If you're not familiar with the 'Game & Watch' Nintendo product then you probably need to read up a bit on the late/great Gunpei Yokoi's first series of portable games. They were revolutionary for their time and they certainly are shades of a Game Boy-to-come. I found it interesting, and creative, that Nintendo decided to name their next Wario entry after such thing. Those of you wondering where the name came from then wonder no more.
Let's get right into the game!
Wario has had a fascinating series of games that began way back in 2003. The game has grown as the technology has leaped forward, especially with the emergence of the DS and Wii, and now we have ourselves the latest adventure called Game & Wario, which is catered to the Wii U and its gamepad.
Game & Wario is a different breed of Wario-based titles. What Wario is generally known for is fast-furious-frivolous gameplay. Most Wario games have a few typical gameplay elements to them. First, the game is going to be played like a child hopped-up on sugar. Tons of games will be thrown at you and some will test your patience, while others will simply be cheesecake. Second, those games will have almost zero instruction to them besides a 'good luck', which means they're clever and respect gamers enough to figure them out. Finally, there will be a lot of replay value in said games. I remember playing WarioWare for the very first time and spending days on it. It was like the online game 'Impossible Quiz', where the gaming is addictive as hell, yet simple (and with no real instructions -- gamers must 'think' on the go) in terms of figuring things out on the go.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, Game & Wario is a different from your typical WarioWare-esque games. It's more of a 'slow and steady, but sometimes fast wins the game' sort of game. It's a mixture of everything good that you know about WarioWare titles, but also some slower paced items that allow you to relax a bit. Whether that takes away from the aura that the Wario series has created over the years is yet to be seen (I'm still playing the game after having it a few weeks), but I can tell you there are somethings that work, and somethings that needed to be adjusted or left out completely. Without further delay, let's get right into it.
What you get with Game & Wario is a lot of games and some great usage of the Wii U Gamepad. First, let's talk games. The gameplay in Game & Wario is broken down into two main categories - Single and Multi. Starting with the single player experience, here's the mini-game breakdown:
*DISCLAIMER: Please note that not all games are going to be mentioned in this review for the sake of gamer discovery. Have we unlocked all the games? Yes. We won't be discussing them all, though.
Arrow - This is the first game you'll be playing in single player mode. You turn the Wii U gamepad vertical and basically fire arrows (pulling back/angling/releasing) at an onslaught of robots heading towards you over two hills. Once you're done with the onslaught, which come in a variety of different flavors -- flying, shielded, etc. -- then you reach a boss that requires screws to be shot in order to break him into pieces. There are four stages in the game, with each presenting new robots and various ways to perish. The final stage is a bastard, so prepare yourself. Overall, Arrow is challenging to an extent, but it doesn't really get good until stage 3 and 4. In those stages, Arrow introduces wind into the gameplay, which requires you to adjust your shot's crosshairs just a bit to get the arrow to hit its target. The final boss in the game is enormously difficult, as the wind is more extreme and the boss is actually firing back (rather quickly) at you. Definitely not the strongest game in the Game & Wario title, but it gets good if you stick with it.
Shutter - This is my second favorite mini-game in Game & Wario. If you're a fan of Pokemon Snap (and who the hell isn't?) then you're going to feel right at home with this one. You play Mona the bubbly reporter, who has to go out and take certain assigned photographs of individuals in motion (sometimes non-individuals, if you get my meaning). How this works, the Wii U gamepad acts as the lens of the camera when the assignment starts. You hold up the gamepad towards the television to cruise the scene you're given. The gamepad can zoom-in, focus and snap pictures of things happening. For example, the first mission is photographing suspected criminals in a city location. Your editor gives you certain people to photograph, and you find them in the city. Once you find said criminals, you have to frame them correctly and catch them looking towards the camera. Once snapped, the photograph is requested immediately by your editor (move the gamepad down until it's flat in the air to send the photo) and you're judged on your photograph skills. Points are taken off for no headroom (meaning your subject is too large in the frame), size of photograph (don't want to make it too small) or other things such as if your subject is even facing the camera. The more perfect the photograph, the more points you gain. On top of your assignment, you can also photograph things around the area (and you are encouraged to do so), such as coins, oddities and aliens - FRONKS! I could have spent my entire reviewing time playing this game and I would have been happy. Shutter is such a fun game and proves that Nintendo needs another Pokemon Snap. Please note that, Nintendo.
