Game and Wario (for Nintendo Wii U) review

Game and Wario is a mixed bag like most mini-game collections, but it offers a few compelling reasons to pick up your Nintendo Wii U gamepad.

Like most game consoles in their first year, the Nintendo Wii U is hurting for games. A handful of compelling first- and second-party titles are on the horizon, but this summer seems like a dry spell for the new system. Fortunately, Game and Wario adds some new life to the Wii U. It’s a collection of mini-games like Nintendo Land, but isn’t compelling enough to get a Wii U. Still,  the $39.99 (list) title is a reasonably priced Wario-themed arcade with enough modes to keep you playing for a while.

Bigger Minigames
Like most game consoles in their first year, the Nintendo Wii U is hurting for games. A handful of compelling first- and second-party titles are on the horizon, but this summer seems like a dry spell for the new system. Fortunately, Game and Wario adds some new life to the Wii U. It’s a collection of mini-games like Nintendo Land, but isn’t compelling enough to get a Wii U. Still,  the $39.99 (list) title is a reasonably priced Wario-themed arcade with enough modes to keep you playing for a while.

If you expect Game & Wario to be a randomized collection of five-second games like most of the other WarioWare games, you’re in for a surprise. Instead, the game has twelve major game types, each turned into full-fledged mini-games instead of the micro-games that distinguished the series. One of those mini-games outright evokes the WarioWare games in a unique and compelling way, but the others are more straightforward, complete mini-games, making Game & Wario much closer to Nintendo Land in structure than any previous Wario game. You play each game mode like a stage and beat its first level to move on to the next game mode, so it forces you to walk through the game types before accessing all of them. Fortunately, none of the game types are particularly bad or frustrating, even if some are more interesting than others.

Game Types
Let’s start with a high point: the Gamer mode. This is the closest experience to the classic WarioWare games, but with a fantastic twist that incorporates the Wii U gamepad perfectly. You play 9-Volt, the little tech-helmet cartoon boy from the WarioWare games, who was just sent to bed by his mother (named 5-Volt, because of course she is). The Wii U gamepad takes the role of 9-Volt’s Game Boy Micro, letting you play a simplified version of the original WarioWare Inc.: Mega Microgames game on the touch screen. The HDTV shows 9-Volt’s bedroom, with 5-Volt periodically checking to make sure 9-Volt is asleep. Whenever she appears, you have to press the trigger buttons quickly to pause the game and pretend to be asleep. If she catches you, it’s game over, and if you pretend to be asleep too long you get too tired and it’s game over as well. It’s a unique, tense take on a childish premise that really shows off how creative the Wii U gamepad can be used.

Another amusing mode is Shutter, where you play photographer Mona with the Wii U gamepad as her camera. In a mechanic similar to Konami’s Silent Scope arcade game, the HDTV shows the entire scene, while the gamepad screen can be moved to point at specific people. You get a list of targets and have to frame their faces and take photos while time ticks down. Some of these people might be well-hidden, and in dynamic scenes with cars driving behind buildings and windows opening and closing, it can get tricky finding the right people. The gamepad’s motion sensors worked very well, and navigating the screen felt like framing a shot with a real camera.

The modes starring Wario himself include Arrow and Pirates, action and rhythm-oriented games. Arrow turns the Wii U gamepad, held vertically, into a crossbow. You have to aim the cursor on the HDTV and pull the arrows back on the touch screen to shoot little mechanical Warios as they march toward you. Pirates puts you in a boat with the Wii U gamepad as your shield, and you need to hold the shield toward the screen, pointing up, or pointing left or right to block arrows fired from four pirate ships. Instead of being purely reactive, the captain shouts which ships will fire in which rhythm, turning it into a dancing rhythm game.

Other game modes use the Wii U gamepad to varying extent, either for simple touch screen input or to offer a different view from the HDTV. Design, Patchwork, and Sketch use the touch screen as a canvas to draw objects and geometric shapes or to arrange pieces of fabric like a jigsaw puzzle. Kung Fu, Ski, and Taxi, on the other hand, offer alternate views from what’s on the HDTV, forcing you to look at the different screens depending on the circumstances (like driving around a map, shooting at alien spaceships, and jumping from platform to platform). They’re fun diversions that couldn’t readily be reproduced with a regular gamepad alone, but they aren’t quite as compelling as Gamer or Shutter.

Multiplayer
Most modes are 1-player, but a few dedicated multiplayer modes let you pass around the Wii U gamepad to friends. Sketch is Nintendo’s local multiplayer to Draw Something, with a player given a word to draw and other players have to guess what it is. Disco is a two-player rhythm game where each player puts their finger on a side of the touch screen and they go back and forth creating rhythms and making the other player perform them. Islands is an amusing game of flicking “Fronks” (little block-headed creatures) at island targets and trying to bump your opponents’ Fronks” off. Finally, most compelling and asymmetrical in the multiplayer games, Fruit puts one player in the role of a thief, using the Wii U gamepad to blend into crowds and hide from the Wiimote-holding agents chasing him. The gamepad’s screen lets the thief see where he is and hide from the agents, while they have to use the HDTV to watch for suspicious movements to catch him.

Game and Wario isn’t the Wii U system-seller Nintendo’s console could use right now, but it’s an enjoyable diversion priced below the usual $60 most new home console games retail for, and offers a handful of refreshing, fun Nintendo Land-like mini-games to enjoy while you wait for Bayonetta 2 and Super Mario 3D World to come out.

Specifications
Genre Board/Puzzle
Platform Nintendo Wii U
ESRB Rating E for Everybody

Verdict
Game and Wario is a mixed bag like most mini-game collections, but it offers a few compelling reasons to pick up your Nintendo Wii U gamepad.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc