Another year, another minigame collection. Nintendo seems to think that the best way to show off new control methods to an uninformed public is to combine a dozen or so bite-sized games into one package, each one showing exactly what developers can do with the system’s unique tech. This year, we get Game & Wario: a gaggle of games designed entirely around the Gamepad and its touchscreen.
Wario is at it again — he’s discovered that a hot new video game system is sweeping the market, and he’s rounded up the WarioWare Inc. staff once again to capitalize on its success. Their plan? To cut corners and drown the market in their uniquely bonkers and somewhat disturbing minigames, thus earning them boatloads of cash.
The problem with minigame collections is that after playing through them once or twice, they don’t usually have a lot of life left in them — and at first glance, it would appear that Game & Wario suffers from the same fate. After loading up your profile, getting from the first minigame to the staff credits will take maybe an hour or two. If that’s all you plan on getting out of it, you’d do best to steer clear. Luckily, revisiting each of these games unlocks further stages within them, adding a little bit more depth than would normally be found in a typical minigame collection.
Some of the minigames are clearly better than others. ‘Arrow’ is the first minigame you’ll encounter — use the gamepad to aim and fire at attacking robots. ‘Ski’ is very similar to the F-Zero minigame on Nintendoland — you’ll use the gamepad to steer Disco Jimmy down the slopes. ‘Design’ has you helping Dr. Crygor build a robot. He’ll ask for certain sized shapes, and you have to draw them — without the aid of any sort of measurement demarcation. ‘Pirates’ is a rhythm based minigame, and requires that you move the Gamepad around to block arrows in time with the music. All of these are decent the first time around, but get old really quickly — in fact, I’m still not entirely sure how Pirates is supposed to work.
Luckily the other minigames make up for the ones that come up short. ‘Shutter’ is a tense game of hide and seek, requiring you to search high and low in order to take snapshots of specific targets. ‘Patchwork’ is a really well designed puzzle game that could probably stand as its own downloadable game. You’re given several shapes, and you have to find where they fit on a grid in order to make pictures with them. This is probably the most fleshed out game, with several dozen levels of increasing difficulty.
But the best game of all (as is usual in these Wario games) is 9-Volt’s ‘Gamer.’ This one simulates the act of staying up way past your bedtime, trying to sneak in a couple more minutes of game time under the covers. While playing microgames inspired by previous editions of WarioWare, you have to keep an eye on the TV and make sure that you hide before your mom catches you. It’s actually surprisingly creepy, with some incredibly bone-chilling sound effects to accompany your mom’s night time prowling. During our time at E3, we played more than a few rounds of Gamer back in our hotel room, passing the Gamepad back and forth, trying to beat each other’s scores.
These games and a few others round out the “Single Player” portion of Game & Wario (though some are compatible with two players, or are at least highly conducive to pass-and-play; see: Gamer). The “Multi” portion of the game is made up of a few other minigames, the best of these being ‘Sketch’ (essentially a dressed up version of Pictionary) and ‘Islands’ (a target shooting game that has you and up to three others trying to launch ‘Fronks’ at an ever shifting platform).
The Gamepad serves as the input device for all of these minigames, and some of the games use it fantastically — while others, not so much. Games like ‘Arrow’ or ‘Islands’ are a little weird to use at first, as you’re trying to aim at the screen while using the touch screen to launch objects. ‘Kung Fu’s’ tilting gameplay isn’t quite as accurate as I’d like, especially for the types of precision jumps that game requires. Other games that stick to just button presses or touch screen input (like ‘Gamer’ or ‘Patchwork’) control fantastically. Most of the time the games just take getting used to, but there are times I wished for a simple analog stick-based input over whatever contrived mechanics they tried to shoehorn in.
Playing each of these games earns tokens that you can redeem at the Cluck-a-pop capsule machine — insert a coin, and watch a giant mecha-chicken pop out a prize capsule where an egg should be. Each of these capsules contains some kind of unlockable — either a dumb and useless toy, hidden secret, or other goofy item will appear, giving you reason to continue to plow through each of these games, trying to discover all they have to offer.
The style is as slick as ever, with these WarioWare games turning the “so-crappy-it’s-awesome” aesthetic into a science by this point, and at $39.99, you’ll get quite a bit of party gaming bang for your buck. All of the minigames in Game & Wario are decently fun, and some definitely have more long term gaming legs than others, but your enjoyment will ultimately come down to how much stamina you have for another minigame collection — because I’m honestly not sure if I have the stomach for any more.