I suppose I’ve never really given my overall thoughts on the Wii U since the system launched last year. My wife and I got one on launch day (our first joint console purchase, awwwww) and had a blast the first day, playing Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros U with our friends. We also had ZombiU and Scribblenauts Unlimited, two games I had a lot of fun with as well. Things were off to a solid start overall. Then five months went by before I bought another game - Lego City Undercover. Fun game, but that is a long time to go without really playing a new console. Game & Wario is the first game I have bought since Lego. The drought of games looks to be ending in August, at which point the system will hopefully start living up to its potential (which I do think it has).
In the meantime we at least have the occasional Virtual Console title of worth, as well as fun but unremarkable games like Game & Wario.
A lot of people, myself included, were a little disappointed at the news that Game & Wario would not be following the traditional Wario Ware microgame set-up. Instead we get 16 mini-games, most focused on single player and a handful of multiplayer only selections. There’s still elements of Wario Ware in here, primarily the familiar characters and general bizarre sense of humour. Just be advised that you should not go into this expecting what past Wario collections have delivered.
Game & Wario is all about showing off the capabilities of the Wii U gamepad, a somewhat strange idea this far into the console’s life cycle but I believe this was meant to be released far sooner. There are no options to play with Wii remotes or Pro Controllers or anything else but the gamepad, this include the multiplayer offerings.
I don’t feel a game by game breakdown is necessary here since there really isn’t a whole lot to say about several of them. If you’ve played Nintendo Land (and if you own a Wii U I would be very surprised if you haven’t) then a couple of these games will immediately feel familiar. Arrow has you aiming a cursor on the screen while flicking the stylus along the game pad to fire at enemies, ala the ninja game in Nintendo Land whose exact name I forget because it was one of my least favourite offerings there. The same applies here with Arrow. Game and Wario’s Ski game also feels like the F-Zero mini-game, requiring you to tilt the gamepad to guide the player through an on screen course. Thankfully I quite enjoyed the F-Zero game, so I have found myself returning to Ski frequently.
Shutter is one of the best uses of the gamepad, turning it into a camera and asking you to search through a screen full of characters (very Waldo-esque) in order to locate specific people and grab a solid picture of them. It’s fun, inventive, and the ultimate proof that Nintendo really, REALLY, needs to make a new Pokemon Snap game.
Another one of my favourites is Patchwork, a simple but addictive puzzle game that has you placing different shapes with a pattern grid in order to form a larger image. I burned through all the puzzles fairly quickly, and am now completely prepared to buy any form of content that is just more of this.
My favourite game, and what I imagine will be most people’s favourite, is Gamer. This one is entirely focused on the micro games that the series’ is known for. The twist is that the character is playing these games on a portable system at night, and trying to hide the fact he’s staying up late from his incredibly terrifying Mother. So while you’re playing the micro games on the gamepad, you have to continue to keep an eye on the TV, as your Mom will continually try to catch you in the act of playing by popping out of various places. Oh also, her eyes glow like a god damn demon and if she catches you, her face transforms into this terrifying monster visage. It’s surprisingly tense and easily the best experience here.
Kung-Fu and Flight are both ok entries. Kung Fu gives you an overhead perspective on the gamepad, and a behind the back perspective on the TV, as you guide your constantly jumping character through five different courses. There’s Flight, a side scroller where you tilt the gamepad to guide your character along a path, gathering collectables along the way. Both of these are decent fun during the first run through of the levels, but once I found the hidden scrolls in Kung Fu and achieved the designated high scores in Flight (neither task took very long to accomplish), they didn’t provide a lot of incentive for me to replay them.
Let’s round the rest of these up. Bowling, which as expected has you sliding the stylus to roll the ball and then tilting the gamepad to guide it, is fun a couple of times but I haven’t revisited it since the first go. Pirates, a sort of rhythm game that has you blocking attacks from an opposing ship, is another that I have not gone back to since completing the stages. Bird is a simplistic puzzler which has you moving a bird from left to right, using your diagonally moving tongue to catch falling fruit for points. Design is a strange yet oddly compelling game which has you drawing a variety of different shapes (ex: a triangle with 2 inch sides) and angles. There doesn’t seem to be a variety of requests though so the replay value, for me at least, was quite low. Finally, Taxi is the last of the single player games, and is a mixture of driving and first person shooting. It sounds like a mess, and it kind of is, but once you get accustomed to it there’s some fun to be had.
To see the credits roll on this will not take you long at all as you are able to progress after just beating one stage/round of each mini-game. Each one does offer a variety of levels and modes to play, so there are reasons to go back. There are also tokens you can earn, that you can use to unlock tons and tons of collectables, some of which you can actually interact with, such as a bubble blower.
Outside of the single player offerings, there are four multiplayer only options. Sketch is my personal favourite, even if it really is just Pictionary. I mean Pictionary is perfect for the gamepad so it works out great. Fruit has one person trying to steal five pieces of fruit while the other players try to suss out which on screen character they are using to do so. Once you sort out what you’re doing, there’s a surprising amount of strategy involved and it’s pretty engaging. Disco is a rhythm game where each play uses one side of the touch screen to bounce notes back and forth. The controls never worked terrifically for us so after the first go, we have yet to go back to this game. Finally, there’s Islands which has you using the gamepad as a slightshot to shoot these things called Fronks at point value targets. It’s another pretty decent one but definitely works best in shorter play sessions.
Well shit, I essentially ended up doing a game by game breakdown either way. Too late to go back now I suppose.
I’m not at all surprised that Game & Wario came out as a budget priced title. In the end it’s a solid collection of mini-games, with a handful of great ones and a stable of mediocre ones. It does give you a reason to power up the Wii U again as there is fun to be had, though I doubt it will sustain you until the next big release for the console, Pikmin 3 in August.