Game & Wario
Wii U | Nintendo / Intelligent Systems | 1-5 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | Miiverse Support
Controller Compatibility: Wii U GamePad
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28th June 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
In the hopes of driving the Wii U's social pillar, Nintendo has in a sense reverted back to early design philosophies, sprinkling its modern magic as icing on a half-baked offering. What we have here is a game far removed from both series roots and its borrowed inspiration, and rather than this helping it flourish, the obtuse direction makes for a mish-mash of hit-and-miss ideas that never form a strong collective stride.
Much of your response to what's on display hinges on this crucial detail: Game & Wario is not a WarioWare game as you've come to know and expect. Instead, a correlation is made between this new entry and the Game & Watch titles, hence the wordplay in the title. This is largely accomplished through the provision of gameplay options akin to 'Game A' and 'Game B,' the secondary component often being a mild spruce-up to slightly shift the rules of engagement. In more definite terms, this takes the form of an endless component (Kung Fu), an added restriction (Design), an increase in speed (Ski), or some such alteration. However, this direction doesn't apply to the collection in its entirety, and that is where the game makes its first mistake. There isn't much unity in how the overarching setup has been explored, either, and the direction not being especially consistent presents an immediate barrier. But if you dismiss this as being unimportant (even while knowing full well that that's not the case), you can get to exploring each activity with a more open-minded outlook that much sooner.
A thin line between creativity and intuitive functionality is created as each activity transforms the controller into a microphone, shield, camera, arrow launcher, handheld device, or musical instrument in how the Touch Screen or built-in motion controls are given the spotlight. Some don't deviate from the stationary position, though, and the "transformation" I alluded to bears little similarity to WarioWare: Smooth Moves, where the Wii Remote took on a variety of unthinkable roles for a myriad of unusual tasks. Even so, Game & Wario does put the GamePad to excellent use in select instances, and it would be good to accord these fitting credit and attention.
Undoubtedly the best use of the GamePad is seen in Gamer, and this description is appropriate for two core reasons: It aligns itself the closest to the franchise's origins, and the physical division of the two screens (i.e., TV vs. GamePad) creates an immersive dynamic that marks it as the pack's innovation leader. Taking a potentially familiar experience of being told repeatedly by a parent to head to bed, Gamer re-creates the same feelings of high-alert you might've had as you listened for footsteps outside your room, as well as the anxiety you might've felt as they towered over you to make sure you were really asleep. Disobedience is made into a thrilling game of risk, determination, and constant awareness. Your focus shifts constantly from the separate chain of microgames on the GamePad as your mother checks in on you by any means necessary, even employing the television in 9-Volt's room to do so. I have no hesitation in saying that Gamer is a strong highlight for the Wii U at large, being perhaps the most unique and zany use of the controller to date.
A more direct relationship between the GamePad and what transpires on the TV exists in Shutter and Pirates, having you investigate a bustling scene to photograph five characters, or participate in a Rhythm Heaven-esque affair that makes use of the gyroscope to involve the space around you. While the concepts make for an attentive showing, the executions are a tad finicky, even jerky.
This is especially true of Pirates, with GamePad motions not always registering with accuracy as you make transitions from one side to the next on cue. With Shutter, the consistency is better, but it has the drawback of requiring a gimmicky action to confirm photographs taken. Nevertheless, the musical and Where's Waldo-style exercises are not dominated by interference. The fun factor still shines through, and to prove it, Pirates even throws in a short dose of posing fun in the style of the unforgettable Wario Dance Company micro-game from WarioWare: Smooth Moves.
Nintendo Land veterans will quickly relate to Ski, Game & Wario's answer to Captain Falcon's Twister Race. A quick look may reveal that one is no better than the other, when in actuality Ski reigns supreme. This is because unlike Twister Race where the presence of the TV took away much of the convincing, staring at the GamePad is mandatory here, the key difference being that the TV feed reverses output. Tilting is a lot more reliable here and can't as easily be manipulated against how the game designers want you to experience it -- with the control held in a vertical position.
