The Wii was truly a breeding ground for mini-game collections. It felt like half of the system’s software library consisted of poorly constructed shovelware that no one really cared about. With the Wii U, the amount of fodder is significantly less of an issue, which is also why the thought of a new Warioware-style game for the console had me excited. Sadly Game & Wario is not the traditional formula one would expect of Mario’s evil doppelganger. Instead, this latest entry forgoes the iconic micro-games in favor of more conventional-type mini-games that range from inventive, to just plain boring.
Game & Wario is divided up into two sections. The single player portion hosts 12 mini-games, with the majority of them lacking the unique functionality of the controller. Games like Ski and Ashley rely solely on tilting the controller and guiding characters through the environment, which is really not all that enjoyable. This is a common practice with Wario’s latest. Over half of the single player games opt to use the motion control as opposed to the more unique touch screen.
While the bulk of the single player games grow stale after one or two outings, there are a few highlights to the pack. First off, I really enjoyed Patchwork. This puzzle-matching game let me piece together unique 8-bit designs. The only downside is that pieces snapped into place too easily, removing some of the challenge.
The real stars of the show though are Game and Taxi. Both of these titles really showcase the unique way games can be played only on Nintendo’s machine. Taxi had me driving around using the touchscreen as a sort of windshield while I shot down UFOs and delivered their captives to destinations. If it sounds insane, it’s because it is. It is also the most unique mini-game to come back to. Later levels add new scenarios as well as difficulty spikes that make it the most replayable of the bunch.
The other standout is Game, which combines the classic Warioware formula, with a twist. I played as a kid in bed, playing micro-games on the touch screen. The catch is that I had to pay attention to when my mother would come into the room trying to catch me. Balancing the act of playing games and getting caught is loads of fun, and makes this the only other highlight of playing alone.
The multiplayer side of Game & Wario fares better, but also only hosts four games to choose from. Disco is the most disappointing as it only supports two players, and is little more than a rhythm game. Islands involved shooting Fronks onto a board, fairly similar to something like shuffleboard. It is fun for a few outings, but never hooked me. The real showcase with multiplayer comes from Sketch and Fruit.
While Sketch is essentially Pictionary, playing it with the Gamepad is a blast, and supports up to five players. This is the kind of game I could see dragging out at parties and really having a great time. Fruit feels almost like a digital version of Clue. One player takes the Gamepad and chooses a character in a crowd to be the thief. Then while the other 1-4 players watch the TV screen, the player with the Gamepad has to try and steal a set of apples, while not giving away their location. It sits on the same enjoyment level of the Pac-Man-style Luigi game from Nintendo Land, but with multiple people, it is a blast.
Visually Game & Wario looks and feels much like any of the past games. The 2D art style returns, with animated cut scenes, and some catchy tunes. I really enjoyed the title screens for the mini-games, with their semi-serious tones. Other than that, it feels bland. There is a collection aspect with each game earning tokens that can then be traded in for random trinkets, but it never drew me into needing them all, regardless of how quirky or nostalgic they were.
Game & Wario is disappointing mainly because the heart of the series feels stripped out, and in its place is a collection of mostly uninspired mini-games. I really wanted to see Nintendo take advantage of the Gamepad in unique ways, not just have me tilt to steer. The multiplayer can be a saving grace in a lot of respects; just don’t expect it to warrant the (cheap?) price tag of $40. This is one collection that ran out of steam far too quickly.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.