Game and Wario turns out to be more Wario than game.
Nintendo have a long and chequered history producing fantastic mini-games. From Wii Sports to Mario Party, the company have an affiliation with bite-sized fun that is bookended by Game and Wario’s two main influences: The WarioWare series and Game and Watch.
The Game and Watch units were Nintendo’s first foray into handheld gaming back in the eighties and WarioWare a quirky collection of hundreds of micro-games packaged in an absurdist drama led by the Nintendo antagonist. Combining the two should be a revelation, but Game and Wario proves that, by reducing the essence of WarioWare into a more standard mini-game setup, a great deal of the series’ magic is lost.
The plot revolves around Wario attempting to make the greatest game console ever made, so him and the usual band of WarioWare characters get to work creating games based on their wacky personalities. Series aficionados will welcome the return of the likes of Ashley and 9-Volt, but the plot’s post-modern reflections on console design seem underwhelming considering Game and Wario’s mixed use of the Wii U hardware. The greatest console ever? Probably not the best frame narrative for an exclusive on a culturally maligned console.
"Thankfully, a few stand out titles offer enough ideas and content to single-handedly bail the whole collection out of trouble. "
With Wario’s intentions in place, the stage is set for twelve single player games. They range in quality though, a con that, whilst expected in a mini-game compilation, has a greater impact on Game and Wario’s meagre game library. Games such as Arrow and Ski do little more than what we’ve already seen in Nintendo Land, and offer such little replay and creativity that it’s rather embarrassing to see them here. Pirate and Bowling also contribute minor variations to ideas seen in the likes of Nintendo Land and Wii Sports and, whilst they aren’t bad games, they fail to capture the craziness and unique humour of the micro-games seen in previous WarioWares.
Thankfully, a few stand out titles offer enough ideas and content to single-handedly bail the whole collection out of trouble. Gamer is my favourite, a gem that casts you as 9-Volt trying to play his Gameboy under the covers past his bed time. The Wii U Gamepad acts as 9-Volt’s console, displaying a variety of retro WarioWare micro-games you must complete.
Meanwhile, the TV shows 9-Volt in his room. You are tasked with completing the games on the Gamepad whilst watching out for 9-Volt’s mum coming in and catching the late night gamer. It’s a setup that is hugely resonant with any gamer old enough to know what a GameBoy is, and it offers one of the most convincing examples of dual screen gaming yet.
"Likewise, Kung Fu offers a fairly intuitive tilt based platformer but, amongst two other fairly generic motion controlled efforts, its gameplay quickly begins to feel stagnant."
Similar enjoyment can be found in Mona’s mini-game, a mix of Where’s Waldo and Wii U magic at its finest. You take the role of an investigative journalist scouting for suspects to photograph in a crowded scene. The tricky part comes in actually getting the perps in your viewfinder, with the Gamepad acting as your camera.
Though not all games utilise the hardware this well, some are content with merely being fun games. Patchwork is a pleasant puzzle game that sees you fitting elaborate shapes into different size boards. Though it isn’t the most inventive of games, its relaxing pace is a nice break from the rest of the games and it sports a huge amount of puzzles to sink your teeth into.
Likewise, Kung Fu offers a fairly intuitive tilt based platformer but, amongst two other fairly generic motion controlled efforts, its gameplay quickly begins to feel stagnant. Considering three out of the twelve games rely on tilting as their primary mechanic, a quarter of the already small selection of games is made shockingly redundant.
At least in between some of the more predictable gameplay the collection is neatly tied together by a unified art style. Rather than the subdued cartoon aesthetic of most Nintendo franchises, Wario continues the beautifully gaudy style seen in previous games. Colours come thick, fast and offensively bright, and the game is given a pleasantly silly demeanour because of it.
"Whether you're getting the best or the worst from Game and Wario, you aren't really getting a lot. "
The inclusion of cloth and patch visuals in the Patchwork and Pirate games also shows the series embarking on new graphical adventures that pay off. Game and Wario is a joy to watch, even when it isn’t always a joy to play.
Whether you’re getting the best or the worst from Game and Wario, you aren’t really getting a lot. The games on offer were originally intended to be pre-installed on the Wii U system as tech demonstrations of its features, and this demo feel is felt throughout the package. Some games offer multiple stages to keep you coming back but, even then, there still isn’t a huge amount to see and do.
A series of achievement-style challenges and subsequent collectibles are enticing and often amusing, but many of them are just tips or character cards that pale in comparison to the hilarious interactive collectibles available.
You’d think four multiplayer games would be a real lifespan booster but, considering one of them is basically Pictionary and another a chaotic mixture of Boules and chance, they are a considerable let down. Disco too amounts to little more than a digital Simon Says and, as classic a game as that is, I don’t need a Wii U to play it.
"Game and Wario takes two innovative Nintendo brands and turns them into a mish-mash of mediocrity."
The only interesting multiplayer option pits one of you on the Gamepad selecting a character in a group to control. You then have to steal fruit from a market while the other players have to watch the TV and guess which character you’re using to commit the crime. It’s the kind of asymmetric multiplayer that the Wii U caters too, but it alone is not enough to extend the longevity of Game and Wario.
The Game and Watch was one of Nintendo’s defining moments, when a simple idea invented handheld gaming as we know it. To shove the Game and Watch name and a Wario theme on to a series of tech demos and charge £40 for them doesn’t do justice to this legacy. Game and Wario feels like a pack-in title.
If it was, I could excuse the lack of depth and a few stodgy games. Hell, even if it was released as a slightly cheaper title I could forgive many of its misgivings but, at a full retail price, Game and Wario takes two innovative Nintendo brands and turns them into a mish-mash of mediocrity.
This game was reviewed on Wii U.
Uses the hardware well, Quirky humour, Colourful visuals, A few stand out games, Some offerings have a lot of content
Pitiful multiplayer options, Loss of micro-games structure is disappointing, Some games are shallow, Ideas are often over-used
A series of 12 mini-games of varying quality, Game and Wario does justice and severe harm to Wario's credibility in equal measure.