When Wario Ware: Mega Microgame$
hit the Game Boy Advance back in 2002, it opened up a seemingly untouched genre: an entire videogame design that's revolved around rapid-fire minigame challenges. The success of the original GBA game spawned an enhanced GameCube sequel several months later, and when the Nintendo DS was revealed to the public for the first time, the company already had a demo version of Wario Ware
running on the brand new hardware. That demo, not surprisingly, has been expanded into a full-fledged Nintendo DS presentation in Wario Ware Touched!
, and it's just as quirky, bizarre, and -- most importantly -- successful a design as the original GBA version is, and shows that there's something unique and fun to touch and dual-screen gaming. It's just an incredibly short game experience.
The hook of the Wario Ware design is that it strings together brief, small challenges of varying difficulty levels, one after another. To call many of these "games" would be extremely generous, since some of them are merely rudimentary tasks that a monkey could do. And most of them couldn't stand on their own as individual games anyway -- how could you package a design that simply requires players to pop balloons or stretch animals out of shape? But when they're thrown at the player, one after the other at a slowly increasing pace, these challenges and tasks actually have far more meaning in a gaming environment.
The mini-tasks in Wario Ware Touched! have been sectioned off into "themes" of different control. Some require a "tap" motion, others a "drag" across the touch screen. Others need a circular drawing motion in "Twisted" fashion. One particular group of challenges put the microphone to use, offering a surprising variety of "breath" controlled games simply by blowing into the Mic hole of the Nintendo DS system. Of course, the real treat is the series of "throwback" levels that revives the classic Nintendo franchises like Metroid, Hogan's Alley, Zelda II, and Game & Watch titles.
Nearly everything about the Nintendo DS and its hardware went to use somewhere in Wario Ware Touched! Quite a few games push the two screen element by combining the action across dual displays, others combine the touch and microphone function together. Many games are simple sprite-based presentations, but some actually push a decent amount of 3D effects. The only aspect of the Nintendo DS that went ignored was the wireless networking function, which is surprising since it's clear that the designers were encouraged to push the Nintendo DS' functions wherever possible.
It's also clear that the designers involved in the production of the Wario Ware series are given an extremely loose leash. The enormous creative freedom is what really gives this game its charm because, right from the start, you never know what to expect. And even when it's staring you in the face, some of the designers' motives are never known. Why was there a bunny-suited man sitting outside on a treebranch? What's with the old man that needs to be "blown" into the air? There are way more questions than answers to some of the mini-game tasks, but that's what really gives Wario Ware Touched! its unique look and feel.
In the time between the Japanese release and the US release of Wario Ware for the DS, the development teams only tweaked a handful of items during the localization. One mini-challenge and one "toy" have been replaced by completely different and unique items in the US version, and a couple of unlockable toys have had slight alterations to fit the different culture. But on the whole, the entire Wario Ware experience has been retained in the move across the Pacific.
But that also means that the actual downsides to the product have been retained as well. Truth is, Wario Ware Touched is a game that can be completed in a single sitting. From the initial boot up to the first time you see the end credits, you're talking about an hour of play time. However, once the game's completed it's not over since a single playthrough barely opens up any unlockables hidden away in the cartridge. Still, it won't take long to discover all of the little gadgets and reveal every one of the 180 mini-challenges since it realistically only takes another two to three hours to pull off this task. But even with the short length, Wario Ware Touched is endlessly playable since each of the "levels" and unlockable mini-games can be played for high-score. It's just unfortunate that the entire game can be experienced within the day it's been purchased.
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