Ski - Eh. Yeah, Eh. Jimmy, our favorite disco dude, heads up this mini-game. What do you think it's about? Yeah, you're right -- SKIING! You basically hold the Wii U gamepad up in vertical position and help guide Jimmy through various skiing scenarios by turning the gamepad as he moves (it makes him maneuver through the ski slope). It's a top-down view in the game and there are two modes of play. The first is Time Attack, which is what you think it is (timed skiing). The Time Attack has five stages to it and it features speed ramps, jump ramps and objects that stand in your way of success (mud strips, giant snow banks, etc.). Time Attack is challenging, if you like that sorta stuff, but it's not as exciting as it could be, as it gets stale by the second stage (even with new objects to avoid). The other mode is Endless Bunny Slop, which takes the premise of Time Attack, but nixes 'time' out of the equation. It's an endless race downhill to see how far Jimmy can go, while at the same time picking up snow bunnies on the slope. Hilarious? Absolutely. Exciting overall? No. I found Ski to be the weakest game of the bunch, as it poses no challenge, little reward (other than the usual -- which we'll get into later) and has the possibility of creating more frustration than fun.
Patchwork - I think this mini-game creates some sort of weird stockholm syndrome experience, as the concept is torturous at times, but you just can't stop playing. Patchwork was made for the patient gamer, who enjoys putting puzzle pieces together. Our two favorite swordsmen (women?), Ana and Kat, cut up large blocks of fabric into odd shapes, so that gamers can put them together to form shapes (horses, keys, Mario, etc.). Don't worry, gamers, the game times your progress, meaning you try to put the pieces together as quickly as possible. The replay value of this game is in beating your own time. There are three difficulty levels in the initial game (Easy, Medium, Hard) that have different features included. The easy is just what you would expect, not so complicated patterns with big pieces to form characters. The medium difficulty introduces the possibility of two puzzle pieces fitting into one spot, which makes decision-making on the fly a bit more complicated. The hard difficulty introduces smaller, more abundant pieces that could go numerous amounts of places. The payoff by completing all of these difficulties is unlocking the Challenge Puzzles mode. Before we discuss that, let me just add that each difficulty has 31 patterns (counting the demo) for gamers to put together. That's a lot of patterns, especially when you progress through 'Easy' and see the pacing of the mini-game. Completing all the difficulties spanned two entire days of work. Maybe I was a bit slow in doing it, but it's a large amount of work and only really half the mini-game. Now, as for the Challenge Puzzles mode, this is more of a time attack option. You have a limited amount of time to get pieces in place. It's incredibly difficult, but definitely tests your gaming skills. Patchwork, while not my favorite due to pacing, is a solid mini-game that is a good fallback when you're tired of the 'go-go-go!' Wario style of play. It's probably the biggest of the bunch in terms of depth.
Gamer - You wanted typical WarioWare type of gaming? Well, you got it with Gamer. 9-Volt and 18-Volt carry along the traditional style of WW play, but with a little twist. 9-Volt's game takes the WarioWare gameplay (fast-paced mini-games) and adds an element of survival horror. No, no, not Resident Evil survival horror, rather surviving 9-Volt's mom's horror when she finds out he is playing WarioWare when he should be sleeping. It's challenging, but the gamer must maneuver 9-Volt's WarioWare adventure while at the same time looking out for his mom. The game tips you off when 9-Volt's mom is about to pop in on her son through noises, visual warnings and dramatic music. For example, periodically the television will turn itself on and static will start to form into 9-Volt's mom's, which eventually literally has her springing out of the television to check on him. Her eyes are glowing when she does this and it's just (bleeping) creepy. She also hangs out outside his window and will stomp down the hallway to his door, dramatically swinging it open (though sometimes it's the family cat). To avoid her catching him, the gamer has to press either the L/R buttons at the same time or the ZL/ZR buttons (doesn't matter which). By pressing those buttons it sends 9-Volt hiding under his sheets to emulate sleep. You only get a certain amount of time for 9-Volt to hide under his sheets, so you have to be aware of when his mom is popping up and the length of time before you press the buttons. Obviously, the less time you waste then the more points you gain. There are four initial levels in 9-Volt's adventure and let me tell you folks, by stage 2 you're sweating a bit. Damn good mini-game, though.
As for 18-Volt, he's got the more traditional WarioWare that is based off a Balloon Fighter theme (just the look of it). 18-Volt's mode is incredibly difficult, as you have to make it through at least 40 straight games before you can progress to the next level. That is a chore, folks. I have yet to make it to 40 games at the time of this review. I have only achieved 25 straight games. If something changes between now and the time this review gets posted, I'll let you know how it is. Right now, I can only see two more levels beyond the first. The variety of games for 18-Volt is impressive, and wacky, but you will curse just a bit. Well, a lot. Overall, this was made for the WarioWare traditionalist.
Bird - This is where the Game & Watch personality starts to shine in Game & Wario. On your big television screen it will seem like a bird is trying to catch falling fruit with its tongue. On the Wii U gamepad, you are transported back to a Game & Watch handheld day where you get choppy animation that is black/white. If you are old enough to remember the old Tiger handheld systems then you understand the look/feel of it. Anyway, the game itself is incredibly difficult as you progress in it. If one of the fruit touches the platform the bird is going back/forth on then that particular section of the platform disappears. This becomes a terrible situation when the fruit starts to speed up in their descent. The saving grace of the game, besides your mad skills, is a white piece of fruit that restores a missing platform when caught. As you can probably imagine, there is a lot of chaos that could potentially happen with this game, but the game is fun as hell (and challenging).
