuses.
Every so often a big gang of the buggers will leap at you and start running around on the GamePad’s screen, so you have to tap them to bits before they overrun the joint. You can even hold up your controller like a shield to deflect giant cannonballs, and tap arrows to infuse them with exploding garlic power.
It’s simple yet throws together many control methods in one neat package, something almost every attraction in Game & Wario does quite well. Arrow is the first unlocked game and if you’re a fan of quirky light-gun games like Point Blank chances are you’ll enjoy it.
Nintendo has showed off Camera before, and it involves roving reporter Mona as her boss sends her across Diamond City in search of hot scoops. Using the GamePad you have to snap designated people who potter around and appear across a variety of situations.
For example, stage two plonks Mona in a theatre, and your job is to snap a list of high-profile actors performing on stage while they’re smiling. Shooting them when they’re making another other facial expression will result in your picture being rejected by the editor, and you have to zoom in and frame each target up perfectly for top points.
This game is against the clock and it does get pretty tense. While it doesn’t blend together as many control methods as Arrow, it does make good use of the GamePad’s motion as you physically have to line up each photo steadily to place high on the leaderboard. It’s fun, weird and very WarioWare.
Starring WarioWare’s resident funkmeister Jimmy T, top down sports game Ski is definitely one of the weakest games of the bunch. To play, you need to hold your GamePad vertically and tilt it to help Jimmy steer down an icy slope while your run plays out in third-person on the television. It’s pretty dull to be honest.
There’s also an endless runner mode called Ski Bunny Slopes that tasks you with hurtling down a slope while collecting disco dancers for points. It’s perfectly fine, but it’s not that innovative or zany, so it definitely feels like something of an after-thought or hang-over from the old project.
Now on the other hand, while Ski was hardly innovative, the same criticism can be aimed at Patchwork but it’s actually a great little relaxing puzzler in its own right, and could have easily been released as a standalone game on the eShop. You’ve done yourself out of some extra sales here Nintendo.
All you do is create patchwork shapes by dragging pieces of cloth with your GamePad’s stylus and matching them up to the on-screen pattern. Once all the pieces are in place the desired object springs to life and the whole screen literally explodes with joy. I hear said explosion voids your warranty as well. But yes, this is simple, addictive and very lovely, but that said, it doesn’t feel very ‘WarioWare’ at all.
This multiplayer game is essentially Pictionary, and last time I checked people still really liked Pictionary. If you were born after the 90s replace ‘Pictionary’ with ‘Words With Friends’ for the same effect. It’s as fun as it ever was.
Easily the best game on offer, Gamer stars Nintendo-obsessed tyke 9-Volt and features many classic WarioWare Inc. mini-games. The idea is that it’s past 9-Volt’s bed time but he just can’t stop playing games, so it’s up to you to keep on playing WarioWare Inc, and ducking back under the covers whenever his mum enters the room to check on him.
It sounds basic, but focusing on completing each WarioWare Inc game on your GamePad successfully, while keeping one eye on the bedroom scene on your television so you don’t get caught by 9-Volt’s mum makes for a really stressful juggling act. It doesn’t help that the mother is depicted as some kind of monster as well.
You’ll hear her creeping around in the hallway, rustling around outside the bedroom window and – like that lass from The Ring – she’ll morph out of the static on 9-Volt’s telly. It’s easy to be caught off guard while playing mini-games on the GamePad, but it’s utterly addictive and really smart at the same time. Try this at a friend’s if you don’t have a Wii U as it begs to be played.
This is a multi-player only game that sees two or more players taking turns to launch catapult barrages of strange creatures called Fronks at targets. Sections of each target have point values so the more Fronks you land in high-scoring zones, the more points you earn. It’s a fun turn-based game that reminded me of Worms in many ways.
There are buttons that you can activate using Fronks, and each of them do different things, such as swiping through packs of the creatures, sending them spilling into other point zones or in some cases, cascading into the ocean. Seagulls can even swoop in randomly and make off with your Fronks, which is slightly brutal to see. It’s a fun little game indeed.
Another weak entry, Kung-Fu sees a martial arts master leaping across thin stone columns to catch up with his sensei during a mad training exercise. The guy never stops jumping so you have to tilt the GamePad around to steer him back onto solid ground and avoid falling into the ocean below. It all plays out from a top-down perspective and offers little in the way off innovation or insanity.
I’m really bad at this one. Basically Dr. Crygor needs you to help him design robots using the GamePad’s stylus to draw lines and shapes as close to accurate sizes as possible. For example, he might ask you to draw a 6cm line on the screen, or a triangle with three sides at 10cm each. It’s really hard if – like me – you’re shite at judging scale.