While we're at it with the comparison contest, it should also be noted that Ski connects fairly well with WarioWare's trademark humour, having Jimmy T. gradually shed his layers as top speed is maintained, even donning a flashy gold suit en route to the finish. The courses are snack-sized and don't present a great deal of obstacles for a perilous slalom, so that takes away from your reason to return -- even considering that two additional options eventually open up. But still, Ski functions better than expected, and if nothing else, it'll make you smirk.
Continuing with the Nintendo Land references, Arrow is Game & Wario's rendition of Takamaru's Ninja Castle. You hold the GamePad in a similar fashion (i.e., with the right side facing the TV), but instead of quickly swiping to launch ninja stars, a bow mechanism must be pulled back in more defined strokes, with movement determined by how your GamePad is positioned. Your multi-functional launcher also acts as a shield against cannons when held in the vertical position and can also, with the use of pepper, send wider-ranged blows. The shooting gallery exercise does wear thin after a while -- about the same, if not sooner than Ninja Castle, in fact. But in terms of functionality, it does a fair job.
Bowling offers a similar design execution with a predictable supply of options. The only difference that makes this even remotely attractive to those who may have sworn themselves off virtual bowling after Wii Sports, is that the pins are of different properties. Dribble and Wario have bulky pins, for example, and that plays into your strategy when tackling pre-set lanes in Challenge Mode. Otherwise, the method of encouraging players to switch their viewpoint from GamePad to the TV isn't very admirable, with a white line an inch away from the pins locking your path before the motion is needlessly replicated once more.
Patchwork and Design see the GamePad functioning more as a notebook by means of its Touch Screen. The first stars Kat and Ana in a conventional puzzle affair that, for the terms that the game is working with, proves to be a rather strange diversion. One might even say it's bonkers that this wasn't weeded out in favour of something more active. All the same, Patchwork is good in its own right, having you place tiles on a grid with plenty of overlap to throw you off. The only bothersome aspect, aside from it being off-kilter for the package, is the tedious unlock system, which requires that all puzzles in one difficulty bracket be cleared before given access to the next.
Design, which may well have the worst name in the entire group, is a highly short-lived affair that has you taking mathematical instructions to fill the schematics for a robot. Truthfully, there's not much drive to be had on your own with drawing angles, lines, and circles of specified length and diameter. (What happened to centimeters, by the way?) The unlockable One Stroke mode doesn't help matters much, and ultimately multiplayer isn't much of an alluring competition either. I'd hesitate to call it an outright dud, it certainly represents Game & Wario's flat side.
Similarly dubious is Ashley, a 2D, side-scrolling flight game where you hold the GamePad out in front of you, tilting up and down to move, and using ZL and ZR to do loops. Aside from a special attack and a combo multiplier, it's entirely forgettable. The controls aren't intuitive and sometimes lead to unstable results, plus the game has this silly demand of using the Touch Screen to calm Ashley down after repeated collisions. It's definitely the weakest of the bunch.
Not far off is Kung Fu, a slow-paced game where you hold the GamePad like a tray, referring to both screens as you navigate across a 3D plane. The GamePad provides an aerial perspective positioned just above Young Cricket's head, while the TV offers a look at the entire field. The idea is to tilt the GamePad forward and back as he maintains his incessant hopping, grabbing dumplings to sustain hunger levels and using ZL and ZR to quicken the landing process. Hidden scrolls effectively drive the dynamic of gauging two different perspectives, and the levels are surprisingly entertaining in how they toy with this. But in truth, it should function better than it does, and ignoring the fact that the game is bound to give you whiplash by the way it's designed, the appeal is very limited and it's more a passing example than something that sticks.
