Review

Game & Wario

Just What U Needed

Game & Wario would have served the Wii U well seven months ago.

By Derrick Sanskrit • June 21, 2013

There’s an old routine that design professors love to use on the first day of class. Drawing a picture of an apple, they’ll say “Show me this.” Then, writing the word “apple,” they’ll say, “Or tell me this.” Then they’ll step back, motioning at both the image and the word together, and conclude, “But never do this.” It’s an example of redundant design. You’re worrying that only one “apple” wouldn’t get the message across on its own. That tendency can insult your audience, and it weakens your work. Yet it’s a scenario we see a lot of in modern games, with long tutorials, unwarranted hand-holding, big glowing beacons that remind the players to keep moving to the right.

Game & Wario

Game & Wario is Nintendo’s latest attempt to sell the public on the Wii U console, and the game’s greatest success is that it accomplishes this without falling into the trap of condescending design. Like the WarioWare series of games before it, Game & Wario is a collection of micro-games, each one designed to show one or two things that the Wii U GamePad can do. There’s no button-mashing or complex thumb aerobics, just a few minutes here and there of arcade silliness.

The reason that Wii Sports “clicked” for thousands of new players when it debuted as the pack-in game for the original Wii was that the barrier to entry was low. The same suspension of disbelief that allows you to relate to a fictional character on TV also allows you to believe that a Wii Remote can be a tennis racquet. From there, you just follow your instincts. NintendoLand—the launch title Nintendo hoped would be the Wii Sports for the Wii U—did not “click” the same way because, among other things, the GamePad was…simply a GamePad. It doesn’t inspire the imagination in NintendoLand. Instead, it serves as just a fancy input device with an explanation before every game to tell you what each button does or how tilting the pad different directions will zzzzzzzz…

Game & Wario

Game & Wario, for the most part, allows us to fall back on our imaginations again. The GamePad acts as a crossbow, or a camera, or a Game Boy. Silly gimmicks form the premise of each micro-game, like shooting down UFOs before they abduct farm animals. These novelties keep the game light, and as a result, it’s effortless to hop in and out of the game. The inherent wackiness of each scenario—like, say, leapfrogging lilypads to eat dumplings—makes it easy to focus on the one or two features of the Wii U that each game wants you to learn. And you can play free from fear of serious failure. No zombies are biting your face off if you mess it up. The worst that could happen are some aliens running off with your cartoon livestock.

Game & Wario shows us the apple. The game never says, in so many words, “Okay, now let’s pretend the GamePad is a camera!” Holding up the controller, looking through the “viewfinder” and snapping off a couple of pictures feels natural, and we don’t need an explanation of how a shutter release works in order to enjoy it. The game doesn’t rest on its laurels, either. Once you’ve gotten a grip on how to use the motion sensor, the next game might use the touchscreen, or split your attention between the touchscreen and the TV. Or bring in the dancing pirates—which are not a special feature of the Wii U, they’re just something Wario seems to like a lot.

Game & Wario

Before Microsoft was hyping their Kinect motion-sensing camera and their SmartGlass tablet integration, WarioWare taught players how motion controls, touch screens, and even cameras could stretch games’ potential. While Game & Wario may forgo the WarioWare branding, it carries forward the series’ history of stylistic experimentation and a sense of humor that encourages players to step outside of themselves. If, every few years, game developers looked at the WarioWare series for inspiration on how to exploit novel control schemes, all these technological doodads might actually take us somewhere.

Plus, Game & Wario has bowling! And that’s what everybody loved about Wii Sports anyway.

Game & Wario
Developers: Nintendo SPD, Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Wii U
Price: $40
Rating: E

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  • Jackbert

    I don’t mind the lack of ports
    And stupid gimmick time
    ’cause Ninty, your exclusives
    Are oh so very fine
    I’m not talking ’bout the Pokémons
    I’m not talking ’bout the Zeldas
    I don’t mind the lack of ports
    And stupid gimmick time

    I guess Wario’s just what U needed
    (just what I needed)
    I needed Yoshi to feed
    I guess Wario’s just what U needed
    (just what I needed)
    I needed Yoshi to sneeze

    P.S. Where is WAYPTW?!

  • evanwaters

    This doesn’t surprise me. As far as I’m concerned Wario Ware: Smooth Moves was one of the best games the Wii ever had, because it actually showed what all this rudimentary motion control stuff could do and surrounded that with crazy fun animation.  It was, for lack of a better word, art.

    • Dorian_Mode

      Also a great drinking game.

      • evanwaters

        I’m not even sure if we were drinking all the times we played it, but the game creates this insane manic atmosphere just through how fast-paced it is. And it’s almost as much fun to watch.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        And because the multiplayer was kind of a hot-seat design where you just passed around a single controller, you could have a whole bunch of people participating, even if you owned a very basic Wii+controller setup. If they do that sort of thing with this version, it would be a great workaround for there only being a single gamepad.

        • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

          This installment has the same pass-and-play design. All the single-player games could easily be passed around, or are silly for observers to watch (like Rhythm Heaven Fever) and the four multi-player games are all played only with the one GamePad, either taking turns and passing it around or sitting on either side of it with the pad flat on a table. No need for extra controllers when you’re having a party.

        • boardgameguy

          this is why it was so good. never needed more than one controller unlike most other party games

      • JamesJournal

        YES! You do a shot every time you fail a mini game! That never failed!

    • aklab

      Absolutely. I seldom have occasion to play “party games” or anything like that, but Smooth Moves was some of the best fun I’ve ever had on a console.  

  • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

    Nintendo’s time table is all outta whack for the Wii U. When they drop a new console, they gotta have all the following in the chute, ready for launch or a couple months after:

    1 Mario platformer

    1 Sports game of any of the following flavors:
    Tennis, soccer, racing

    2 games out of the following possible franchises:
    Metroid, Zelda, Kirby, Donkey Kong, Star Fox

    We’re only just now seeing the announcements for most of these. Oh well, guess it means the console will probably have dropped in price by the time the things I want to play on it are out.

    • 2StoryOuthouse

      Smash Bros. also fits in the third category.

    • JamesJournal

      The fact that this isn’t what happened screams of

      A) Desperation to get out the door before Sony or Nintendo

      B) Thinking Nintendoland was really going to be the next Wii Sports

      The executive decision to not target Skyward Sword as Wii U launch game was beyond me. Well, I guess they saw it as them being nice.

  • WaxTom

    WarioWare: Touched! is one of the all time great DS games, in my opinion, and the best introduction to anybody wary of the touchscreen aspect (not that anybody would be anymore, in the age of iPhones.) It gets the appeal of the flash-game addiction people have and never overstays it’s welcome. Plus I love the music in that game.

    Who’s the girl next door
    Living in the haunted mansion?
    (You better learn my name cause I am)
    Ashely!

    • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

      If I had to rank all the WarioWare games (which I don’t, but let’s pretend for a moment), this one would be above Touched but below Smooth Moves and Twisted. Snapped would undoubtedly be at the bottom. The fact that you got a bonus Mona music video when you had both Twisted and Touched in your DS at the same time blew my mind back in 2005. The only other game I can think of that had any sort of connectivity between the GBA and DS versions like that was Pokémon. Really underutilized feature of the first two DS iterations.

      I left this out of the review because it didn’t seem important, but there are also a few call-backs/cameos by Rhythm Heaven characters as well. If the Rhythm Heaven series counted as WarioWare games, it would throw my whole dang (hypothetical) list off.

      • Dave Dalrymple

        “Mona Pizza” definitely deserves a “Game that Tune”

        • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

          While an admirable gesture of goodwill, it was probably not in Mona’s best interest to let her main rivals spit a verse in her official theme song.

        • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

          @Chalkdust_TMAI:disqus I don’t know about that. I thought it gave it a whole Jem & the Holograms vibe, how the Misfits just broke in to spit a “our songs are better” hook. Regardless, the best part is when her manager is just chillin’ in the background like “heyyy, I’m another Italian stereotype! Eat-a my pizza-pie!”

        • Uncle Roundy

          “Tomorrow Hill”, suckas.

    • muddi900

       WarioWare Touched was severely disapointing when compared to WarioWare Twisted for the GBA, which is one of the greatest games of ALL TIME! Not only did it do the motion-control thing better than anyone, and as of yet is still unsurpassed, but it also had more games, better rewards and was more fun altogether than the DS game, with better tech and hardware behind it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=663669914 Sean Richardson

    “Then they’ll step back, motioning at both the image and the word together, and conclude, “But never do this.””

    It kind of seems like he is disregarding his own advice, but I like it anyway.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      “HOW MANY TIMES MUST I SPELL IT OUT TO YOU: DON’T SPELL OUT YOUR IDEA TO THE VIEWER.”

      • Bisyss

        “You can’t just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!”

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          “…and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.”

  • Mercenary_Security_number_4

    You know, the disappointing reveals of Sony and Microsoft have actually made it more likely that I’ll eventually take a second look at the Wii U.  But overall I’ll be very surprised if Nintendo can claw their way to success with mini-games.  For too many people, mini-games are becoming things for tablets or facebook.  No reason to boot up another device just to play something more or less casual.  Even multi-player party games are beginning to trend that way.

    As much as I hate shooters, shooters is one thing consoles do well.  Immersive experiences are another.  I’m no expert, but it just seems to me like too much has changed since the Wii launched way back in 2006.  Even if the motion controls and such are superior (which I’m sure they are), I think any mini-game collection on the Wii U is going to be caught in between being too much like the original Wii as well as being too much like tablet games for anyone to take much notice.

    • Dave Dalrymple

      Agreed. The potential market for Wii U can be broken down into three basic categories:

      1. People who play “core” Nintendo titles like Mario and Zelda
      2. People who play consoles regularly, but not Nintendo.
      3. People who don’t play consoles often or at all.

