Wii

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Wario Land: Shake It!

by Jonathan Metts - October 2, 2008, 4:22 pm PDT
Total comments: 15

9

Mario's antithesis is back with yet another fantastic 2D platformer.

I've been a fan of this series ever since the colorized version of Wario Land 2 became my first purchase for Game Boy Color. At their best, the Wario Land games epitomize dense, puzzle-based level design with a light-hearted style that is distinct from their Super Mario cousins. Shake It is the first new entry since Wario Land 4, a mildly disappointing Game Boy Advance sequel. In fact, Shake It is most similar to WL4, but it solves most of that game's problems and feels like a superior experience overall.

The story is irrelevant, so I won't bother describing it. In most stages, Wario's goal is to reach the end, rescue a floating elf, and then race back to the entrance before time runs out. This structure has an interesting influence on the level designs, as they must accommodate a leisurely exploration on the front end and a frantic race against time on the back end. Usually, there's some clever way to prepare the escape route that will let you get back faster and/or reach a tricky treasure chest that is only available while escaping. The timed portion is hardly ever frustrating, because the time limit is generous, and there's always a checkpoint at the end of the level in case you do run out of time and need to try again.

The best aspect of Shake It's levels are how they incorporate puzzles that are solved with Wario's standard set of moves. Quite a few secrets involve using the enemies as tools, either by jumping on them at the right moment or throwing them into blocks high above. Most stages also have contraptions that make Wario run very fast until he hits a wall; while running, the controls and Wario's abilities are quite different. Learning to control him while sliding around at this higher speed is challenging but heavily rewarded by the level designs. Finally, in a nod to earlier Wario Land games, there are also fire and snow transformations for Wario, though they don't happen very often.

Aside from its excellent level layouts, Shake It's best assets are the wacky, diverse soundtrack and the drop-dead gorgeous 2D visuals. The music is truly a delight, as every stage has two different songs – one for the exploration phase, and another for the escape. Songs span numerous genres, including funk, jazz, rock, and even cheesy 80’s-style synth-pop. One of my favorites is a sparse, beautiful piano piece that plays during one stage's escape phase – the effect is oddly unsettling. You can unlock all these songs by completing each level's challenges, which are exactly like Xbox 360 Achievements. The challenges are completely optional of course, but you may want to seriously pursue a few of them in order to get a particularly beloved song.

The game's artwork and animation require special commendation. This is one of the best-looking 2D games ever created. Each level has distinct art, including a unique background that does not simply repeat as you scroll by. Sprites are crisp and colorful, reflecting the Wario Land style that has always been a little different from the Super Mario games. But as nice as the art may be, animation is the real star here. You've probably never seen 2D characters animate this well in a video game. The combination of clarity and fluidity make Wario the best-looking ugly character around.

I had some trepidation regarding the shaking in this game, but the motion controls end up playing a smaller role than the title would indicate. Shaking is a tacked-on mechanic, but it's not really a chore because you don't need to do it too much. It also helps to realize that you can shake the Wii Remote very gently and still get the same result. Tilting to aim throws and control vehicles works beautifully, and all the conventional controls are very smooth. I sometimes had trouble getting the butt stomp to activate, though.

Finally, no discussion of Shake It would be complete without addressing the game's longevity. Many gamers have a hard time reconciling the old-fashioned 2D platformer genre with a modern, full-priced Wii game. Putting aside any prejudices about the type of game it is, Wario Land is a medium-length game that can be traversed in 5-10 hours. If your intention is to play straight through and see the credits roll, you may be better off renting it.

However, fans of the Wario Land series know that it's really all about exploration and discovering all the fun secrets. Shake It has quite a few secret levels that become easier to access after beating the final boss, and these levels are larger and more challenging than the normal ones. You can also go back to completed levels and play them again to find more treasures. Far from being a simple scavenger hunt, the optional quest to find all the treasures is actually the key to experiencing the best puzzles in the game. If you don't spend the time to try some of these secret levels and treasure hunts, you'll miss a significant chunk of the game's content. If you do pursue the secret levels and treasures, the game's value increases dramatically, and purchasing it becomes a much better proposition.

