REVIEW: Game & Wario (Wii U)

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  • Nintendo Wii U / Rated E / $39.99 / released June 2013
  • FINAL: You should TRY this game. 3 out of 5 stars

Hidden behind the safe world of Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom, Nintendo has a chaotic secret: the wacky world of former villain Wario. Wario is always looking for his next get-rich-quick scheme, and the launch of the Nintendo Wii U has provided him with a golden opportunity.

The result is “Game & Wario,” a collection of mismatched minigames designed by Wario and his friends, some rehashing very familiar ground if you’ve played last year’s similar fest, “Nintendo Land.” Wario’s skiing game is roughly identical to Nintendo Land’s racing game, for example. And while a couple of Wario’s games are fun enough to warrant return plays, none are as deep as the meatier options found in “Nintendo Land,” such as the Metroid or Pikmin games.

The few standout minigames in “Game & Wario” stand out because they do things that “Nintendo Land” did not. The Shutter minigame turns the Gamepad into a camera so you can scan a landscape for concealed celebrities and criminals. Sketch is a slim Pictionary where you takes turns guessing each other’s drawings (and a special Miiverse mode lets you share your drawings online, as well as take suggestions from the online community on what to draw next.) Gamer is the disk’s most intense challenge, where you must play tiny microgames on the Gamepad while simultaneously watching the TV for cues.

Most of the rest of the lot is unfortunately forgettable. I mean, there’s yet another version of Bowling, this time done by flicking your finger across the touchscreen. Yawn. However, Wario’s strong suit is not in gameplay, but in design. “Game & Wario” is just flat-out weird, as far away from the pastel tones of “Nintendo Land” as punk rock is from ballroom dancing. The visuals are charmingly inconsistent, using blocky pixel people in one game and anime cartoon characters in another. Hand-drawn artwork. Stitched fabric. 2D versus 3D. “Game & Wario” has fun with itself, even if you’re bored by most of the games on deck.

The real treat is the Cluck-a-Pop section where the game tracks all of the collectibles you’ve earned while playing, using a capsule machine motif. Here, all bets are off, and you cannot predict what absurdist toys you will discover. One capsule toy lets you whisper into your Gamepad as if it is the ear of a queen making royal proclamations. Another turns the Gamepad into a gnome’s home and lets you shake the controller to ruin his interior decorating. There’s so many of these to unlock that they almost make up for the mediocre assortment of “main” minigames.

Almost. “Game & Wario” doesn’t have the staying power to make it a must-have Wii U release, but if you have any attention for how strange a game can be, it’s worth checking out. In the end, this one isn’t going to make Wario rich.

This review is based upon product supplied by the publisher. Image courtesy Nintendo of America.


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