      If Nintendo focuses on (1), as they did with the Gamecube, they can have a modest success. Nintendo had great success with (3) on the Wii and DS, but it seems like this market has been swallowed by tablet and smartphone manufacturers.

      That leaves category (2). Can Nintendo make an exclusive game that sells a system the way that Halo did for the Xbox? Can Nintendo make a game that has grown men lining up at midnight? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a multiplayer shooter (even though these are the most popular games right now), but it won’t be a new Mario Kart or Smash Brothers.  

      • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

        If the next Zelda game has a gun, I quit.

        • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

           It’s not a gun, it’s a high-velocity deku seed launcher!

        • JamesJournal

          Starfox has guns, so does Samus 

          Not that these games count

      • JamesJournal

        Nintendo really just needs its main iconic games, plus a steady stream of casual and mainstream games. As in STEADY!

        Getting a Resident Evil 4 or Eternal Darkness out the gate every couple months as well as a Wii Sports or Game and Wario is all they need. But they go months and months and months without content and fade from relevance

        • Dave Dalrymple

          There’s the problem. Resident Evil 4 and Eternal Darkness didn’t sell Gamecubes. They didn’t bring in new customers. Timed exclusives like Resident Evil 4 don’t work, as Playstation/Xbox owners will just wait it out. And Eternal Darkness was not a commercial success.

          Volume alone doesn’t sell consoles; variety sells consoles. 

          If Nintendo wants to be the number one console again, it needs to bring in people who don’t care about Mario. It could try to be a viable destination for games like Call of Duty, Madden, Grand Theft Auto, and Final Fantasy, but that ship has almost certainly sailed for the Wii U. Its only other option is to make a game that will sell a few million copies to a new customer base. I don’t know what that game would look like.   
           

    • 2StoryOuthouse

      “As much as I hate shooters, shooters is one thing consoles do well.”

      I disagree. I can’t understand why anyone would be willing to aim with thumb sticks when you can use a mouse in the PC version. I’d argue platformers are the thing consoles do better than anyone else.

      • strange powers

        I hear this from time to time, but ever since the twin-stick control method got refined (somewhere around PS1 Medal of Honour or Alien Resurrection) I have never wanted to use mouse and keys. It feels clunky and uncomfortable to me. Plus I like sofa & tv much more than desk and monitor.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

         Well, I meant as opposed to tablets and hand-helds.  Console vs. PC arguments are all pretty much hashed out at this point, and the Wii U obviously isn’t aiming at trying to pull anyone off of their gaming rig.

        • DrZaloski

          I’d actually say that Nintendo and their Wii U is the only thing able to really pull someone away from their gaming rig, because it’s actually different. The PS4 and Xbone are just weaker gaming computers with a control (which you can get for the computer anyway) and some boring exclusives like Halo 5.

          A PC doesn’t have a Wii U gamepad, a PC will never have Nintendo exclusives (well, not in the foreseeable future), and PC’s don’t have the major developers like Platinum and Monolith you develop exclusively for consoles in their hands. If you had a PC, the only console worth getting is a Wii U.

  • boardgameguy

    Guess I’ll start hoping that my Nintendo loving friends want to get a Wii U now.

  • DrZaloski

    Oh yeah, I forgot there are games that matter that aren’t Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 2, Pikmin 3, Lost Worlds, and project X.

    I guess Mario Kart 8 and Yoshi Wii U look pretty cool too.

  • doctuar

    This ‘group fun’ thing is what’s putting me off the Wii U, to be honest. I bought a second Wii controller once, and it’s been dusted off about 3 times in as many years. The idea of buying a console to play with other people is, frankly, a bit odd to me. And I once spent 13 hours playing Bomberman  on the SNES with school friends (and still have the shitty GCSE grades to prove it). Do people really do this nowadays?

    • Dave Dalrymple

      If there are more than two people in your household that play videogames, odds are that you’ll play together fairly often. 

    • Staticnumeric

      Yes, they do. Local mutliplayer is one of the most appealing qualities of the Wii U; anyone who has friends over to their house on a regular basis can appreciate Mario Kart or any other mutiplayer Nintendo title.

    • JamesJournal

      While I never do this. I’ve been to parties and the like where people will play Wii multiplayer games. 

      My sister has one basically for Wii sports and Michael Jackson’s Dance Experience.

      Local multiplayer for me died in my late teens and early twenties. I’m not exactly going to stay up late with friends playing Goldeneye and Halo anymore.

  • r.

    ‘Instead, it serves as just a fancy input device with an explanation before every game to tell you what each button does or how tilting the pad different directions will zzzzzzzz…’

    Ironically, that idea is what felled wario ware: smooth moves for the Wii. Constant explanations of how to use the wiimote in different ways. Names for moves. You couldn’t just pick it up and play.

    The GameCube version and multiplayer still comes out at parties. Amaze.