The adventures of Mario's greedy evil twin continue in this humorous lite-side scrolling beat'em up platformer. The plot for every Wario game seems to be the same, some big evil thing shows up and steals all of his treasure and thus Wario ends up doing good things inadvertently while merely trying to get his stuff back. This particular game involves a lot of little cute things getting mercilessly punched, beaten, and bodyslammed, as well as you falling off of a lot of ledges. The game is better than that sentence makes it sound however.
The point of the game is to complete thirteen stages and collect pieces of a key to fight the big evil jewel-thing at the end. The stages follow the usual platforming cliches of forest, snow, desert, and haunted house levels, complete with slippery ice, giant leaves, quicksand, etc. Not much new going on here. On the plus side all levels and backgrounds are designed very well with a lot of attention to detail. They're all very straightforward, those expecting a more non-linear Mario 64 type adventure game are going to be disappointed. The game actually keeps a lot in common with the 2D Game boy entries in the series in this respect, where there is zero step-n-fetchit gameplay and the focus is more on collecting bonus items and getting through the level.
The game actually has a lot more in common with old style beat'em ups than it does with a Mario-style platformer. The camera is set to a side scrolling perspective, and your main method of attack involves beating the bejesus out of whatever little cute thing happens to get in your way. You can also throw them into each other, spin them with this crazy airplane spin, and do a spinning pile driver into the ground. Some areas require you to do these moves in order to progress, like switches that only work when you spin attack a bad guy into them, trap doors that need to be piledrived to open, etc. In addition to all these you have the ol' trusty shoulder charge.
The one thing Wario seems to have trouble with is jumping, as it looks like the jumping gene went to the good twin in the family. Wario has one simple jump, and one spinning jump done while shoulder charging. This wouldn't be a problem except most areas of the game where you pick up bonus items and such test these feeble jumping skills to the limit.
One thing the game has going for it is longevity. Each level has the following items for you to collect:
5 pieces of a golden statue of yourself (which you must collect to get extra heart pieces)
8 bonus items (various things like vases, jewelry, game systems, etc, all of which are optional)
8 ruby crystals (three are required to face the level boss, the other five are optional)
6 Spritelings (little whining hint giving elves that are better left imprisoned, but who give you the best ending when saved.)
That is a lot of crap. Most of the treasures can be found in chests that appear after hitting a switch somewhere on the level. Some of them are hidden rather deviously and require some backtracking. The statue pieces and ruby crystals however are in puzzle rooms accessed by trap doors on the ground. At the beginning they're the usual push-the-block type puzzles. Towards the end they become the most dementedly challenging tear-your-hair-out exercises in genocidal frustration imaginable. A lot of them take place on really complicated obstacle courses high in the air, with moving spikes, one-block narrow platforms, disappearing platforms, moving, revolving platforms that you have to run around on, slingshots that fire you from place to place (sometimes to areas that you can't even see thus involving a lot of tedious trial and error before you get it right,) etc, and since Wario can't jump to save his life a lot of falling off and starting over ensues. Thankfully you are only penalized half a heart for failure so you can keep it going for quite some time before having to give up. But some of these side rooms are just too damn hard.
For instance there is one room where you have to jump on these floating anvils that steadily fall as you stand on them. However there is a large spiked ball on top of each anvil. Thus you have to jump just right as to grab onto the ledge of the anvil, wait for it to fall a few inches, climb on top of it with enough room so the spiked ball is over your head, then jump to the ledge of the next anvil before the one you're standing on falls into oblivion. I can't tell you how many times I tired this before getting it down, and when I finally did it there was no orgasmic release of joy in a job well done. I felt more like scanning a picture of my middle finger and emailing it to the developers for making me do that crap so many times. Because if it's in the game then you have to do it. They made me. I had no choice.
The rest of the game however is pretty easy sans the occasional difficult jump or whatnot. Bosses are huge and each has the usual unique gimmick but overall they're not too hard to figure out. Although there are points where you're mobbed by tons of little enemies none of them are really strong enough to cause you any significant problems. More often than not you get held back by falling off of ledges and ending up at earlier points in the level than by actually dying.
Overall it's a decent, fairly simple game, that does a good job of keeping you coming back for more. Completeists will have a good time hunting out every little last piece of treasure. Collect them all and it's supposed to open up bonus Warioware games on the GBA or something for the three of us in the world that bothered to get the GBA link cable. It is rather short, with only 13 different levels. The game could have used a more open ended adventure style, but for what it is it's pretty fun.
Graphics: Clean, guoard shaded characters that animate smoothly, good textures on the backgrounds, although there isn't much of a wow factor going on anywhere. Everything does look good though and it all retains the same style throughout.
Sound: Most of it consists of punches and bangs, with clear Wario voice samples. The pause screen music is pretty funny.
Gameplay: A good mix of platforming and beat'em up action, although some of the side rooms are extremely frustrating and may turn some people off.