Wario's been Twisted, Touched and endured countless other microgames over the last couple of years, and now he and his neighbourhood cohorts are taking a few Wii remote swipes with WarioWare: Smooth Moves. Chances are, if you haven't played a WarioWare title in the past, the rapid-fire microgame structure might be a little intimidating. Really though, it shouldn't be. The idea, particularly with the Wii instalment, is to think on your toes and be prepared for anything. More than ever before, Smooth Moves asks you to get up off your posterior and leave your inhibitions at the door.
The story is as ludicrous as the games contained within - Wario, ever the opportunist, pinches a mystical artefact, the 'form baton' (read: Wii remote) from a sacred temple. Chaos ensues that guides players through vignette stories of various familiar residents of Diamond City. The form baton, the name applied to the remote due to game's insistence that players assume particular positions, combines the minimal button usage, motion-sensing and drawing or cursor movement of the past titles into different 'forms'.
Upon selecting a character off the birds-eye view of the city, you're immediately thrown into a strange little cutscene that leads straight into the games. Each game is prefaced with a position in which to hold the remote - from the traditional and immediately obvious, such as 'The Waiter' (palm-up) and 'the Chauffer' (horizontal, handlebars-style) to the uncanny 'Elephant' (remote base held at tip of your nose), 'The Thumb-Wrestler' (remote held vertically, thumb over IR cover) and 'The Mohawk', (where the remote is held on top of your head). The games take unique advantage of such body-wide poses, asking players to use logic to determine the best way of using the remote.
And what, pray tell, will this game have you doing? Hundreds of different things, and all of them distinctly strange - this is the gaming equivalent to a David Lynch film. Shredding mobile phones with a cheese grater, saving a moon-eyed anime girl falling from a rooftop, frying food in a pan, spraying a winners' podium with champagne - and all of this occurs within mere moments of each other.
More than anything, Smooth Moves is a great demonstration of the versatility of the Wii's motion control. Each game does its best to articulate a different way of using the remote - to varying degrees of success. Some, such as those involving broad slashes and smooth movements, feel at times devoid of skill and thought. Being asked to slash an oil drum in half, smack a gong or hit the back of some hapless man's head are throwaway games that feel like repetitive filler. Occasionally, the Wii remote's motion detection is both oversensitive or unresponsive too, accidentally hampering your progress. A little more time fine-tuning some of the games was definitely needed.
For a game series that has actively rejected clichéd gameplay in the past, we get the unshakable feeling that the series is starting to fall into formula. We wouldn't go so far as to say that Smooth Moves is resting on its laurels, but even with the addition of motion-controlled functionality many games feel decidedly similar to past microgames.
For instance, we've picked noses and swatted flies before - and neither of these actions are particularly striking or make brilliant use of the Wii's capabilities. Even some of the ye-olde-schoole Nintendo gamettes are recycled - such as coin-block bashing, and cartridge insertion.
Simplicity in all forms seems to be Nintendo's mantra as of late, and the minimalist trend continues with Smooth Moves' presentation. Obviously and purposely shabby, many of the bite-sized games are displayed with shockingly scant imagery. This should come as no surprise to players familiar with past efforts. Outside of some of the Gamecube-redux moments, such as leaf-gliding in Wind Waker and a spot of morph-ball canister bowling, the animation during cutscenes is reminiscent of flash-based internet games, and many of the microgames consist of little more than a scribbled representation of a character, a smattering of colour and three frames of animation. It's endearing to a point, watching a stick-figure get burnt alive by a giant magnifying glass, but at times you'll be wishing for something a little more visually sumptuous to accompany the off-beat gameplay.
Of course, we suppose that might be jamming a fly in Nintendo's ointment, but hell, there's a fine line between artful simplicity and half-arsed; Smooth Moves teeters precariously on that knife-edge. Sure, it certainly looks better than the Gamecube version, but we're still positive that the Super Nintendo could run most of these games without breaking a sweat. Excellent Mii integration is a big plus for the game. Any Mii characters stored on your Wii's memory will appear in various microgames - cute little cameos that add a little personalisation to the games.
The question of longevity isn't new to the Wii - many of its launch titles have had the 'casual game' criticism levelled at them. This shadow of doubt still hangs over the console with yet another mini-game focussed title, further reinforcing the Wii as a console for the casual player. With so many mini-game compilations released this early in the platform's life, what once would've felt entirely fresh and fun is starting to wear a little bit thin.
12 player turn-based multiplayer is surprisingly fun. Even with as few as three or four players, watching a friend flail around your living room, haplessly trying to work out what to do and how to do it, is endlessly funny. Opting for turn-based multiplayer might seem, on the surface, something of a cop-out. To a point, it is. There should be a split-screen option for head-to-head mini-gaming. On the other hand, Nintendo is graciously saying that it isn't necessary to purchase multiple controllers in order to have some fun with your mates. Of course, there are half a dozen true two-to-five player mini-multiplayer games to dip your feet in, including the ridiculous and fun 'Star Nose' - a head-to-head, Star Fox-like flight sim.
Once you look past the quirkiness of the gameplay, the long-term meat of the game lies in the progressively harder and faster speeds at which the game runs. Getting past the first twenty rounds is no mean feat, but by stage 30, your synapses will be firing and even the slightest mistake is enough to halt your progress.
Including separate mini-games wisely adds a little depth and replayability to the title. Using the nunchuk attachment, you can play through a three-dimensional interpretation of Balloon Fight. Flap your right hand and the balloonist sails to the left, and vice versa. Other unlockables range from mildly challenging distractions, such as stacking falling blocks on a teetering platform or playing a block-bashing bout of vertical ping pong, to conducting a Mii orchestra to some classic Nintendo anthems.
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