At the end your shapes will help design a robot by the end of the stage, and it’ll either pass or fail Crygor’s certification. It’s mildly heartbreaking when he says he hates your finished robo-pal though. It’s an interesting concept but feels a bit too much like maths or design homework for my liking.
Moody witch Ashley is up next, as she navigates a world made of sweets and chocolates on her flying broom. It’ a side-scrolling shooter that is controlled titling the GamePad. Ashley’s magic blasts are automatic whenever you get near an enemy biscuit or cookie though, so it’s technically not a straight-up shmup, but you can pull off loops to collect gems throughout each stage.
The more gems you get, the higher rank you earn by the end of a level. It’s a fun game despite it’s lack of innovation, and Ashley’s constant sarcasm and sour-faced moaning is at odds with the whimsical tone of the sugary stages. It’s definitely one foe the Jetpack Joyride fans out there, that’s for sure. I like it, but it’s not exactly mind-blowing.
Dance is a strictly two-player game that sees you and a buddy sharing the same GamePad. It’s a bit little battle Rock Band as you fire notes back and forth in time with the music. Receivers must tap their friend’s notes in time to successfully block the attack. Hit notes in perfect time when attacking and you can double your score. The music is nuts and the scope for crazy fights over your GamePad’s screen is definitely there. Another basic yet fun game.
Another contender for ‘best in show’, Pirates is a bizarre rhythm action game that sees Wario’s galleon shooting plastic sucker darts at you in time with the funky music. You basically have to follow his cues to hear where shots are coming from – centre, left, right or from the flying ship above – and then turn the GamePad to face each direction in time to shield yourself from attacks.
That’s all there is to it really, but the first-person view on the GamePad is really neat, letting you accurately block darts as they fly towards you. It’s also hard to fall out with a mini-game that sees the ocean awash in neon disco lights as penguins and dolphins dance around like lunatics on the waves. Totally mental, colourful and funny, this is pretty entertaining stuff.
Hot on the heels of Pirates, Taxi is another superb, smart game that blends 2D racing with first-person shooting using your television and GamePad in tandem. As crazy cabbies Dribble and Spitz you have to drive around levels and blast UFOs out of the sky before they make off with a civilians, cows and more.
While you can drive around by looking at the over-world map displayed on your telly, the GamePad shows you driving in first-person. You can also stop to take aim at UFOs using the controller FPS-style, which sees you physically aiming and firing with the smaller screen’s motion control.
It’s a stressful game that sees you racing about the terrain while trying to fend off alien ships using a mix of control schemes, and things get even more insane as you tackle the mothership at the end of each stage. It delivers the same kind of tension found in the old WarioWare games, and it makes for a fun, silly party game experience. The heavy metal intro music is also incredible.
This is a neat little multiplayer game that players of Assassin’s Creed will appreciate. It sees one person playing a thief and walking around a bustling scene in an attempt to steal four apples. The trick idea is that the thief must try to act like the other NPCs and steal the fruit without the other players in the room realising.
You can hide behind moving cars as cover, fast travel using manholes and more to fool your mates. By the end, your friends have to try and identify your thief from a line-up to win. It’s a smart little game that can only be played in multiplayer, but it’s guaranteed to get you all laughing or fighting depending on how it goes down.
Bowling & Bird
Finally, Bowling is more of a final treat than a full game as it’s essentially what it says, a simple bowling app that is controlled by tilting the GamePad. It’s not that far removed from WiiSports bowling except the pins are all Wario characters.
Bird is the final single-player game and it’s unlocked after you complete the rest. Weirdly it’s bloody addictive and it involves a little bird shuffling along platforms using its freakishly long tongue to catch falling seeds. Miss a seed and it crushes the platform it lands on, making the arena smaller and more perilous for your little beaked friend, making the game more stressful as it goes.
I’m hopeful that my game-by-game appraisal of Game & Wario has helped you work out if it’s something you’ll enjoy or not. Personally I’m liking most of the mini-games on offer, but largely this package doesn’t feel as much a part of the WarioWare series as it should. It has mad returning characters and funny cartoon scenes before and after each game, but it’s missing the rapid-fire urgency of the GBA original.
If you wanted something that really uses the Wii U’s GamePad in fun new ways then Game & Wario can be considered a small victory for Nintendo, although it’s perhaps too niche and strange to hit mainstream success. I’d like to see it happen of course, but while newcomers might find it interesting, fans of the old game may not adjust well to the new format.
Let us know what you think below. Game & Wario launches exclusively on the Wii U eShop across North America from June 23, and across Europe June 28.