Two different perspectives are also used to shape Taxi, an arcade driving game set in a first-person perspective on the GamePad, with the TV acting as a full-scale view of the map from behind. Dribble & Spitz are tasked with recovering and then escorting a strange band of customers from a mischievous bunch of aliens. The conditions are tight as far as scoring is concerned, with players having to manage their time effectively for stage-end bonuses while also making as few trips as possible to the designated location. Yet, for something that's tougher than it looks, it's very amusing. The second and third levels in particular remind me of Hot Wheels playsets, while the mothership invasion feels like something out of Star Fox 64. Putting that aside, it actually plays in a rather stiff manner, but once you get past that, it's one of the most quirky offerings here.
Game & Wario's final single-player offering, Bird, is a repeat take from previous WarioWare games starring Pyoro, just with a different art style -- a Game & Watch skin when playing on the GamePad, and pastel-decorated scenery that develops over time when focusing on the TV. Passable, but not something you'll want the game for.
All activities but the last are also ruled by a token system, currency that allows you to take a crack at the completely "out there" Cluck-a-Pop for assorted prizes. Clutch the GamePad only with your right hand or grip the controller along the top edge, then shake it like a tambourine to jostle the capsule machine's contests. Later housed in the Collection area, such trinkets include character cards and nifty interactive items. And to be quite honest, a large part of the game's humour is delivered through these, creating a party of their own.
Moreover, it's actually the best way Game & Wario bridges itself over to the company of previous WarioWare games -- WarioWare: Twisted in particular. Some of my personal favourites include the Top Set (#92), complete with authentic physics; Beans (#23), which have you simulating ocean waves while a scene plays out on the TV with cut-outs from a graphic fiction from a novel; and the series of gizmos that fall under the 'Forgetful' bracket, where you yell out commands and a crowd responds accordingly. It's a really cool aspect and will quite possibly be a redeeming feature for some -- even if it is a glorified distraction.
Circulating through the 12 activities on offer won't take much time at all, but during that time, there's a lot of passive acceptance taking place. A dominating force that controls the appeal of the game is the lack of thorough engagement, supplemented by the debatable fun factor. Because of this, players will see little mileage over the long run; some activities exhausting their welcome after a few plays, some evaporating almost as soon as you get a handle on their control schemes. As in the case of Arrow, Ashley and Taxi, there are ranks you can shoot for (Master, Best Buddy and Taxi King, respectively). But with others, there's little present -- either default or that which is added -- to encourage a motivated return thereafter. You'd think this could be excused in light of an elevated multiplayer component, but that is simply not the case, and it pains me to see the proverbial apple fall so far from the WarioWare tree.
What you have in the way of group exercises are four concentrated activities, with two more confusingly housed inside the single-player hub under Design and Bowling. The first of these, entitled Sketch, amounts to digital Pictionary, where you and up to four friends tackle Orbulon's progressively challenging selection of words. From the many sessions I had (it's hilarious, sue me!), it appears the list is quite lengthy, as I only encountered the same word once. I have to admit, though, that it irks me to see the game rely on this to sell its multiplayer when I know it's capable of far better. Sadly, completed drawings can't be saved and accessed from a database for future taunting. The developers might've reasoned that that's what Miiverse is for, but at least some drawings are preserved with the Orbulon's Prized Masterpiece trinkets.
Outside the multiplayer hub is a single-player version of the game known as Miiverse Sketch, where you're given 60 seconds to present a drawing for a word suggested by a Miiverse user or Orbulon himself. Words of your own can be suggested for inclusion, but their chances of getting pulled as one of the four randomized results is dependent on how many Yeah's the word has on Miiverse. I quickly found myself fed up with the constant Nintendo memorabilia. Not as annoyed others in my Miiverse feed might've been seeing me spit out a surplus of drawings and word suggestions in chunks. So much for filters, I guess.