Either way, fans of 2D platforming (Nintendo's bread and butter of yore) should not miss this game. Wario Land: Shake It is a compassionate and hugely entertaining throwback to a classic kind of game that isn't often released these days.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
10 9 8 9 7 9
Graphics
10

This is the best-looking 2D game to ever appear on a Nintendo console.

Sound
9

A couple of songs can be annoying, but most of the soundtrack is fantastic. It's nice to hear some types of music that aren't often used in games. Wario's voice is starting to sound more like StrongBad.

Control
8

The movement and attack controls work almost perfectly, and they have to with some of the nastier puzzles. Shaking is silly but not really a big deal.

Gameplay
9

Classic and clever, Wario's latest adventure is full of great platforming, tricky puzzles, and memorable boss battles. A handful of really fun submarine levels help to break up the routine.

Lastability
7

Although this isn't a vast game, the levels are large and dense, with more than one good reason to play through them again. The secret levels are well worth searching out after you beat the main quest.

Final
9

Hardly revolutionary nor even innovative, Wario Land: Shake It is instead a highly refined form of a purely entertaining genre that is often ignored these days. Don't ignore this one, as it's one of the best platformers around, modern or otherwise.

Summary

Pros
  • Puzzle-based level designs
  • Stunning graphics and great music
  • Tons of secrets worth finding
Cons
  • No farting!
  • Shaking is a cheap gimmick
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

yoshi1001October 02, 2008

I'll probably be picking this up tomorrow. Glad to see Wario's back to his old self (though I am beginning to wonder when Nintendo will get around to making "Wario Ware: Board Stiff").

Wonderful, beautiful game. I actually enjoy the shaking, but like Metts said, there's not very much of it. Some of the challenges are pretty tough, honestly, so completionists have lots to do.

I hope to write a second opinion after I beat the game because I love it so much.

vuduOctober 03, 2008

Great review.  It has me excited for the game.  After Parish blasted the game I was a little hesitant on picking it up right away, but now I'll probably do it sooner rather than later.

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

Shake It is the first new entry since Wario Land 4, a mildly disappointing Game Boy Advance sequel.  In fact, Shake It is most similar to WL4, but it solves most of that game's problems and feels like a superior experience overall.

I find this interesting, because in the review I linked to earlier, Parish says the exact opposite.

Quote:

For all intents and purposes, Shake It! is a sequel to 2001's brilliant Wario Land 4 for Game Boy Advance. Every game element on display has been lifted directly from Shake It!'s portable predecessor, from the tutorial stage to the odd level structure that sees Wario racing against time to return to the stage's entrance once he reaches its goal. Wario Land 4 was a phenomenal game, easily one of the top titles in the GBA's extensive library; unfortunately, Shake It! does nothing to improve on its ideas. On the contrary, it sands down all the quirks that made that earlier game so compelling. Gone are the imaginative, varied, and above all open-ended level layouts; missing are the goofy narrative tics and links that tied the levels together; absent is the gloriously psychedelic sound design. Nearly everything that set Wario Land Advance apart from hundreds of other platformers has been expurgated in favor of a relentlessly average experience.

I skipped WL4, so I can't say that I have an opinion one way or the other.  It's a tangent, but why did you find WL4 disappointing and in what ways does Shake It improve on the gameplay elements found in the GBA title?

Luigi DudeOctober 03, 2008

Excellent review, nails all the points of the game nicely.  The best part is you mentioned how playing through the levels to do all the missions and collecting the treasures improves the experience greatly.  This is something nearly every other gaming publication missed because the reviewers just rushed through the game and stopped playing after they beat the final boss. 

This is what I like about the reviews at NintendoWorldReport is that you guys actually play the games the entire way through before reviewing them.  Even if I disagree with some reviews, at least I hold respect for you guys going into detail on each game.  Unlike other places (coughGamespotcough) who's reviews are so shallow you wonder if the reviewer even bothered to play the game for more then 30 minutes before they started typing something.

