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WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$

Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 05/21/03 | Genre: Puzzle

You've probably already heard something about this game. When a game involves parking cars, picking noses, and playing golf, people will tend to notice. Yeah, that could be a really thorough golf simulator, but the game also has you eating fruit, snowboarding, and playing Metroid. That's not even the wackiest stuff that you'll see. Wario Ware is very quirky, and it's a very strange concept for a game, but it's really original and highly addictive. If you don't know anything about the game yet, you're probably very confused. In Wario Ware, the player is challenged with over 200 mini-games (in Wario Ware, they are called microgames). The trick is that each microgame only lasts a few seconds, but you must play dozens of them in rapid succession. It's a strange concept, but it turned out to be a lot of fun.

Wario was vegging out on the couch one day when he realized that he could make money if he made cool video games. Being the greedy, selfish guy that he his, he figured that actually making the games himself was too much work. So he called up a bunch of his friends to make the games for him while he reaps all of the profits. Each character specializes in a certain theme. All of their games revolve around that theme. The player goes through each character's stage to complete a certain amount of their games. Before and after each stage, the player is treated to a story. The story for each character makes almost no sense, but that's okay. For instance, one story is about a character speeding on her way to work because she's late. Another story is about cab drivers who pick up a mysterious passenger, and yet another story is just about a hip guy using his cell phone on the dance floor at a disco. The stories are really just backdrops for the games to make them have some kind of cohesion. For instance, with the disco dancer guy, the microgames are being played on his cell phone, and if you lose a game, the battery indicator on the virtual cell phone goes down. Some of the cutscenes are kind of humorous, even if they are practically nonsense.

Each microgame lasts no more than five seconds, and you only need the D-pad and the 'A' button to control it, or often even less. Each game is preceded by a one or two word instruction. The instruction is often ambiguous, such as 'Eat' 'Dodge' 'Curl' and more. This is not a problem however since the controls and game scenarios are so simple that you figure out what to do in less than a second, literally. The gameplay varies widely, with some microgames being more interesting than others. There are over 200 after all. In some games, you simply have to push a single button at the correct time. Another game might have you maneuvering a car around giant rolling balls, and you must avoid getting squished. These games test all of your basic gaming skills. Although some of the games are quite clever, I wouldn't consider anything to be really original. It's the concept of throwing all of these games at the player in rapid succession that makes Wario Ware unique. At first, the game is pretty easy. Things move slowly enough, and the tasks are not too complex. However, once things get more difficult, you might be gripping your GBA tightly and even feel stressed. It's really funny. The game eventually gets so fast that you start to get anxious as you have to quickly determine what to do in each game and execute it very quickly without making a mistake. It's very exciting and addictive. It can also be really funny. I definitely suggest trading this game around with friends for a good time. It's fun to watch other people's behavior as they play the game, as well as watch the successes and mistakes that they make.

In the main game, the player must go through eleven stages. There seven stages for each character, except Wario, who has two stages. Then there are also two 'Remix' stages. The Remix stages combine the games of a few of the other stages. Each character other than Wario has a theme. Wario's stages might just be classified as Strange or Variety. All of their games revolve around one their own theme: Sports, Nintendo Classics, Strange, Sci-Fi, Reality, IQ, and Nature. For the most part, the theme doesn't really tell you what all of the games in each character's stage will play like. The gameplay mechanics in each stage varies widely in each stage, regardless of the theme. The only stage that feels distinctly different is the IQ stage. These games test your vocabulary, spelling, memory, visual skills, math skills, and more. The other stages have a large variety of different activities, and though their themes may differ, you can't necessarily say that each theme has a distinct playing style. There is just lots of variety. The Classic Nintendo them not only has you play old Nintendo games for just a few seconds, but there are even games based off of Nintendo obscurities such as a toy pitching machine and laser gun and target games that they once made. After a certain number of games (different for each character's stage), you will play a 'Boss Game' that differs from the usual microgames. Boss Games have no time limit, and usually have a slightly more complex task.

