Giant Bomb Review

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Wario Land: Shake It! Review

3
  • Wii

This amusing trifle of a platformer benefits from its vivid presentation.

Exit, stage left!
If I were to fill out one of those awful MySpace personality quizzes that determine which Nintendo character you're most like, I like to think I'd be Wario. Despite his origins as a cheap Bizarro Mario meant to serve as a Bowser stand-in on the Game Boy, Wario has since been fleshed out as one of Nintendo's most distinct and interesting personalities. While his involvement in the ADD non-sequitur twitch-fest WarioWare games doesn't hurt, it's his moral ambiguity and pathological self-interest amongst a peer group of cutesy family-friendly goody-goodies that make him particularly compelling. Also, he's a crazy, ugly garlic-man with an old-timey prospector's cackling obsession with treasure who has been known to weaponize his farts. So, there's that.

Wario Land: Shake It!, his latest adventure on the Wii, builds on the basic formula of past Wario Land games. Since we haven't seen one of those since the launch of the Game Boy Advance back in 2001, it's OK if you've never heard of them, though suffice it to say that the Wario Land series has avoided comparisons to Mario's platforming adventures by focusing on gadgety puzzles and serpentine level designs. Shake It! adds some perfunctory motion controls to the mix, though its best feature is easily its all-new 2D graphics, which sport big, crisp characters and a level of detail that make you wish more games would invest their technical and artistic prowess into sprite-based presentation.

Shake It! operates under a suitably ridiculous and largely superfluous yarn about a parallel “shake dimension,” a realm whose queen has been imprisoned by the aptly named Shake King. Given the heads-up on the whole situation, as well as a magical globe and telescope, by Captain Maple Syrup, Wario plunges into the shake dimension, less at the desperate pleas of the queen, more for the Shake King's bottomless coin bag.

Cutscenes like this give the sense that you're watching some unreleased Wario cartoon.
The world is divided up into five maps, each of which contain a half-dozen or so individual stages. The stages generally conform to a basic formula that sees Wario working his way through pitfalls and enemy patrols to rescue a little glowing pixie. Prisoner in tow, Wario then has to back to the start before a countdown timer hits zero. Wario definitely isn't as nimble as his blue-and-red counterpart, but he makes up for it in power and ingenuity. Wario can smash through rock walls and wooden crates with a running dash attack, perform a very sturdy butt-stomp, and toss enemies around like he was Yoshi. He also makes use of goofy unicycle contraptions, as well as a device known as the Max Fastosity Dasherator, which allows him to dash indefinitely, so long as he doesn't encounter any immovable objects. This gadget is particularly crucial in finding hidden areas and secret shortcuts during the backtracking parts. It's fundamentally a pretty clever platformer that takes its time ramping up the difficulty, while still requiring you to consider all of Wario's moves when confronted with an obstacle.

All that nonsense about the shake dimension at the start of the game plays into the action with a handful of waggle-based moves that Wario can perform. A quick shake of the Wii Remote performs a ground-pound move that will stun nearby enemies and triggers certain objects. If you grab a stunned enemy, you can shake the controller to either knock a life-replenishing bulb of garlic out of them, or rattle off any armor they're wearing. You'll find coin sacks throughout the game which you can shake to empty in a similar fashion. The most sophisticated bit of motion control in Shake It! involves tilting the Wii Remote to aim your shot when you've got a stunned enemy or other projectile in hand. It works well enough, though it's also sort of telling that, at this point in the Wii's lifespan, a game that uses the system's most gimmicky features sparingly is considered merciful.

In addition to the basic stage-to-stage progression, each stage is home to a few different pieces of hidden treasure to collect, as well as a number of performance-based side missions, which often require Wario to collect a certain amount of money, avoid falling in water or taking damage, or taking out a specific type of enemy. Most of these hidden treasures and side missions require previous knowledge of a stage, and many of them can only be done during the backtracking part. You'll find some side missions to be contradictory with one another, making it impossible to collect everything on a single run-through. The game is pretty clever, but not clever enough to mitigate the irritation of playing through a level a second time around, only to botch a side mission at the last moment.

Cash Rules Everything Around Wario.
This type of repetition is fostered elsewhere in Wario Land: Shake It!. While your access to stages within a map is determined by your completion of the previous stage, you have to throw down some cash before you can access the next map after playing through the previous one. Chances are, you'll reach a point before you hit the fifth and final map where you don't have enough scratch to buy the next map, requiring you to go back and grind out some more money on a previous stage. Each stage can be engaging enough the first few times through, but at a point it just gets tedious.

