Name: Wario Land: Shake It!
Platform: Nintendo Wii
It’s been a while since Wario starred in an actual console platformer all by himself. Sure, there’ve been several mini-game-laden WarioWare titles, but Wario has yet to receive the solo title treatment his goody-goody counterpart, Mario, has. Despite the lack of quality third-party titles, the Wii has had a fair share of solid first-party games that many fans and critics have enjoyed. With a cleverly designed YouTube ad campaign, and with a flatulent miscreant as the lead character, was there any way Wario Land: Shake It! could fail?
There are a number of things Wario Land: Shake It! does right. The game looks really good. Instead of putting the game in 3-D, or using cell-shaded graphics, Wario Land opts for a strictly 2-D, hand-drawn animation style. From the moment the opening cut scene starts, to the moment you actually start playing the game, you’ll be treated to an animation style that makes the game pop off the screen. While the cartoonish graphics may be a turn-off to some, I found the look to be a refreshing change of pace. Developers, Good Feel, didn’t try to ape some other game, nor did they try to get too fancy. Levels are designed with the same feel, making the whole game look like a really nice DS game blown up for the big screen. That’s not a bad thing. There are some really great looking games on the system, but we all know the Wii isn’t about the graphical capabilities, but more about the gameplay.
Wario has always been the greediest of the Nintendo characters, and while collecting coins has been a part of various Mario/Luigi platformers of the past, collecting as many as possible hasn’t been one of the goals of the game. In fact, you’ll need to collect as many coins as you can throughout each level in order to progress to the next stage. In order to open one of the five worlds, Wario will need to purchase maps of that world. The maps increase in price drastically each time you need to move on, so grabbing all the coins you can becomes the primary objective when exploring a level. While this instantly adds replayability to every level, it’s also a little annoying that I can’t progress in the game until I find “X” amount of coins to purchase the rights to play the next world.
Wario has a few new moves this time around as well. In addition to stomping on the heads of enemies, Wario can chest bump them into oblivion, or grab them when stunned for use as a projectile. For whatever reason, it’s difficult to take damage as Wario in this game. Aside from landing on spikes, or getting hit by a boss, you’ll hardly ever find yourself in need of starting a level over for dying. Pipes this time around do more than just transport you to another point on the level; they can also act as speed boosts for Wario. When utilizing one of those pipes, Wario can burst through virtually anything in his way. Strangely missing this time around is Wario’s trademark flatulence. Nary a fart or burp was to be found my entire playthrough. Whether this was a conscious decision to not alienate the elderly who frown upon fart noises and belching, or just left out because it didn’t add anything to the game is unknown. What I do know is Wario is characterized by his unique behavior. Taking those elements out of a game where he is the star is a bit perplexing. Maybe they’re trying to improve his image. Wouldn’t that just make him Mario then?
I’m sure you can figure from the title that there are indeed some Wii-mote controls in this game. Thankfully, they’re not tacked on at all, and are kept to a minimum. Scattered throughout each level are sacks of coins. In order to get the coins out, you have to shake the Wii controller while holding onto the bag. Wario has a ground pound, which is also activated by using the motion-based controls. Certain areas of a level may also require you to use the controller to drive a rail-based cart, or aim a cannon. The entire premise of the game focuses on Wario having to free little creatures, which will supposedly lead him to a great treasure upon freeing them all. Of course, to release them, you must grab the cage they’re being held in and shake the controller. The motion controls aren’t excessive, and actually add a bit of depth to a rather ordinary game.
Sadly, after playing this year’s other solid platformers (Braid, Lost Winds, De Blob), Wario Land Shake It! just doesn’t grab me by the shirt collar and demand I play it. Despite the few things it does well enough, there’s nothing exceptional about this title. Sure, there’s some replayability to it, and it’s easy to get into, but there are still better titles available that you need to own over this one. Am I glad I played it? I guess. Will I miss playing it? Not really.