As previously reported, the Club Nintendo Gold/Platinum Reward offerings ditched the pretense of physical goods entirely in favor of digital options. This means that they can’t run out of prizes at the risk of leaving the door open to dump the misunderstood recent titles on the fans. Case in point is Game and Wario, which may serve as a perfect microcosm for everything wrong with the initial year of the Wii U. A variant of this game was intended to come preinstalled on all Wii U units until the decision was changed to pack-in Nintendo Land with Deluxe units. Such a decision makes sense as this title lacks the same ‘pick up and play’ genius of Wii Sports or the core appeal of Super Mario Brothers. That’s not to say that that the game is without merits, but it is deeply flawed if the expectation is something akin to prior Warioware titles.
The Elephant in the Room
The fundamental flaw lies in the attempt to deviate from the series formula of ‘frantic ten-second games played in succession until failure’ to ‘a small number of prolonged mini games that have ‘zaniness’ tacked-on in a desperate effort to maintain your attention’. For reference, these games will be called ‘macro-games’, as they combine multiple gameplay styles into one experience that would otherwise be considered a ‘mini-game’. Normally, the Warioware micro-games are fast enough that a missed prompt will only cost you one life and let you move on. Game and Wario, on the other hand, seems sure that people will love to watch long tutorials explaining all of the necessary elements to them each time. In reality, Game and Wario’s insistence on making the macro-games more complicated relative to previous installments simply ensures frustration with certain foes and difficulties. Gameplay is limited to the Wii U gamepad itself, which makes it so that even the multiplayer titles require either passing around the controller or sharing it in some way.
The Macro-Game Experience
For the purposes of highlighting the gameplay experience, this article will focus on the macro-games: ‘Arrow’, the initial game, and ‘Gamer’ in the most depth. Mentions of other macro-games will include their relevant names when they are necessary. For the uninitiated, Game and Wario is one of the few titles that truly forces players to use the Wii U gamepad’s second screen for all its worth to achieve any modicum of success in the games. The use of the gamepad’s touch screen and the accelerometers in ‘Arrow’ sounds fine on paper only to become problematic once the game tries to become zany.
The real momentum breaker is when the giant cannon materializes in the middle of the field and the only defense for the player it to hold the gamepad over their face. Then if that isn’t enough variation for you, the little drones can show up on your touch screen and you need to squash them. All of these layers of distraction would be acceptable if the core game weren’t so dull, sadly. It’s screaming desperately for you to look at it and love it like a spoiled child. The controls are too touchy to be fun and the overall design lack so much of the Nintendo ‘feeling’ in place of raw cynicism that I’m amazed it isn’t on the iOS store. Another key problem with many of the games in Game and Wario is that they feel like Nintendo dev teams are inconsistent with their understanding of tablet based gameplay.
‘Gamer’ manages to be the best macro-game in Game and Wario by keeping integration of the two screens at its simplest form. The setup is that the player character is attempting to hide their nighttime video game playing from their mother with the gamepad acting as a Gameboy Advance and the television serving as the surrounding environment.
The green bar corresponds to an anxiety meter that depletes as your character hides. Leave it to Nintendo to make ‘night time game hiding’ into a survival horror genre. Hiding is done through manipulation of the shoulder buttons and all GBA controls are the series staples for Warioware fans. Think of it at a bizarre proto-Five Nights at Freddy’s Rom Hack where you are either punished with or without a trip to Chuck E. Cheese afterwards. The reward for beating ‘Gamer’ is a variant that doesn’t involve the horror element that can be played without looking at the TV or gamepad entirely. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting and a misstep is forgivable. However, it is rather unfortunate that the real highlight of a new entry in a series is literally just a variant on the first title.
The Other Content
The Wii U has been marked with a lot of ‘experimental’ campaigns for better or worse and the marketing of this game is no different. In fact, Nintendo even made a parody of crowd funding sites to advertise the game in a ‘modern and hip’ way. Most gamers would be able to blaze their way to at least unlock ‘Pirates’, the final ‘story’ ‘macro-game’, within a single afternoon. ‘Pirates’ boils down to a rhythm game with augmented reality features on the gamepad. It doesn’t take much longer to unlock the bonus games and the multiplayer games, which brings the total ‘game count’ to 16 (four are strictly multiplayer). Apart from that, the game becomes a question of score attack and how willing one is to grind in-game currency for a chicken prize dispenser. This is not an exaggeration.
Admittedly, these harsh criticisms are being thrown at a title that had a budget release of $29.99 US, its origins were rooted in E3 tech demos from E3 2011 and E3 2012, respectively, and my own copy was a Club Nintendo reward. Game and Wario feels incomplete and lacks the content to incentivize much replay after an initial rushing through the game out of morbid curiosity. If you can find a way to rent it and have a Wii U, it might be worth a try. Otherwise, steer clear of this game and hope that the next experiment doesn’t have similar results.
Game and Wario unsuccessfully attempts to evolve the Warioware formula into something it isn't. Consider this game an oddity at best and bad at the worst.