On your first time through the game, you will only play each character's stage up to the Boss Game. This is actually fairly easy. You can beat the main mode within a couple hours like this. However, you will not have seen nearly everything. After beating a character's stage once, you can go through and play it endlessly. Your game ends when you lose four microgames. As you progress, the games not only get faster and faster, but they also get more complex. If you had to dodge one car before, you might have to dodge three or four when the microgames get harder. Or maybe the hole that you are trying to putt a ball into will be smaller. Aside from simply changing the number or size of things to increase difficulty, there are other clever little tricks the game plays on you when you progress far enough. Eventually, the game gets so fast that it pushes you to the limits of your brain's speed. It's really fun to see how far you can go.

There are incentives to play the stages through several times. For one thing, you won't see all of the 213 microgames unless you play through the stages multiple times. Also, by achieving certain high scores, you can unlock awesome bonus games. There are four two-player games to unlock, and eight other single player games to unlock. This is how you can unlock Dr. Wario -the full single player version of Dr. Mario with Wario standing in place of Mario. You can also unlock Wario's Sheriff. It's a very old Nintendo game called Sheriff, only, Wario is the main character rather than the nameless sheriff. The two-player games are surprisingly fun for how simple they are. Each two-player game is played on a single Game Boy Advance, with both players playing simultaneously! One player uses the 'L' button, and the other player uses the 'R' button. You'd be surprised with how fun the games can be even though they just use one button. It shows you that game design relies on creativity more than anything else.

Bonuses can also be unlocked from the Grid. The Grid is where you can play any single microgame that you have already seen in the main game. You can play each microgame repeatedly, and it gets faster and faster as the microgame gradually adds layers of difficulty. By reaching a certain score on every microgame, more bonus games are unlocked.

Wario Ware is hard to discuss technically, because there's so much variety. The game isn't going to wow you with its graphics, but I think that they're perfect for the game. Some of the microgames' graphics are so simple that it looks like you're playing an old Intellivision game. Other games feature photorealistic sprites or fancy sprite scaling and rotating. There is also some really nice hand drawn artwork too. Of course, the NES It all accommodates Wario Ware's wide variety and quirkiness rather well. The sound can be described similarly. There's nothing amazing. The voice work for the characters ranges from funny to annoying. All of the voice work is just short one or two word phrases of congratulations or disappointment in reaction to what the player does. As you would imagine, there's a large variety of sound effects to accompany the differing game scenarios, and many of them are humorous. The music for the title screens and cutscenes are rather nice. The music in the microgames is obviously very short, and many of the microgames don't even have music. There's nothing to really complain about here except that one or two of the characters have annoying voices. In fact, for a game that features over 200 microgames, you wouldn't expect much from the graphics and sound. However, I was surprised with the quality. I guess it's fair to say that the graphics and sound were more than what I expected, even if there's a wide variation in how complex the graphics and sound are.

Wario Ware is packaged together very well. One might be worried about how the designers would chose to take the players through so many games at such a fast pace. Rest assured that the game flows the way that it needs too. The intensity builds up gradually, and the games are spread out in a way so that there is not too much repetition. They just put everything together so well. It's hard to stop playing once you start. Even the instruction booklet is cool. I had to mention this somewhere! The instruction booklet has a word search, a maze, and a couple other activities to do. In addition, it also has two pages of stickers. Some are for fun, and others are used with the activities in the booklet. You can even discover a couple little secrets if you peel off all of the stickers.

Nintendo did a really good job putting the game together. This is incredibly quirky. It's something many have described as seeming very Japanese. I'm glad Nintendo decided to bring it out of Japan though. The concept of playing 213 5-second games in rapid succession is strange, and the microgames themselves are even stranger. One of the key elements that makes Wario Ware so good is that the designers succeeded in packaging and presenting everything to the player in a way that made it extremely fun and addictive. A game that featured over 200 games that have no relation to each other and only last for a few seconds each could have easily been a complete mess. Nintendo pulled it off with flying colors however. This is the perfect on-the-go game, and it's also great to share with friends. I didn't think that I would like Wario Ware at first. It just sounded too strange, and it didn't sound very fun. However, after trying it, I was convinced that I needed to have it and I'm glad that I own the game now. Wario Ware has it all. It's hilarious, very challenging, fun, and addictive. You should try it out. Don't forget that the recently released GameCube demo disc has a demo of Wario Ware on it, and that's only a very small taste what the complete game offers.

By Andrew Thivyanathan - 06/04/03

Screenshots for WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$


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