Are there insane people working at Nintendo HQ? Game & Wario suggests there are. Behold, one of the weirdest pieces of software ever made by the House of Mario, a game that is not a WarioWare game, is not a great game, but is a comedic must-play triumph.
If you were a person to have the good taste to purchase a WarioWare game in the past—preferably the original or its sequel Twisted—then you may believe that modern Wario games are supposed to be micro-game collections.
They're not supposed to be "mini-game collections." The different prefix is meaningful... micro-games. They're not supposed to be tedious collections of games that couldn't sell on their own.
They're meant to be glorious fusillades of three-second games, each tossed at the player with no time to think and only time to get to the next karate-chopping, nose-picking, windshield-wiping one.
Game & Wario, new to the Wii U and sold at launch at the warning price of $40, is not a WarioWare game, though it does have a game about a kid who is playing WarioWare. Of course it does. It's called "Gamer." You have to play his game for him while also keeping him from getting caught by his mom.
Watch this bit of brilliance:
Did you see that? Did you get that? Is that not the greatest thing?
The premise of Game & Wario is that Wario, Nintendo's own money-grubbing game-making mascot, has heard about a hot new two-screen gaming system (the Wii U, basically) and has decided to cash in on it. Yeah, see...
Sadly, much of what Wario "makes" isn't that good. For example, this side-scroller here, which Game & Wario players get three exciting levels of, is the pits:
Some of the 12 mini-games (yes, "games that couldn't sell on their own") are novel. They do show what new things you can get when you have a screen in your controller and one on your TV. There's a paparazzi game, for example, that lets you use the Wii U GamePad like a camera while taking pictures of characters on the TV:
And there's this pretty good mini-game about driving a space taxi:
These, however, are not the reasons you should care about Game & Wario. These are not the reasons I've broken form for a Kotaku review and even mentioned the price.
No, the reason to care about this one is because it's a comedy.
Game & Wario is a comedy in the way only a video game—an interactive piece of software, more precisely—can be. That's not something you usually get a chance to pay $40 for and run on a game console. That's not something you might have even considered. But that's what this is.
This isn't really a mini-game collection. It's a mini-game comedy, with 12 solo games, a quartet of forgettable multiplayer games and dozens and dozens of unlockable...well...pieces of interactive comedy, I guess. You play solo the games, you earn coins and you unlock stuff like this:
That's art, right?
This one's even more nuts and only possible in this form:
Think about this. What you're about to see is an unlockable, barely-interactive fever dream synopsis of Super Mario Bros., presented as a phone call and a child's drawing. Someone at Nintendo actually made this!
That one, above, is actually the least weird of the strange "phone calls" I've unlocked in Game & Wario. It's also positively pedestrian compared this thing, which is innocuously titled "Beans":
For all the occasional worry that Nintendo has gone stiff and lost its creative touch, here we have a game in Game & Wario that is nuts and bursting with creativity. In that sense, it's consistent with the WarioWare games before it. It brings back the series' cast, expands it and uses them to stage all sorts of unexpected interactive spectacles.
Check out "Bird", the game that's unlockable in most WarioWare game and is back on Wii U here with something I don't think I've ever seen before. You're going to see the same game, played on two screens, but using different art styles on each screen:
There are things in Game & Wario that are conventional, like this one of the 12 mini-games:
There are things in Game & Wario that refashion old Wii U tech demos for something experimental, though with limited appeal:
There are, ultimately, no great mini-games in Game & Wario and nothing with the depth of the best of Wii U launch game Nintendo Land. There are some nice demonstrations of what two-screen gaming can do. In that sense, Game & Wario is a mildly convincing reinforcement of the Wii U's core two-screen concept being a good idea. It's just that none of that matters much compared to the success of Game & Wario as a stunning library of interactive weirdness. Previous WarioWare games have also included lots of bizarre interactive toys. They too have included what are more or less humorous, non-goal-oriented art pieces. Their successor on Wii U follows the tradition untraditionally and indulges its player with a generous helping of the weird and funny.
If you want to play a great game on Wii U, pass.
If you want to laugh a lot and marvel at the daring creativity and strange sensibilities of some of Nintendo's own developers, get it.
I was expecting to loathe this game for what it isn't. Instead, I'm smitten by what it is.