Developer: Nintendo SPD
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: June 23, 2013
This review was based on a retail version of the game that was loaned out from the publisher
Over the last decade, Wario has had quite the reinvention. Initially conceived as a villain, he slowly but surely developed into a morally flawed, crude anti-hero whose downfall was his greed. The WarioWare series marked that particular turning point for him, where Nintendo really started to bring him into his own, and the franchise and the characters it's spawned have only gotten better over time. So where exactly does Game & Wario fit in to all of this, and does it carry on the fun and excitement of the WarioWare series, or is it something different altogether?
First off, don't let the title fool you; Game & Wario is very much WarioWare with a slightly different name. It's essentially a play on the Game & Watch moniker and how it's similar in concept to those old handhelds from the '80s. However, instead of having the fast and frantic split-second microgames that the series is normally known for, this particular game is based around 16 minigames that take advantage of the Wii U gamepad's unique way of controlling things. Unfortunately, it's also very close in concept to last year's Nintendo Land, making it way too similar in certain areas but with a WarioWare theme and vibe this time.
The story starts off just as any other WarioWare game does - a new game console/handheld comes out and dollar signs immediately light up in Wario's eyes; he just has to take advantage of the new console and create a new game to get more of what he always pines for - money, and lots of it. And that's essentially as much story as you get. Fortunately, the series never needed a story to begin with, as the characters and scenarios are so random and hilarious that they carry the game with their personality and antics alone.
When you first begin the game, you'll have access to four multiplayer minigames and one single-player minigame, which, upon beating the latter, unlocks 11 others sequentially. Unfortunately, I was not able to play through the multiplayer games for this review, but even still, the 12 single-player minigames make up much of the core of the experience.
Each minigame tries its best to stand out as unique, but there a few that feel like retreads from Nintendo Land (as previously mentioned), such as Pirate, which reuses the concept of moving the gamepad around to certain positions in order to progress. In this instance, you'll use it like a shield and to block flying arrows from different directions around you, and afterwards you'll tilt it forward to shake the arrows off.
Ski is similar to Captain Falcon's Twister Race from Nintendo Land in that you control the character/vehicle by holding the gamepad vertical and tilting left or right while the TV screen shows you what obstacles lie ahead. Another minigame, Arrow, is all too similar to Takamaru's Ninja Castle in that you swipe on your gamepad toward the screen in order to shoot arrows at invading Wario mini-bots in a shooting gallery type game.
Other games are a bit different and offer much more unique types of gameplay. Patchwork, Kat and Ana's minigame, has you placing and arranging patchwork pieces in a puzzle in order to make an image. It's a laid back yet fun, alternate type of game that contains quite a bit of content (about 40 different puzzles and 3 different difficulty modes, making for a lot of puzzles).
Shutter is a minigame that puts you in the shoes of Mona as she's tasked with taking pictures of different people in a given setting (i.e. in the city, on stage in a performance, etc.), with the gamepad acting as your "camera," essentially. It's fun in short spurts, and also grades you on your camera technique, but doesn't have as much depth as some other games. Fans of the cult classic N64 game Pokemon Snap will no doubt enjoy this one quite a bit, though.
Design is a somewhat unorthodox minigame that has you drawing lines and shapes and approximating their size on the gamepad by lengths, widths, circumferences, and more that are assigned to you. In the end, it shows you how well you did, as well add the shapes and lines as the face of a robot. Unfortunately, the game is about as fun as it sounds, meaning it's easily the worst of the bunch. Ashley is another unremarkable minigame, which yet again has you tilting the gamepad left and right as you control Ashley flying through the air and collecting orbs and avoiding obstacles.
Fortunately, there are three games in the bunch that really do try something different and succeed in being a lot of fun. The best and most intuitive of them is Gamer, which stars 9-Volt as he hides his attempts to play video games in his bed from his mom when he should actually be sleeping. On the gamepad, you'll play through microgames from past WarioWare games while the TV screen shows 9-Volt in his room.
