Wario has always been Nintendo's go-to guy for weird games. He began as a twisted version of its iconic hero, but he's since blossomed into a franchise mascot in his own right. Games like Warioware somehow take concepts that seem like they won't work and transform them into something incredibly addictive. Perhaps that is why it is so disappointing that Game & Wario is a dud. The source of Game & Wario's woes can be traced back to an interview with Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata, who mentions that the game began as a pre-installed title. According to Iwata, the development team came up with too many ideas and decided to convert the pack-in tech demos into a stand-alone title and give it a Wario theme. Unfortunately, they appear to have drastically overvalued the game. Game & Wario isn't bad, but it certainly shouldn't have been a full-fledged retail release, either.
Game & Wario has 16 minigames, 12 of which are designated as "single-player" and four of which are called multiplayer. Each minigame is (somewhat jokingly) based on the idea of a Game & Watch title reimagined as a Wario game. As far as minigames go, they're relatively well designed, but none are complex. The Taxi minigame challenges you to shoot UFOs and rescue livestock. Your map is on the television screen while your cab's first-person view is on the GamePad. You have to split your attention between the two to keep the livestock safe. Pirate, the minigame that started Game & Wario, is a rhythm game mixed with Simon Says. You have to listen to Wario's commands and move the Wii U GamePad as he says to avoid getting shot by pirate arrows. All minigames follow this basic pattern. Some get harder as you progress, and a few have Endless modes that let you shoot for high scores.
These games aren't bad, but they're exactly what you'd expect from a minigame collection. They might be more impressive if not stacked up against Nintendo Land, which is a much better minigame collection to utilize a GamePad. It has fewer games, but they're a better mix and have a little more value. Game & Wario's games are extremely lackluster for a $40 title. They work fine, and the GamePad controls rarely fizzle out, but they're sort of basic and plain. They're more akin to 99-cent app titles, and perhaps that is what hurts the game. They're not only simple; they're simple in a way that doesn't provide much value for anyone. Most dedicated Wii U owners have Nintendo Land, as it came packed with the system, and anyone else can find similar games for less on every other system, including the 3DS.
For most people, perhaps the most frustrating minigame is Gamer. You begin as a kid playing a game of Warioware, complete with several new or classic Warioware minigames. Shortly after you begin, your fictional mother bursts in and tells you to go to sleep, and you must switch between playing the minigames and "hiding" from your mother by holding down the controller shoulder buttons. The minigames-within-a-minigame are fun and silly, but I'd much rather play Warioware instead of Game & Wario. There are only a limited number of these mini-minigames, and they're constantly interrupted by the player's mother. It's like all the long-lost frustration of childhood bedtime converted into a video game. It commits the cardinal sin of making me wish I was playing something else.
Game & Wario's biggest frustration involves the multiplayer. The title doesn't support any controllers aside from the single Wii U GamePad that comes with the system. This means that every minigame relies on one person holding the controller and the rest of the party unable to do anything. It's a minigame collection with a limited number of effectively single-player minigames. The Fruit minigame involves one player moving around with the GamePad while the rest of the party tries to identify which character he or she is on the screen. The Sketch minigame is Pictionary on the Wii U GamePad. You can also play a few of the single-player games with one to two players, but that involves passing the GamePad back and forth.
This, more than anything, hurts the game's value. If you pop in Nintendo Land, up to five people can play, and everyone will have something to do. Game & Wario is a party game where most people don't get a controller. Considering that the biggest selling point of console party games is that everyone can interact and have fun, this makes it tough to justify the price. It doesn't really work as a multiplayer game, but it's far too simple for a single-player game. Had it been a pack-in as originally intended, it would be a fine tech demo of the system's capabilities.
The game tries to pad its length with collectible cards and items, but they don't add anything meaningful. You have to collect coins by playing the minigames, and then you put the coins into a vending machine for a chance to collect new cards. It's similar to the trophy collection in Super Smash Bros., but far more simplistic. Cards can contain hints about the locations of hidden items in the minigames or cute snippets of information about the various characters. Unless you're a die-hard fan who loves collecting everything, it's unlikely you'll complete the library of collectibles.
Game & Wario isn't the best-looking game on the Wii U. Much like the rest of the game, it resembles a tech demo. Everything about it looks simplistic. The character sprites are large, and there isn't a lot of animation or style to them. There are brief cut scenes to introduce the plots of each minigame, but everything looks like it was done on a shoestring budget. The soundtrack is similarly lackluster. It isn't bad, but the only music that really stands out is in the rhythm-themed Pirate minigame.
Game & Wario would've been overpriced at $20, much less its $40 retail price. It's a minigame collection that pales in comparison to the pack-in Nintendo Land, and even with a noticeable shortage of Wii U titles, there's no reason to pick up this game for full price. The single-player games are reasonably fun, but there's not enough content, and the multiplayer games feel half-baked. Had this been released as a budget title on the Wii U eShop, it would've been much more palatable. As a stand-alone title, it's without an audience. Even the most die-hard Nintendo faithful would be better off waiting for the next title to come down the pipeline.
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