Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgames
Do you have a short attention span? Do long, drawn-out adventures like Final Fantasy X hold your interest for a while and then gather dust on a lonely shelf with the rest of your unfinished games? Do you take pills because a talking head in a white coat brainwashed you and your parents into believing that your hyperactivity inhibits all normal interaction with society? If so, then you may not know it yet, but Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgames is screaming to you from the confines of its glass display case to procure it through any means necessary. Wario Ware was made for a purpose, and that is to bring pleasure to the gamer who dares not finish a game that requires more than a ten-hour investment. What it does is throw a slew of mini-games at you extremely fast in the hopes that your brain will shut down due to overloading while processing ungodly amounts of visual information. While most of its miniature treats are easily conquerable, they are no less entertaining for it, but even better, it finally gives citizens of the States a taste of that trademark Japanese quirkiness that is only hinted at in magazines and tame offerings that play with our minds just a little bit but cater more to our more realistic sensibilities.
Every great thing starts out as a great idea, and Wario’s ship comes in while he’s lounging on the sofa watching TV. Scratching his deliciously jagged mustache, he sees reports of the Game Boy Advance selling like mad in stores all over the world. Soon enough, the wheels start turnin’, and Wario finally gets the idea that is by now obvious to the player: make his own video games! Along with his own twisted brand of games, his ragtag bunch of compadres have some in store for you as well. From sports to space shooters to picking your nose and brushing your teeth, there’s nary an aspect of reality or fiction that Wario and his crew refuse to touch.
If brevity is the soul of wit, then Wario Ware is the funniest game ever made. It takes simple things like basketball, classic video games, and daily activities taken for granted like parking a car and condenses them all into mini-games that take only five seconds to play (often less than that). After taking its inspiration from all areas of both the layperson’s and gamer’s life, it then throws this idiotic melange of games at you without mercy. Your brain is forced to react to many things going on at once: the often single-word instructions that flash for just a moment before the game starts, the movement of whatever game is being played at the time, which direction to move, what to control, where to aim ….. the list goes on and varies as you play the different groupings of mini-games contained in this hilariously diverse package. With only four lives per try and the chance for extra ones spaced out at quite incovenient intervals, though, you might find that the tension that mounts is more than you can handle. The only way to find out is by diving into one of the folders with one of Wario’s friends’ faces on it.
The games are often grouped by theme – for example, Jimmy the disco dancer is a sports man, and you’ll play games on his cell phone relating to baseball, skiing, and jump rope, among others while trying to keep the battery power in his phone alive. Dribble the dog keeps for the most part a sci-fi feel going on, as you’ll see when noticing that his game collection is rife with space shooter and B-movie clash-of-the-titans fare. One of the best and by far my personal favorite is the group of miniature activities belonging to 9-Volt, a small kid in a huge helmet who comes home from school every day and creates matrix mixes of old Nintendo lore in his Game Boy. In this group and a couple of others is where Nintendo’s creative sparkle shines; you’re treated to breakneck-speed takes on the old favorites like Super Mario Bros. and Metroid (if only the old Mother Brain had died that quickly!) while also cruelly rehashing memories of the old peripheral failures like the Super Scope 6 and (horrors!) R.O.B the Robot.
If that tickles your fancy, wait until you’re forced to survive the paradoxically entertaining mundanity – not to mention the scatological humor – of late-for-work Gelateria employee Mona’s games, or the quick logic puzzles of Dr. Crygon and funky alien Orbulon. There is never nothing to do in the Wario Ware program, especially with bonus games of extended length being unlocked all the time, such as a long version of the Paper Plane mini-game found in Mona’s group of selections, Wario’s crude vision of Dr. Mario, and an opportunity for Americans to finally get to experience the old-school magic of an obscure Japanese arcade game called Sheriff. The Grid allows you to play the same games over and over again, allowing you to improve your skills and perception of speed and find ways to easily best any challenge no matter how much it speeds up on you.
The speed is what makes Wario Ware, because the game would be too easy if the games remained the same speed all the time. Instead of going the same speed they do when you start a game, which is actually relatively slow, the games ease you in smooth and easy and then starts to get faster on you as you do better and score more points. Not only that, but twists are added in that make them harder – objects may assault you from different sides of the screen, there may be more of them, they’ll move in patterns that will confuse you and fool you into getting tagged, or something may be changed that trips your brain up and causes you to lose one of those precious four lives. The games take up a short enough amount of time as well that you can play hundreds of them again and again and find you’ve only been staring at your GBA for a mere 45 minutes. The game’s short attention span has a weird way of stretching yours out in turn in the hopes that getting farther and farther might net you a new game to experience for just a few precious seconds, and yet remember for the next couple of weeks. Wario Ware taps into the mind like no game has yet and creates visual and mental images that are memorable simply because there has not been hitherto any way to fit them into a video game. I dare you to find me another game in which someone has you deploy an airbag for a crash test dummy.**
Wario Ware has a mix of graphics that make it look like it really was created by more than one person. The styles range from the Nintendo usual to realistic (but far from unamusing) to some things that look like they were drawn by children or people who have a sick fascination with effigies. The style all depends on the game and the group of games you’re playing under. Many games seem to opt for a minimalist style that works well and certainly makes it easier to see what you’re supposed to focus on. At five seconds maximum per game though, it’s not like slowdown or flicker is going to be an issue that hurts you anyhow. The multiple styles of graphics make the game a treat that gives you something different and unique to look at every time. From the concrete to the abstract, Wario Ware gets it dead on the nail every time with fascinating results that are never boring to look at.
Control is also spot-on, which is good considering that everything you do has to be fast, accurate, and if it’s even a millisecond off, you could lose it all in the blink of an eye. The only parts of the Game Boy Advance utilized in the control scheme (game-wise, anyway) are the D-pad and A, and the banner that flows at the bottom of the screen when you’re on the Grid often explains the object of the game succinctly and in terms meant to make fun of you while giving a nice small visual of how the control works. Few games use a combination of the D-pad and A, but when they do, they are usually implemented into boss battles that have no time limit. Nintendo has done well here by testing the control scheme of their nifty little handheld to its very limits and making sure they work at the drop of a hat. It works like a charm and makes sure the game has the amount of it to match. When you screw up, you won’t be cursing the game, but rather yourself, which is the ultimate testament to the hermetic scheme this ingenious game has been programmed with.
Because of the intense focus that Wario Ware requires, it’s easy to get lost in it for hours at a time besting your own personal records and trying to work your way into the higher echelons of marathon mini-gaming. No other game of its kind has come before it, although I have had visions of it when I see games like the latest iterations of Mario Party that focus more on cutesiness and aiming at ridiculously young demogrpahics than offering any semblance of originality. Because of its unparalleled weirdness and word of mouth that tells you how short it is (but not how short-sighted those gossipmongers are), it may turn you off initially, but my gut instinct led me the right way on this one. Wario Ware is the most original morsel of gaming in years, and you would do well to pick up a copy today. Or whenever you go in to pick up your Ritalin prescription …. I mean, either way, when opportunity knocks, put down what you’re doing and GET THE DOOR!
**My friend couldn’t do it. This reviewer won five bucks.