While playing through the games, though, his mom will pop in either through the door, through the window outside, or hilariously enough, through the TV, and as 9-Volt, you must tilt the gamepad down in a forward position to make it look like he's sleeping (also temporarily suspending the minigame on the gamepad). There are even audio cues that assist (some that are creepy as well and add to the suspense) as well as visual cues that attempt to fake you out. In all, this is one of the only games where it really feels like paying attention to both screens is essential to the gameplay, and it's a lot of fun.
Taxi, ironically, is a tank-based minigame that has you shooting down UFOs in order to rescue people and drive them to a destination to get fare from them. The TV screen displays a birds-eye view of the action whereas the gamepad gives you a first person perspective and the ability to zoom in if needed. This is one of the faster paced and more frantic games, making it one of the more entertaining games as well.
As for the last big minigame, Kung Fu places you in control of a martial arts disciple who must reach his master at the opposite end of the stage. The disciple will automatically jump up and down, and you must guide him through the stage by making sure you land on solid ground and avoid obstacles along the way. To accomplish this, the TV gives a first person view of the action while the gamepad shows what's underneath the disciples feet as he jumps up into the air and comes down. It's an interesting yet engaging and challenging little game unlike many of the others.
There are two other games as well, Bowling and Bird, but they're both smaller in scale and unlocked after you beat the initial ten. Bowling is exactly what it sounds like, though its use of the gamepad is rather clever (acting as the majority of the lane, with the TV displaying the pins at the end of the lane). However, Wii Bowling this is not; it's merely a touch based game that has you flick the ball (on the gamepad) toward the pins. Bird, unfortunately, is a simple rehash of an earlier WarioWare microgame that doesn't add anything new.
One last addition to the game is a mode called Miiversketch, which has you choose a word from a small selection and then draw it on the gamepad with a limited amount of time. Afterward, the picture is automatically uploaded to Miiverse where you can then compare your sketch with others. It's actually pretty entertaining and often quite hilarious to see what other people have come up with, so it's a neat little side feature to have included.
It's a shame that the minigames in Game & Wario are hit and miss with quality because everything else is actually quite solid and good. The trademark WarioWare visuals are there and display a 2D animated look that's bright, clean, and attractive, and the presentation is definitely grade-A Nintendo quality. Even the music and sound is nice, with a few tracks that really stand out and make for great listening.
Above anything else, Game & Wario excels with its over-the-top style and use of the WarioWare characters, with each introducing their own minigame with a wacky animation that is also genuinely funny and so atypical of what you'd normally expect from Nintendo. Even when certain characters are paired up with games that aren't related to their personality and character (like Kat and Ana being ninjas, but being paired with a puzzle game that has nothing to do with ninjutsu or martial arts), I found myself wishing that there was more here to expound on the nature of the characters themselves since they have great material to work with.
In the end, what you have is a game that ultimately serves as a tech demo of sorts for the Wii U. And while there are some rewards for playing through the games (unlocking little gadgets and gimmicks), it doesn't have the same kind of depth that even Nintendo Land has. There are multiple modes and extra levels within most of the minigames, but even so, the quality of each is extremely varying. Game & Wario has its entertaining moments, and some games may keep you coming back for more, but as a whole, it's largely lacking compared to Nintendo's other Wii U offerings. Still, if you have friends to play with or you just can't pass up a WarioWare-themed game or you just want an amusing showpiece to show off to friends at a party, Game & Wario might be worth looking into.
+ A few minigames are quite good and have a unique concept
+ Some minigames have extra modes and levels, adding to replayability
+ Presentation and visuals are attractive
- Quality of the minigames is largely hit or miss
- Time to completion of all game is only a few hours
Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10)
Game & Wario is a game that feels like it could have been much more. Even still, there are some entertaining facets about it and that might be enough to draw in certain people.