GoldenPhoenixOctober 03, 2008

This game is really great, even surpassing my favorite Wario Game, Wario Land for VB.

LuigiHannOctober 04, 2008

Quote from: GoldenPhoenix

This game is really great, even surpassing my favorite Wario Game, Wario Land for VB.

I really wish that game would be ported to something playable.

GoldenPhoenixOctober 04, 2008

if you got over the eye burning and headaches, VB was extremely playable.

I actually enjoy the visual style of VB even if it is physically painful to play. Even now the 3D looks great.

yoshi1001October 04, 2008

Quote from: LuigiHann

Quote from: GoldenPhoenix

This game is really great, even surpassing my favorite Wario Game, Wario Land for VB.

I really wish that game would be ported to something playable.

Hey, they made the Power Glove work with the Wiimote, maybe they can make VB work too! ;)

(Actually, a 3-D Wario Ware Game would be pretty crazy, come to think about it)

I played the first world. Certainly better than Wario World, though I don't think it'll be as good as WL3 (hopefully coming to DSi).

I got this as part of the TRU B2G1 free deal and I just beat the linear story.
All I can say is wow. This really surpassed all expectations, even the lofty ones I had after reading this review.

I was actually pretty wowed by the bosses. They were all pretty inventive and fun to beat.

Hey Neal, just realize that you've only scratched the surface of the game.  The secret levels (there are at least a dozen) are all fantastic.  They're larger, tougher, and more ingenious than the normal levels, and they have twice as many challenges.  They take the ideas that were just barely introduced in the normal stages and greatly expand on them.  For example, if you thought a lot more could be done with the rocket buckets in the last world, just wait until you find the secret level where you're in and out of rocket buckets the whole time.  There's also an amazing level where the Merfle is right at the beginning and you have ten minutes to race through a crazy maze of tunnels and blocks to get back to the entrance.  One of the challenges is to beat it without using any accelerator machines!

Whoa. This game rules.
I'm excited to unlock some secret levels. Right now I just have two. I still have a majority of the missions to complete in the main levels, too.
This isn't really a short game. It's got a lot more depth than I suspected.

The challenges can sometimes be fun to try for, but don't get too obsessed with them.  They are extremely difficult to complete on most levels, and the reward (unlock a song in the sound test) is sometimes not worth it.

The secret levels become much easier to find after you beat the game.  You can see which levels have a secret map, and once you're in that level, you'll see sparkling on the ground at the location of the map.  You still have to pay attention and explore carefully, but you'll no longer have to rely on luck or smash the ground every ten seconds hoping to find a map.

kraken613October 19, 2008

I really need to pick this game up. Maybe I will tomorrow I want something to play before Fallout 3 and since LittleBigPlanet got delayed......

D_AverageOctober 21, 2008

At first I wasn't too interested in this game but I may give it a "fair shake" after reading your review.  Thus far, the Wii games I played that you've reviewed have given me similar impressions.  If nothing else, I'll at least rent it.  Cassamassina also gave it a high score, and like myself, he tends to be very critical.

I heartily endorse this review and/or product.

Only one caveat: Wario does subtly fart as part of his idling animation. Well, to be more accurate, he chuckles, and then you hear him fart. I guess he's amused that he's about to stink it up.

The old Wario Land games didn't have Wario farting up a storm--that's a Wario Ware-ism, and Good Feel wisely avoided fart cloud mechanics in this game.

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Wario Land: The Shake Dimension Box Art

Genre Action
Developer GOOD-FEE,
Ltd."
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Wario Land: Shake It!
Release Sep 22, 2008
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Wario Land Shake
Release Jul 24, 2008
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Wario Land: The Shake Dimension
Release Sep 26, 2008
PublisherNintendo
Rating7+
aus: Wario Land: The Shake Dimension
Release Sep 25, 2008
PublisherNintendo
RatingParental Guidance

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