Even when the game starts to get a little old, it's a pleasure to look at. Wario in particular is a showcase of great 2D animation. It looks great when he shakes something so fast it turns into a blur, or the way he dives head-first into warp pipes, wiggling his hindquarters to make his way through. The bosses are often rich with detail as well. I also like the way Wario Land: Shake It! sounds. Wario's nasal cackle has long been one of my favorite of his character traits, and the game features an insane soundtrack that swings between blippy 8-bit tracks, guitar rock, and the kind of Japanese smooth-jazz that wouldn't be out of place in a mahjong game.

For as many times as I had to replay certain stages, Wario Land: Shake It! felt kind of brief, though there were aspects that managed to wear out their welcome before it was over. Still, a 2D game with this kind of detail is enough of an anomaly that it can be enjoyable for that alone, and despite some structural issues, it shakes up the usual platformer formula enough to be interesting.
24 Comments
Posted by Aska

Great review, looking forward to playing this!

Posted by Blair

Nice Wu-Tang reference Ryan, keep 'em coming.  Great review.

Posted by spiceninja

I'm a big fan of  the old GB and GBA Wario games but this game just looks "meh" to me. I've heard it's really short as well. I think I'll skip it, or wait until it drops to about $20 before I buy it.

Posted by 1800jake

I was just about to mention the Wu-tang ref too.
Still not sure if i should buy this or not...

Posted by Superchris129

yeah it's totally wario land, which is cool because i played the hell out of wario land 4 when the GBA launched.

Posted by Fr0Br0

C.R.E.A.W. Get the money. Dollah dollah bill y'all.

Posted by GoodAssLettuce

from from?

Posted by TeflonBilly

"Also, he's a crazy, ugly garlic-man with an old-timey prospector's cackling obsession with treasure who has been known to weaponize his farts"

Why isn't this description on the Wario page?

Posted by JonathanMoore

Wario Land looks like a lot of fun, short, but fun, although i haven't got the money to buy it, and probably wont until it goes down to like $20.

Posted by John

Was that pun at the very end intended Mr. Ryan?

Posted by DiGiTaL_SiN
Posted by mordecaix7

I wanted to get this game at first but from the reviews I've been reading, this doesn't seem like a "pay full-price for" game.

Posted by RobDaFunk

For AAA Wii Platforming action, the GiantBomb crew should check out "deBlob".......Definate Review needed, this is the Best thing I've played on the Wii since Mario Galaxy!!

Posted by ddensel

Thanks for the review Ryan!

Posted by ArclightBorealis

I played the game. Easy to go through it doing the bare minimum, but the secondary objectives can get pretty hard. A good choice for those who are completionists. It's what separates the men from the boys, much like choosing to collect either 60 or 120 stars in Mario Galaxy.

Very good review, Ryan.

Posted by Knives

This game always felt like it wasn't worth the $50.

Posted by Willy105

Go Wario! w00t!

Posted by Fawk

What a shock.  Yet another 3-star review from Giant Bomb on a Nintendo game.

Posted by Peewi
Posted by Razor

"

Fawk
on Oct. 18, 2008
What a shock.  Yet another 3-star review from Giant Bomb on a Nintendo game."
-Your account name tells me a lot about the kind of comments your going to post on this website.  Pretty soon you'll get into deeper waters when you post even more dumber remarks and find yourself banned.
Posted by vgmkyle

Fawk is right.

And how did I know before I even clicked the link Ryan reviewed this?

Does he just play Nintendo games to give them mediocre scores?

I'm sure he'd find "De Blob" a masterpiece though.

Posted by AndyD

This is one of my favourite Wii games without exaggeration. I urge anyone who enjoyed 2D platform games on the Super Nintendo as a child to get Wario Land. It takes me back to the days of playing Donkey Kong Country and Yoshi's Island.

Posted by LightGaia
@vgmkyle:
It's really just his opnion. I personally thought the game was missing something. Nintendo should focus more on Wario than Mario if you ask me.
Posted by MormonWarrior
@Alaska_Gamer said:
" I played the game. Easy to go through it doing the bare minimum, but the secondary objectives can get pretty hard. A good choice for those who are completionists. It's what separates the men from the boys, much like choosing to collect either 60 or 120 stars in Mario Galaxy.Very good review, Ryan. "
Good job ripping off IGN's video review!