As for the rest of the games, and again I don't want to give them all away, I can tell you that there is a kung fu stage, design stage (personal favorite in the bunch) and a few others. All in all, what you get with Game & Wario's single player package is a large variety of mix nuts that should cater to all gamers. It's unique in comparison to the other WarioWare-ish games of its type. To be honest, when I first started playing it, I felt like maybe Nintendo had strayed way off the WarioWare beaten path, but as the game went on and things started opening up a bit, my attitude changed. I'm not saying that everything is fun and works well in Game & Wario's single player package, but 80% of what you get with it is fun to be had.
Now, before we move on to the 'Multi' side of things, let's talk about coins. When you play the single player mode, and you meet certain goals set within each mini-game, you acquire coins. These coins can be spent in the capsule machine, which is a chicken with plastic balls in it. Each coin makes the 'cluck-a-pop' lay an egg/ball that contains either a player card, hint card, phone card or a mini-game that doesn't really have an ending (I'm still unlocking these things, so there are probably more). The 240 count collection is addictive to work on and it's another motivator for you to do better in the single player mini-games.
Shifting gears a bit, let's discuss the multiplayer side of Game & Wario.
The multiplayer side is strictly a local multiplayer experience (sorry online folk) that features four initial games. Here's the breakdown of each:
Sketch - Do you like Pictionary? Well, you get that with Sketch. Basically, you have one player drawing a word that is randomly generated by the game, and the other players have to guess the word through the first player's picture. The game accommodates 2-5 players and if you like this sort of stuff then you're in for a treat. Personally, I think it's unexciting, but I know my wife would absolutely love this if she was playing it. Her family is boring like that… (I'm going to leave this in here because I know they don't read my reviews)
Disco - This is a mix of the iOS Tap-Tap Revenge and Dance Dance Revolution. The twist? It's a two-player game that allows for each player to make up their own beats. Said beats travel from one side of the Wii U gamepad (player 1) to the other side (player 2), and require the players to hit the beats exactly when called for. The player with the most slip-ups will lose the match. Much like communism, I can imagine this game looked fantastic on paper. Regretfully, much like communism, the end result is a bit clunky and unexciting, which makes for a less-than-enthusiastic feeling of competition. It felt 'blah' when I was playing it and I just wanted it to be over quickly. Thankfully, the intern finished me off in no time flat.
Fruit - This is a 2-5 player game that has one player playing the role of fruit thief, while the other players watch carefully for the theft. At the end of the round, if the thief has acquired all fruit then the other players must point out who the thief was in a police lineup. What's cool is that the game fills the board with tons of players during the theft process, so it's tough to see who actually stole the fruit. I have a sick fascination for this game, so it marks high on my 'must play' list for you all.
Islands - Positively my favorite 'multi' of the group. The game starts out with a large floating target filled with various numbers (if you can imagine a dart board then you're with me). The gamer has to launch a group of Fronks onto this floating scoreboard and acquire as many points as they can depending on which numbers the Fronks land on. The other player (by the way, 2-5 players available for this one) can position themselves to knock off the previous players into the sea, thus negating their points. In addition, there is an object a seagull drops on the board that, once hit with a Fronk, will sweep away Fronks from their sitting point. In addition to this, a seagull will randomly come through and pluck a Fronk from the board and drop them into the ocean. There's a lot going on here that will erupt in feverish competition and enjoyment. This quite possibly could have been a game of its own in the Wii U store. This is absolute gold for multiplayers.
That's all I have done in the 'multi' part of Game & Wario. I'm unsure at this point if there is more to multi, but from the looks of things this is all there is. I do wish that some of the games would open up to online mode capabilities, such as Islands, but that just isn't the case. Still, it's fun to have friends over to play this portion of the game.
As for the Miiverse Sketch option, it's not available at the moment of this review. I can tell you a few things about it. From what I can tell, as it does kick me out because the server isn't available yet, is that users suggest words and other users draw them. I'm anxious to see how it's going to work out once it's live. I do remember the pictures drawn by press folks in a 2004 DS press meeting up in Redmond. All I can say is that I hope Nintendo finds a good way to control 'undesirable' sketches. I'm sure there are going to be a lot.
Finally, as for the value of the title, if I wasn't given this game for review then I probably would have bought it. There's so much here, so much replay value within most of the mini-games that it's worth the $39.99 asking price. This might even be a $60 game, though for that price it better have online capabilities. As Nintendo fans have done throughout most of their Nintendo fan life, they can live without the online capabilities, especially if the games bring as much replay value as Game & Wario brings. Still, it would be cool to see them available one day for a game like this.