Nintendo’s Warioware games have always been the place where the company collects some of its clever and inventive, but throwaway ideas; great ideas that just aren’t enough to be the basis for entire games. They’ve always been great showcases for their respective platforms, with Warioware Touched helping people make sense of stylus-based gaming, and Smooth Moves doing the same for the Wii Remote. It’s now got a spinoff in Game and Wario for the Wii U; a collection of hit-and-miss minigames for the system that while frequently clever, don’t come together.
The astute reader will have noticed two things already; that I’ve labelled it as a spin-off, and that I’ve said min-games. It would be an abomination to call Game and Wario a sequel to the Warioware series, largely because in place of the simple and addictive thousands of microgames we now have the sort of minigames you’d expect to find in Mario Party or the decidedly better NintendoLand – and just 16 of them, with an additional 4 multiplayer ones.
Yes, that irreverent and decidedly off-the-wall , unpredictable humour remains intact, especially in the frankly mental Cluck-A-Pop capsule vending machine. As you play through the games you’ll receive tokens, which can be spent on capsules which could contain just about anything. Looking through my collection of the 240 odd rewards reveals a cavalcade of pure insanity; standalone Game & Watch style microgames, hints for the games, weird audio files, a sketchpad to show dream destinations to passing vehicles. It’s hard to go through all of this and not laugh, scratching your head at just how weird it all it.
The mini-games themselves are decidedly less charming, recycling a number of ideas and games we’ve already seen. It starts off with Arrow, one of the better games which has you shooting Arrows at little robotic Warios, very much like Takamaru’s Ninja Castle in NintendoLand. It’s marginally fun, but isn’t particularly engaging and has very little in the way of longevity – though the bosses are borderline genius.
Camera, featuring photojournalist Mona presents a pretty cool use of the Gamepad; Using the gamepad as a camera and you need to find four criminal characters on the TV screen, reminiscent, I suppose, of Pokémon Snap. You’ll have to make sure you’re zoomed in well enough, and capture the suspects in a decent hidden object game. Patchwork is quite easily the most boring and uninspired of the lot, which as you arranging bits of shaped cloth to form an object. It’s about as fun as it sounds, which is not very much at all. Ski is essentially the same as the F-Zero minigame from NintendoLand, only with your disco-infused skier going in the opposite direction.
Kung Fu, featuring Cricket is quite a fun and interesting platform game, that has you guiding the martial arts students to his master by bouncing over platforms, using the gyroscope in the Gamepad, while watching TV to see where you’ll land. Design is one of my favourite of the minigames, thought its really just an expanded version of one of the tech demos we saw from Nintendo at E3 two years ago; it has you drawing freehand shapes and lines of different sizes following the one-screen instructions; like drawing a circle that measure 4cm in diameter, or a freehand lines that 35cm long. It’s harder than it sounds.
Gamer is one of the very few minigames that really captures that Warioware spirit and is easily my favourite of the lot. Playing as a kid in bed whose playing games past his bedtime, you’ll have to play microgames on the gamepad, keeping an eye on the TV screen in case mom comes through the door, or window…or even television screen. It’s really quite genius, capturing that frantic tension we all went through as kids, when we were doing things we shouldn’t have while we were supposed to be sleeping instead.
One of the better games is Taxi, which uses the Gamepad to give you a first perspective view from a taxi as you drive around picking up passengers, while fending off waves of alien invaders with a mounted bazooka. Ashley is pretty much a standard side-scrolling shooter featuring a witch on a broomstick that you control using the Gamepad’s accelerometer. It’s fun, in short bursts. There’s a Bowling game too, using the touch-screen to roll a ball through some challenges, but it’s a bit of a misstep, making you switch view between the pad and the TV all the time, breaking its flow. Pirates, another minigame that evolved from a 2011 tech demo has you blocking arrows fired from pirate ships and then dancing in rhythm, and its actually rather boring.
Play through all of those – and you can do that in less than two hours, and you’ll unlock Bird, the stalwart Pyoro from the WarioWare series in a new, pretty version of an old Game and Watch styled game. And that’s pretty much everything that Game & Wario has to offer the lone gamer. There are a few multiplayer game modes, like Sketch, which like Draw Something is a hi-tech version of Pictionary, a catapult game called Islands, a pretty bad Guitar Hero-styled rhythm game called Disco and the real standout of the multiplayer, a game called Fruit where the person with the GamePad plays a thief, trying to steal apples on a screen full of people,. while the other players watch the TV screen trying to determine which of the myriad people is the thief.
And while there is some fun to be had with Game & Wario, the biggest problem is that we’ve seen much of it before, better presented in the superior NintendoLand. The familiar cast of characters is all here, and the presentation is fantastic but it recycles too many ideas we’ve already seen before.