Review: Game & Wario

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About three months after the U.S. release of the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo published one of the system’s most awesome and underrated games: WarioWare: Smooth Moves. With its lightning-fast dose of Wiimote craziness—Pick that nose! Drink that glass! Push that kid!—Smooth Moves’ collection of truly insane minigames kept you laughing as much as it kept you on your toes.

Nintendo was clearly aiming to recapture that same kind of insane-o magic with Game & Wario, a similarly themed minigame package for the Wii U, but like so many Wario-based schemes, the best-laid plans have crashed messily into the tomato stand. Surprisingly light on content and innovation, Game & Wario never rises above mildly entertaining–and some of its offerings are downright forgettable.

This time, our bloated and flatulent pal is looking to cash in on the Wii U gamepad controller craze by coding wares-like games for it. Each one is designed to show off some aspect of the gamepad, and many of them feature the cartoon characters (Mona, Dribble & Spitz, etc.) we met and loved in Smooth Moves. It’s nice to see them again, even if their cutscene tales aren’t quite as amusing as the last time.

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Game & Wario has some of its predecessor’s craziness—shooting UFOs with a taxicab-mounted bazooka to save abducted livestock surely qualifies as wackdoodle–but most of the 12 (yes, only 12) single-player minigames that make up its package have little of that same appeal. Tilting the gamepad to guide a blue-afro’d Jimmy T down a ski slope isn’t any more interesting and innovative than tilting the gamepad to guide Ashley’s witchy broomstick through a side-scrolling level. These are obvious uses for the gamepad’s gyroscope. So is using the gamepad as a camera to snap pics. Holding it up like a shield to block arrow attacks from a pirate ship? That’s a little more like it, even if we saw this feature as part of the game’s preview campaign.

Multiplayer isn’t any better—only four games here, two of which are direct ripoffs of Pictionary and Simon. Again, where’s the innovation? Each minigame features more complicated levels that unlock once you complete them once, but a single playthrough may be more than enough for most of these.

Part of Smooth Moves’ appeal was its frenetic pace—your brain had mere seconds to figure out and execute what the game was asking you to do before a timer expired and the next game was upon you. In part because the Wii U gamepad’s motion control isn’t really designed for lightning-reflex response, Game & Wario’s offerings largely jettison the white-knuckle approach. Sure, you’re trying to post a best time in Patchwork, a game in which you use the stylus to try to fit jagged shapes onto a grid to make a picture, but there’s no sense of game-over urgency hovering over your head.

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Well, except in “Gamer,” an awesome minigame that folds in some of the WarioWare lunacy that’s missing elsewhere. As a game-loving kid who’s looking to sneak in some post-bedtime gameplay, you’re trying to complete WarioWare-esque games on the gamepad while keeping one eye (and ear) on the TV screen—if mom busts you, it’s totally game over. The fact that she’s depicted as a glowing-eyed demon probably won’t make the parental set particularly pleased, but it’s still pretty funny. More of this sort of cleverness could have elevated things.

Six years ago, WarioWare: Smooth Moves served as a hilarious, bizarro counterpoint to Wii Sports, the Wii’s ubiquitous and successful tech demo. Game & Wario ends up feeling like a blandish WarioWare Lite. There’s some fun to be had here, but it’s a long, long way from essential.

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Pros:
+ Taxi and Gamer are an absolute blast
+ Return of Smooth Moves’ cartoon cast

Cons:
– Short on content, innovation and variety
– Multiplayer is derivative and forgettable

Game Info:
Platform: Wii U
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release Date: 6/23/2013
Genre: Minigame collection
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-5
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.