Wario has a very unique place in Nintendo's stable of franchises. While he may be best known as the occasional foil to Mario's treasure collecting, recent years have brought him his own beloved franchise of games, "WarioWare," that puts a different spotlight on our favorite garlic-munching baddy. Almost every platform that Nintendo has released since the GameCube has seen a "WarioWare" game, most of which usually rely on twitch gameplay and microgames to engage the players in new and unique ways that take advantage of their respective hardware's unique features. "Smooth Moves" showed off what the Wii controller could do, while "Snapped!" showcased the DSi's camera, and "Touched!" emphasized the DS' touch pad. Now, seven months into its life, the Wii U is getting its own Wario game, "Game & Wario," a release that is more of a spiritual successor to the more traditional "WarioWare" games in terms of gameplay, but a true sequel in its ability to put the GamePad through its paces.
"Game & Wario" is a collection of sixteen mini-games, twelve of which are single-player, and four that are multiplayer. The loose storyline behind the game involves Wario taking notice of a new gaming console launch when decides that he can cash in by making his own game for the system. All of Wario's friends return to host their own individual game, bringing together fan favorites like Ashley and 9-Volt once again to help wrap with some established personalities. While this may be a far cry from the hundreds of microgames that were included in past "WarioWare" games, the ones included in "Game & Wario" are more in-depth and developed. For example, the "Taxi" game that is hosted by Dribble & Spitz involves taking on passengers while battling aliens with bazookas.
While the structure of the overall game has drastically changed, a lot of the more endearing parts of a Wario(ware) game are all still here. The oddball humor and (occasionally) immature jokes are on par with the series, and Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have once again captured the essence of Wario, in all its garlic-scented wonder.
In addition to the humor, the game continues the series' signature feature by making use of the console's new technology. Each of the games included, both single and multiplayer, all highlight new and innovative ways to use the Wii U's GamePad. From "Arrow"'s use of the GamePad screen as a bow to fire arrows at oncoming robots, to Jimmy T's Ski where the GamePad serves as your directional input as you make your way down the hill. The most meta example is 9-Volts game where players must use the GamePad to play classic "WarioWare" microgames while using the TV to watch for your mom as she tries to make you go to bed. It's a weird twist, but doesn't feel at all out of place for a Wario game. From beginning to end, "Game & Wario" offers variety, and innovation in every minigame.
With all that variety and innovation Wii U owners are going to want to get as much out of "Game & Wario" as possible, and that's where things start to fall apart a bit. While each game does shine on its own, when you bring them together, into one complete package, it feels like it's a bit lacking. While you can keep replaying the twelve single-player games for high scores and to collect coins that can be turned in for virtual rewards, there just isn't a ton of gameplay there. You can experience and unlock each of the games in about an hour, which, on the one hand is great that you have access to everything so quickly, but on the other, it's easy to burn through the game.
At the same time, the four multiplayer games are actually pretty good … well three of them are pretty good; one of them ("Disco" - the only GamePad-only game) falls a bit flat. But, again, there are only four of them. Each offers its own level of replay value, and, depending on your friends, there is likely to be some gameplay preferences ("Sketch" for the artsy crowd, and "Islands" for the competitive). It's just a shame that you're going to run out of things to do so quickly.
At its core, "Game & Wario" is still a Wario game, and that's a good thing, so good in fact that it leaves you wanting more... so much more. There are clearly the beginnings of something really great in this release, but it feels like it's just a taste, leaving already game-starved Wii U owners hungry for more. If you're able to divorce yourself from the idea that this is a "WarioWare" game, and accept that there are only really sixteen games included, "Game & Wario" is fun, creative, and (possibly most importantly) a new Wii U game.
At the very least, Nintendo should get some bonus points for the nods to its Game & Watch roots. Well played.
'Game and Wario' -- Score: 3 out of 5