Wario Ware, Inc: Mega Microgame$
for Game Boy Advance was a pleasant surprise when it came out in May 2003. While most developers nowadays strive to give their games more complex controls, deeper gameplay, and movie-style storylines, Nintendo went into the exact opposite direction. Wario Ware
isn't about skill or depth, it's -- as Jack Burton would say -- "all in the reflexes."
As a matter of fact, simplicity and shallowness are the pillars Wario Ware is built upon. Anyone can play -- and everyone will laugh at this insane collection of more than 200 mini-games, many of which are so ridiculously absurd, it's hard to keep a straight face even a year after the game's release date. Snot-snorting anime babe? Check? Crying collie? Check. Toilet stage? Of course!
A year after the GBA game had us hooked, the mini-game extravaganza finally arrives on GameCube as Wario Ware Inc. Mega Party Game$. Sold at the budget price of $29.95, Mega Party Game$ is a multiplayer upgrade of the original, letting four players battle it out at the same time and 16 players go at it consecutively in an elimination-style tournament.
- More than 200 microgame challenges
- Choose from a host of different characters, including Dr. Crygor, Dribble & Spitz, Jimmy and more.
- Play through the single player mode to experience over 200 minigames and unlock bonus game modes, movies, music videos, and more.
- Four player competitive modes and 16-player consecutive (single-controller) modes
- Game Boy Advance compatible -- can be used as a controller (link cable required)
Wario Ware, Inc.: Mega Party Game$ features two modes: single and multiplayer, broken up into different sub-modes (most of which have to be unlocked before you can play them). The single player mode is basically a rehash of the GBA game. Battle your way through nine differently themed stages by beating microgame challenges that are thrown at you in quick succession. Each mini-game only lasts a few seconds and requires quick button presses, quick thinking, or both. There are two dozen microgames, topped off by boss stages that range from a vector-style space shooter to a Wario skateboarding game. Sound familiar? That's because each of the more than 200 microgames in this mode are lifted directly from the Game Boy Advance game and are presented in emulated form.
While Wario Ware for GameCube still retains some of the GBA title's charm thanks to its humor and frantic pace, returning players will be disappointed that there is nothing really new in this mode. The sense of surprise and novelty is gone, compounded by the fact that the single-player mode uses a generic elevator setting (much like the one used in the endless mode in the GBA game) instead of the funny character-specific clips in the original. Beating the Wario boss challenge will unlock some text character bios and some animated clips, but even they fail to recapture the magic of the GBA original and are only mildly funny. Finally, all challenges can be tried out, played and practiced from the game's options menu.
Plug in three more controllers, however, and Wario Ware Inc. Mega Party Game$ turns into a completely different animal. If you want to read some specifics about the different gameplay modes, check our preview here -- but take it from us, Wario Ware has the power to command the attention of any party audience (yes, even the sober kind). Since the whole point of the game is to figure out what to do in each mini-game, it's a game that can be enjoyed by a very diverse audience. Hardcore gamers will appreciate the references to NES, Virtual Boy, R.O.B., and even older Nintendo products while non-gamers are easily drawn in by the simple controls and humorous graphics.
Not each and every multiplayer mode is a winner, but Survival Fever, Wobbly Bobbly, Card-E Cards, and Balloon Bang are actually very intelligently designed. Card-E Cards, for example, adds an e-Reader theme to the mix by turning the microgames into actual e-Cards. Players take turns drawing them from a stack. Whoever gets a GBA card first has to complete the mini-games pictured on the cards in the stack one after the other. Failure means loss of all cards, while winning nets the player the entire stash. Meanwhile, the other players can move around the screen and try to steal cards from each other via timed button presses. The design is ingenious. Consecutive gameplay usually means three bored players -- but here, everyone has something to do while one player tries to concentrate on completing the microgames. And extraneous sequences, like the counting of the decks can actually be sped up by the simple press of a button. Mario Party designers, take note!
Aside from the routine Survival Fever (consecutive and split-screen microgames for four), the favorite multiplayer mode in our office has got to be Wobbly Bobbly. Each round is split into three distinct challenges. First, all players go head-to-head simultaneously in a random multiplayer elimination microgame, created specifically for the GameCube. Most of these are inspired by games and characters found in the GBA title, but they use new artwork and take gameplay to a frantic new high. One game has all four players trying to dodge the snot that drips out of the aforementioned anime babe's nose. Others involve nose picking, fleeing from enemies, grabbing chickens, throwing balls, stopping an alarm clock, or jumping over stuff. The player who survives the longest then tries to beat a single-player GBA microgame. If he wins again, a big turtle gets added to the other players' stack. A loss means that a small turtle gets added to his own stack. After the mini-games, all four players now have to balance on top of their tilting turtle towers (accompanied by wild Japanese Shamisen music). At a recent IGN party, we kept on coming back to this mode again and again, partially because of the new multiplayer mini-games. You can imagine the mockery that ensues when someone proclaims his superiority in the first challenge, only to choke in the GBA microgame that follows... Then there is the "Listen to the Doctor" mode, where players are asked to perform a certain action in the real world while they complete the challenges. Most grown-ups might feel a bit silly standing on one leg while putting a white cat to sleep, kids will no doubt love the interaction. Look for the inevitable drinking game version of this mode in dorm rooms nationwide within days.
Finally, for those really big parties, Nintendo even included 16-player elimination tournaments that use only one controller. We only had eight players on hand to test this mode, but the frantic pacing of the survival mode coupled with a healthy dose of schadenfreude made this mode another winner. Once again, the wireless Wavebird proves its worth as you hand the controller from player to player in single-player microgame survival and Paper Airplane battles.
Wario Ware on Game Boy Advance looked good enough -- but once you take the GBA mini-games and throw them up on your TV screen, the limited color palettes, often only two-frame animations, and low resolution take their toll. The zoomed-in view and anti-aliasing makes these emulated action sequences look more dated than they really are, especially on big-screen televisions. To offset this, some of the modes run the microgames in GBA or TV frames, surrounded by new artwork that doesn't look quite as bad. Nintendo also completely redid the art and animation for the stage events that appear between the mini-game challenges. Using hi-res art and plenty of funny animations for the game's motley crew of characters, the presentation actually does a good job at heightening Wario Ware's off-kilter personality. But does it look good? No, not by a long shot. Most of the stuff you see in Wario Ware -- even the dozen or so newly added GC mini-games -- can easily (and quickly) be done in Flash on a computer. The dated graphics certainly don't kill the game and may actually manage to instill some gamers with a sense of nostalgia, but it would be nice if Nintendo had put a bit more effort into the series' first console outing.
There is no progressive scan support.
Though much of the audio and music could previously be heard in the GBA game, the GameCube samples are of much higher quality. The audio works perfectly together with the visuals to toss players from a feeling of nostalgia ("hey, the Overworld theme!") right into utter confusion ("did that catfish meow just now?"). Some of the voice samples are just too weird and will no doubt spark countless "let's pickle?" controversies, but they certainly do what they were designed to do: make us laugh. While not the kind of music you would want to listen to in your car, the tunes in Wario Ware are also quite memorable.
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