Mario’s arch-rival Wario has a new money spinning idea: making games for a nutty new console that has a screen in its controller. You see what they did there? Overly meta it may be, but Wario’s house of games is certainly a productive one - Game & Wario started life as a mini-game collection that was going to be pre-installed on the Wii U, but Nintendo came up with so many ideas that it’s now a full-price offering packed with single and multi-player morsels. But will players be better off from lining Wario’s pockets?
With 12 single-player games on offer, there’s no shortage of choice within Game & Wario. The best of the bunch marry Wario’s zaniness with neat ideas that demonstrate just how adaptable the Wii U’s GamePad is. Highlights include Ski, where you steer a funky disco dancer down the slopes by tilting the pad left and right, and Gamer, where you play fast paced retro mini-games on the pad while keeping an eye on the TV so your character can avoid being caught by his mum and sent to sleep. But others, such as the tedious orb-collecting Ashley, would be disappointing as a 79p smartphone offering.
More players = more fun
On top of the 12 single-player games, Game & Wario has four offline multiplayer offerings. Multiplayer brings out the best in Game & Wario, where its off-the-wall charm makes for some fun player vs player frolics. The highlight is Sketch, a game for two to five players that’s essentially a Wario-themed recreation of Pictionary. Players take turns using the Gamepad to draw pictures based on clues while other players try to guess what the clue is. It’s hardly innovative but it is a winning multiplayer formula.
Game & Wario tries hard to keep players coming back by offering new modes and twists on its games – such as slipping a two-player mode into some of the single player games once you’ve cleared them once. But few really develop the ideas enough to hook and some show how the GamePad detracts from, rather than adds, to the fun. Gamer is a perfect example. It gets players playing retro games on the controller while checking the TV screen to ensure the character’s mum doesn’t catch him playing when he should be sleeping. The extra mode where you just play the retro games and don’t have to worry about mum is actually much more fun.
Points make prizes in Game & Wario. As you play you earn tokens to spend on the Chick-n-Win capsule machine. In exchange for tokens this mechanical hen lays oddball prizes such as quirky facts about in-game characters and strange jokes about collecting ice in the South Pole. Sometimes it lays neat toys – we got a beatbox that mixes your raps in with its beats. Think of it like a Christmas cracker designed by Willy Wonka and you’re pretty much there.
The final element in the Game & Wario mix is Miiverse Sketch, a Pictionary-esque drawing game hosted by a wacky alien that travels in a pig-shaped flying saucer (which makes him pretty straight-laced by Wario standards). The goal is to draw a picture based on words the game suggests within a 60-second time limit, which can then be shared with everyone on the Wii U’s Miiverse social network. Players can also submit their own word suggestions for others to draw.
Game & Wario is like pick ‘n’ mix. For every tasty cola bottle treat there’s an equivalent of one of those bland pinky-white shell things. And Pictionary inspired games aside, even Game & Wario’s best offerings feel like novelties – fun for a few moments, but rarely offering enough depth or development to keep you returning time after time.