Some thought it disappointingly shallow where others had an unusual but ultimately enjoyable experience. Nintendo's latest Wario-themed Wii U-exclusive assortment of quirky and highly imaginative minigames, Game & Wario, is unquestionably divisive.
The minigames themselves got a lot of complaints, and were said to be a mixed bag concerning quality and depth, but Game & Wario's saving grace, to many, was its unending imagination and creativity -- not to mention its huge number of unlockables. Here's a sampling of what the critics have said.
Wario's been with us for two whole decades, and in that time, Nintendo has used Mario's Garbage Pail Kids variant to disrupt some pretty fundamental gameplay ideas — especially in endlessly inventive portable series like Wario Land and WarioWare. As made evident by its E3 2013 lineup, though, Nintendo has placed less of a priority on tinkering during the Wii U generation, instead focusing on producing sequels to established series. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Game & Wario is essentially a reworked Nintendo Land.
If you boot up the game in hopes of solo play you'll be met with a surprisingly long list of options. A strange campaign brings you through 16 different games that Wario, himself, created. As such, they're absolutely insane, with nose-tipped arrows flying into robots pirates launching attacks on Captain Wario's ship. Each attempts to take advantage of the GamePad in some way, be it by providing touchscreen/tilt controls or use of the two-screen setup. In some cases it's a success -- one game, called "Gamer", tasks you with playing typical WarioWare microgames on the GamePad while trying to hide from your mother, who thinks you're sleeping. It's wacky, and couldn't really be done without the Wii U's unique setup. "Taxi" is enjoyable as well, and has you driving a taxi in first-person (on the touch screen) while trying to shuttle farm animals back to their barn while fighting off invading aliens.
[The game's] first and perhaps biggest hurdle is expectation. Players will see Wario’s name on the box and Intelligent Systems’ logo on its reverse and understandably expect a carnival of fast-paced, anarchic mayhem. Yet Game & Wario is not a WarioWare game (except during one of its 16 activities, where it all too fleetingly is). Its games are not micro but mini, a distinction Nintendo is distressingly keen to make, as if there was something wrong with WarioWare’s design. Arriving several months after Wii U’s launch, it doesn’t even have the ancillary benefit of demonstrating the console’s featureset, beaten to it by the more rounded Nintendo Land. This is an ideal pack-in title, a bundled collection of tech demos arriving far too late to the Wii U party.
I’m not usually one for collectibles, but Game & Wario’s trinkets are actually useful or amusing -- or even a combination of the two. Once you complete a specific challenge -- or even when you’ve just turned on the game after a break -- you’ll get a token, which allows you access to one of 240 collectibles via the Cluck-a-Pop capsule machine. I couldn’t wait to pop open one of the capsules, since I never knew what to expect. It might be a hint to help pass a particular challenge, it might be some inside intel on the crazy world of Diamond City courtesy of Mona, or it might be Monty Python–esque theatre of the absurd. All are equally welcome, as far as I’m concerned.
Game & Wario is the most "normal" game in the WarioWare series (assuming it's officially a part of the series) which is part of what makes it so weird. As a whole, it's all over the place, sometimes original, sometimes derivative, sometimes dry, sometimes funny, sometimes simple, sometimes complicated. It's clear that Nintendo just wasn't sure what to do with some of these games, so they threw them in the Game & Wario package whether they fit there or not.
The selection of multiplayer games is disappointingly small, with only five in total. Similar to the single-player game, even though the choices are limited, the offerings are of high quality and built to be played with a single GamePad. You won’t need additional controllers, which fosters inclusion without much investment. A decent version of Pictionary is included, as well as a game where the GamePad player tries to hide in a crowd of NPCs while other players try to pick out who the player character is. My friends and I had fun trying to pick each other out of a line-up, and trying to blend in with a crowd.
If you want to play a great game on Wii U, pass. If you want to laugh a lot and marvel at the daring creativity and strange sensibilities of some of Nintendo's own developers, get it. I was expecting to loathe this game for what it isn't. Instead, I'm smitten by what it is.
Top picture: Gergő Vas