Game and Wario: Fighting Aliens and Mothers Everywhere
Whatever characteristics define Wii U this early in its life, one thing is for sure – the system certainly isn’t lacking mini-game compilations designed to showcase the potential of Nintendo’s new platform. Nintendo Land did it at launch. Five months later, Game & Wario seems poised to do the same.
Formed by16 different single and multiplayer concepts, Game & Wario sets itself apart from Nintendo Land by breaking away from any sort of cohesive theme. There’s no amusement park. There are no attractions. There’s no creepy, sterile robot guide. In their place – Wario’s demented imagination, which has the capacity to span dancing pirates, taxi cabs fighting aliens and even disco. Some of these concepts work exceptionally well, others less so, but ultimately a playable sampling of a third of Game & Wario proves that Nintendo continues to find simple ideas with addictive hooks. Here’s what we played so far:
Dancing with Pirates
Game & Wario doesn’t shy away from rhythm games, as two of the five demos presented by Nintendo demonstrated. ‘Disco’ is basically a two-player Dance Dance Revolution battle, as players, who simultaneously hold the GamePad, take turns inputting commands (timed to a beat) and responding to them on the other side. Points are earned through successful ‘offense’ and ‘defense’ while the television provides a wider lens for more observers. It’s relatively simple yet completely addictive, but anyone who is rhythmically challenged might shy away.
‘Pirates’ should be well-known to many Nintendo followers. This idea first appeared as the tech demo ‘Shield Pose’ when Wii U was unveiled in 2011. Functionally this final version is almost identical, with players blocking incoming arrows (by physically moving their controller) from pirate ships with a ‘shield’ represented by the GamePad.
Rhythm plays an important role here as well, since anticipating the arrows’ arrival is only possible by understanding the basic beats playing in the background. Furthermore, once the pirates have stopped shooting, they’ll engage you directly in a dance battle. You’ll duck, twist and pose with the GamePad (no Wii remotes – Game & Wario doesn’t use them) to meet that challenge before finishing off the pirates’ captain, who looks a lot like Wario.
Again, if you’re not that great at moving in time to music, you might want to stay away.
Fighting Aliens and Drawing Cows
Speaking of familiar concepts, Game & Wario basically pulls Pictionary onto Wii U. Designed for up to five players, ‘Sketch’ requires one person to draw images based on provided words, while remaining participants guess what the picture represents. The first person to guess correctly wins, and the person drawing continues until they are out of time. Additionally, a player can take a penalty if they don’t know how to effectively draw something. It’s entertaining. It’s addictive. But it’s certainly a known quantity to millions around the world, which could be considered a negative by some.
One of the strangest (and perhaps least successful) mini-games was ‘Taxi’, which mixes third-person driving and first-person shooter elements as a taxi cab driver battles aliens attempting to steal farm animals. It’s quirky enough to appeal on a basic conceptual level, but controlling the cab itself is less intuitive than it should be, as A and B are used for acceleration, while the GamePad’s triggers are reserved for aiming and shooting. As much as we all want a new Crazy Taxi, this one doesn’t quite satisfy that need, lacking the streamlined controls necessary to really grab hold.
Your Mom is the Devil
By far the best sampling of Game & Wario we had was simply called ‘Gamer.’ The premise should be familiar to most – as a kid you always wanted to play games past your bedtime. The problem? One of your parents would often catch you!
In ‘Gamer,’ you play a simple, WarioWare-esque handheld game on the GamePad. Meanwhile your TV displays your bedroom, complete with its own TV, plus a door and a window. It’s through these three avenues (yes, including the TV) that your mother can barge in on you and discover you’re up past your bedtime, forcing you to stop playing and resulting in a ‘Game Over.’
In order to avoid being caught, you must hold ZL and ZR, pulling your bed’s blanket over your head while pausing your handheld game. You’re pretending to be asleep, but that comes with a risk – the longer you stay under the covers when your mom isn’t directly looking at you, the sleepier you get. If your sleep meter depletes too much, you fall asleep – and get a ‘Game Over’.
Balancing playing your handheld successfully, avoiding the demon-like gaze of your mother, and not depleting your sleep meter all create a fantastic tension unlike any of the other mini-games. The anticipation of when to hide and when to play, of when to look at the GamePad and when to watch the TV for signs that danger is coming, makes this something we wish could be downloaded on its own. It’s that fun.
Yes, Game & Wario is a series of mini-games. There’s no way around that description, despite the fact that Nintendo (who co-developed the game with Intelligent Systems) has promised plenty of depth within each concept. In some ways that immediately assigns a certain value upon the game, despite the fact that much of what we saw and played was intuitive and engaging. We didn’t fall in love with every idea, but for every mediocre ‘Taxi’ we got an addicting ‘Gamer.’ For us, that’s a balance we’re willing to accept.
The question that remains is this – how compelling are the final 11 games in the Game & Wario arsenal? Will they turn out better or worse than what we’ve already played? Up to this point, Nintendo Land seems to hold a more ideal collection. But we’ll see. Nintendo says Game & Wario will be out “within the first half of 2013.”
Rich was too smart to be caught playing video games late at night. Plus his parents were heavy sleepers. Suckers! Chat with him about Wii U and Nintendo by tracking him down on Twitter at @RichIGN.