small doses means less rage

I think it’s probably pretty rare that I’d be able to write a honest-to-goodness first impressions story on a game that I’ve beaten. Wario Ware, though, isn’t a game that you try to win, it’s a game that you use like a recreational drug. Winning is just there to serve as a goal to keep you playing long enough to get hooked.

It worked.

There’s some sort of plot to this game, but I haven’t been able to figure it out, exactly. Wario wants to make money by selling video games, so he gets his friends to write games for him. The games are tiny, but there are a kazillion (or, possibly, 218) of them. This would make sense if there wasn’t also some kind of mini-plot for each character. Personally, I don’t care. I don’t think anyone is looking for a plot, here. Who needs plot when you have sweet, sweet twitching microgames.

The microgame is the core element of Wario Ware, and it’s about as simple as it gets. A microgame uses the D-pad and A button (or possibly just one of them) and lasts for about two to five seconds. The main game lumps these together into themed levels. Beating a level means beating about twenty microgames and a boss game. If you fail to beat one of the microgames, you keep going, but you can only fail four times before your game is over.

The games are all over the map. Some of them are button mashers. Some of them are pure arcade. Most of them seem to be twitch games where the goal is either to run around and not die for five seconds or to hit the A button at just the right time. Normally, I would hate that kind of game. It would be obnoxious because it wouldn’t involve any kind of real skill beyond reflex. It would grow repetetive and frustrating. I would become full of rage and throw my GBA across the room.

Of course, that assumes I’d be playing it for more than three seconds at a time. When I was making my first run through the game, half the fun (or more) was figuring out how to play. There are, after all, no instructions. The game says, “Escape!” or “Attack!” or “Sniff!” and then you’re playing the game and you’ve got a few seconds to figure it out and win. Then, even if you fail, you can keep going and do something different. You might not see the previous game for quite a while.

Now that I’ve beaten the game, there are definitely some games that I like and some that I don’t. At worst, the games I don’t like make things a little less fun now and then. They never really annoy me. (Well, ok, there’s this one game involving turning cogs; that one bugs me.) When the games I like show up, it’s like a little treat.

There are also some larger games – games that would normally be called mini-games – that can be unlocked by playing through the game or performing well. Dr. Wario, for example, gives you a fully playable Dr. Mario (NES) clone. Awesome.

Of the games that I like, nearly everything is awesome, either for coolness or weirdness. Among the cool are: “Metroid” which is cool just because it involves Samus and Mother Brain; “Mario Clash” which is cool because it’s a reference to the awesome-but-forgotten Virtual Boy; a game in which you need to pull down Wario’s shirt to hide his gut; a game in which you try to pick your nose with two fingers at once. Uh… yeah, so this game is bizarre.

Even more bizarre and cooler: there are two-player mini-games. What’s so weird about that? It only uses one GBA for simultaneous play. Two players can hold the GBA between them, lengthwise, and use only L and R to play a game. It’s a gimmick, but it’s very well done. It’s fun. I played some with a co-worker and we got into it and were competitive about it.

Right now I’m working on unlocking the penultimate mini-game. It’s hard to do, because I’m too often distracted by the pure fun of just messing around. Wario Ware, so far, is the ultimate, “I just want to screw around” game on the GBA. Too many other games are burdened with plot, or require too much thought, or are too repetetive. Zelda, Advance Wars, and Tetris are great, but sometimes I just want to waste five minutes while the water boils. I can play Wario Ware for five minutes or for two hours.

Now what we need is Wario: The Four Swords.

Written on June 13, 2003
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