Have a rotten game!
If there were ever a Game Boy mascot, it would be Wario. Boasting at least one major title on EVERY Game Boy system ever made, Wario certainly has made a cozy home for himself in gamers’ hands. But the grass is always greener, and Wario live$ for green, so after ten years, Wario finally has his own console game. But with a new market, comes a new developer, and Treasure’s Wario World fails to meet the high standards Game Boy owners have come to expect from the king of greed.
Wario World is a game anyone can instantly play. The majority of the game is simply smacking hordes of monsters into oblivion as Wario wades his way through each level. Wario clobbers his foes with his signature butt-stomp, shoulder charge, and throwing techniques, along with two new, more powerful attacks. The concept is unsophisticated, but genuinely fun -- at least for short intervals of time. Treasure understood this limitation and therefore attempted to break up the smacking with puzzles and platforming, two integral parts of previous Wario games. Some puzzle and platforming elements are built into the main level, such as the climbable yellow balls and door switches, but most of the non-violent gameplay exists in the stages’ many underground sub-levels, which hold treasures vital to success. Many sub-levels take place in small, generic rooms with some sort of obstacle or puzzle Wario must overcome. Others seem like rejects from Super Mario Sunshine warp-zone levels, usually involving well-placed jumps. Unfortunately, these sub-levels rarely serve their purpose. Whereas the Wario Land series uses Wario’s crazy transformations and enemies as a base for its brainteasers, Wario World relies on boring, generic switch puzzles and easy or tedious platforming. Also scattered in the main levels are buttons that activate swag-filled chests on color-coded pedestals. This is a nod to the exploration found in Wario’s other games, but as with the puzzles and platforming, it just isn’t the real deal.
When I first played Luigi’s Mansion and saw all the loot I asked to myself, “Where’s Wario?” (It’s probably on the E3 2001 VHS!) It seems Nintendo concurred and gave the engine to Treasure for Wario World, as the two cameras share an uncanny resemblance to one another. The almost 2.5-D setup works well with Wario World’s mostly-linear stages and complements its fast-paced brawling wonderfully. The main stages’ camera style only becomes a problem when precise depth perception is required, which is thankfully limited to a handful of enemy battles. The sub-stages make use of an easy and effective camera system, somewhere between Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, with a large number of predefined angles to choose from with the C-stick.
Wario World’s camera system may work well, but almost everything else about the game’s presentation is disappointing. Although the character models and environments are modeled decently, Wario’s console debut suffers from one of Nintendo’s worst GameCube texture jobs to date, barring ports. Treasure’s levels are filled with N64-quality textures, while most characters -- including Wario -- have nothing more than flat colors. Wario World’s music is similarly last generation, with twangy MIDI instruments one would have thought Nintendo removed from its library years ago. The horrible samples are a shame, as the songs themselves actually aren’t bad. Thankfully Wario’s unique attitude isn’t completely left out of Wario World. Enemies and character animations are zany, and Charles Martinet, as usual, is great.
One of Wario World’s biggest problems is its unbalanced difficulty. In addition to the mostly easy sub-levels, the development team made two poor design choices. If Wario gets knocked out, he can continue right where he left off for a marginal fee. This works for arcade games designed to eat quarters, but Wario World (despite its gameplay) is not an arcade game. Players will almost always have enough money for several continues, reducing the challenge of defeating bosses significantly. The other feature stinting the game’s challenge is the annoying caged Spritelings Wario must rescue, who act like built-in guides, revealing virtually every strategy for the main levels’ puzzles and bosses. The game’s easiness is compounded by its brevity: the game contains eight levels and no bonuses for completion except shallow Wario Ware demos.
Wario World tries to be part of the Wario series but fails miserably. By separating the key elements of a Wario game -- action, puzzles, and exploration -- Treasure has removed the series’ essence. By holding the player’s hand and ignoring the meaning of “Game Over”, the team has stabbed its own level and boss designs in the back. By neglecting to set any additional goals upon the short game’s completion, Nintendo has provided no reason to own this title. Don’t buy Wario World for $50, $40 or even $30. I love Wario, but this game is barely worth a rental.