For Wii owners bemoaning the lack of "core" targeted software coming from Nintendo, there's Wario Land: Shake It!, an unapologetically old-school 2D platformer starring the anti-Mario on a hunt for treasure. The micron thin plot is a forgettable excuse to guide the gluttonous Wario through five worlds of no-frills running, jumping, coin-collecting and butt-slamming. It's surprisingly pretty for a Wario game but its also amazingly brief.
You asked for it, you got it. Is Wario Land: Shake It! the answer to your classic gaming prayers or is merely a 16-bit era relic with a pretty polish?
Hand-drawn Visuals: The well animated oversized sprites and lush, parallax-scrolling backgrounds provided by anime studio Production I.G give Shake It! a clean and comical look. Character and enemy designs may vary in their quality, but no two stages look alike and special visual effects are used sparingly.
The Music: It's obnoxious, cheesy, gratingly catchy. And it's amazingly fitting for the game. Saccharine sweet smooth jazz, twangy country-western instrumentals and spooky ditties pepper the soundtrack, tunes that may have you bobbing your head while thinking "God, this song is annoying."
Short, But Not Shallow: The main campaign, as it were, will probably take little more than five to six hours to blow through. When Wario vanquishes the final boss, however, not an easy task, there's still plenty to do. I completed the game with just 71% of the stages unlocked, 40% of the treasure acquired and a paltry 7% of the stage missions under my belt. Expect to double (or triple) your core gameplay time to get everything.
Nothing New: Wario Land 4 for the Game Boy Advance set the bar for the series, bringing with it new gameplay mechanics and heaps of charm. Shake It! has hardly any of that, offering a rather mundane collect-a-thon without much in the way of interesting gameplay concepts. A few Wario Land staples appear later in the game, but Shake It! feels like it was plucked from the 90s in the gameplay department. The Wii remote adds little more than frustration when it doesn't respond or fires you out of a man-cannon at the wrong angle.
Boss Battles: They're either simplistic and dull or maddening in their difficulty. The uninspired boss battles, some just plain annoying for the shear amount of stuff they throw at you, illustrate just how wearisome some of the new mechanics can be.
Subwarine Stages: Shake It! deviates from standard jumping and bumping for a handful of stages, but these underwater segments are more of an annoyances than a welcome change in pace.
Wario Land: Shake It!'s 2D gameplay feels somewhat stale and sterile in comparison to what Nintendo has offered the series in the past, not unlike New Super Mario Bros. a title that was frustratingly simple, devoid of new ideas. The core mechanics are there, and they're presented with finesse, there's just a surprising lack of innovation on display.
That doesn't mean it's not enjoyable, as the allure of increasing percentages through perfected gameplay to collect every last object is still there, even if the tasks sometimes feel insurmountable and hardly worth the effort. It's just that die-hard Wario Land fans may feel like they've been there and done that. And done it better.
Wario Land: Shake It!, developed by Good-Feel and published by Nintendo was released on Sept. 22 for the Wii. Retails for $49.99. Played to completion.
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