Back to the multiplayer exclusives, Fruit takes the Shutter concept of scouring environments and adapts it to create a hilarious stealth game. In it, the person with the GamePad disguises themselves as a thief, blending in with the crowd so as to steal four fruits. Three stages are available, and each have their own distinctive qualities. Apple Avenue has a steady flow of traffic, as well as manholes for teleporting to another block; Pineapple Pool features a swirling current in the center and water slides; and silhouettes are to be monitored in Melon Museum, forcing agents (those keeping an eye on the entire space) to be more vigilant as light switches go off.
This is definitely a case like Nintendo Land's trio of competitive offerings (Mario Chase, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, Luigi's Ghost Mansion) where while the patterns are varied enough, more maps would've been absolutely stellar because the game is just too much fun, watching as thieves make humiliating slip-ups or are so good at emulating crowd behaviours that they completely escape detection. While Gamer remains the best use of the GamePad, Fruit is, in my view, the best Game & Wario has to offer in terms of hilarity and replayability.
When we get to the other two offerings, Islands and Disco, the praises don't flow nearly as freely. The former isn't too far off from what you've seen in Super Monkey Ball (Monkey Target) and Wii Party (Balance Boat), but even with the balancing act that ensues as you launch your units onto teetering platforms, it doesn't have enough jive to leave a lasting impact on those who may try the game at your home. And then Disco, a touch-based rhythm beat battle, just feels like a weak, quickly-put-together mini-game that ends up being surprisingly boring. That, and its sole concentration on the GamePad isn't especially welcome here. To put it simply, these don't have what it takes, and they sure don't measure up to the fun factor, ease, and inviting appeal of the other two.
Much can be said about how Game & Wario has stepped out of the confines of its pen, but it does the game good for the humour to have remained intact. The usual mischief and escapades are still present, with little-to-no loss of quirky charm. Likewise for the character personalities, which haven't been diluted in any respect. But the game has lost itself to some degree in trying to colour its trivial aspects. On the bright side, this process has given birth to title screens set to nightmarish, edgy, and avant-garde artwork, which is worth praising on its own.
The lack of similarity among the portrayals shows the developers had a great time coming up with wild directions to guide each offering, some examples being Minecraft-esque pixelated blocks for Taxi, and watercolour ink painting for Kung Fu. Accompanying these are appropriate and well-connected musical themes that often carry an oddball vibe, Ski having a smooth ballad and a trance-like rave track to join the disco and neon atmospheres of the hills. And it sure is something to think of Ashley as having a whimsical side, with a mix of jolly waltz, polka, and accordion music spearheading her candy-coated game. The soundtrack, while somewhat all over the place, has a lot of flair and contains a fair share of gems that you'll catch yourself replaying in your mind even after departing from the experience.
Game & Wario proves to be a strange collection for reasons entirely different from how previous WarioWare titles have been positioned. It behooves players to mentally dissolve the rather thin strings that hold up the entire package, for only then can they discover a thread of rationale for these concepts being so self-contained. Even still, it's pretty telling to see Game & Wario battle against formidable barriers that earlier entries broke past rather effortlessly. Worse yet, where it lacks in discretion isn't made up for in its appeal, and it's uncomfortable to see it devolve to a borderline run-of-the-mill state by its sampling of forgettable offerings. Yes, Game & Wario does feature some of the best GamePad use seen since the Wii U's launch; it's just that the stars of the show seem ever so shy when mixed in with such a noisy posse. Truth is, Game & Wario is heavily carried by its better half, and sad to say, while it'll have its supporters, the game fails to generate an enthusiastic following.
19/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Mixed bag of creative and weak GamePad use, several forgettable executions, must dismiss wishy-washy direction, control issues
Presentation 7/10 - Varied art styles with much charm and colour, craziness toned down but personality remains, welcome mix of odd and fitting tunes
Enjoyment 3/5 - Mildly entertaining in places, not as effortless in leaping past barriers, short-lived activities with little long-term appeal
Extra Content 3/5 - Cluck-a-Pop brings many hilarious highlights, multiplayer and secondary modes range in success, good Miiverse incorporation
Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System