A Limited Genesis
Variety is the lifeblood of Nintendo's treasured WarioWare series. With hundreds of games lasting about five seconds a piece (or less), a vast array of different visuals, controls, sounds, and styles is a must to maintain interest. WarioWare DIY theoretically takes the series a step further by allowing users to create their very own 'microgames.' Sadly, this is one of those ideas that is better on paper than in practice. Thanks to a major oversight, much of what is fun and original about DIY becomes boring.
The game falters in one very crucial area: it only allows you to tap the screen. You can't touch and hold items with the stylus, slide it along the touch screen, or use the DS buttons and microphone. This leaves you with only a single way to allow players to interact with your games. This, as you may imagine, significantly hobbles the game's pillar of variety, on which it leans heavily. Without any real ways to surprise the player, playing DIY becomes pretty unremarkable after long.
The Nintendo-made microgames in DIY are pretty unremarkable as well, which is a shame regardless of whether or not the tools are here to make your own. There's a whole bunch of series regulars on-hand – Jimmy T, Dr. Crygor, 9-Volt, and more – but their unique styles of games seem homogenized somewhat by the one-track gameplay. The commands that are typically displayed before games – “Run!” “Jump!” “Hit!” – can feel a bit confusing this time around as well, leading to more frustrations and needless failures than there should be.
The DIY elements of the game are definitely the focus, and what you can do with it works well. The tutorial segments can drag on a bit with dialogue or over-explanations of relatively simple concepts, but they do a great job of teaching you how to make your own microgames. You can draw your own artwork and compose a short soundtrack using the stylus, or you can import assets from other games you have on the cartridge and use it in your own work. To make your game tick, you'll also need to set up all sorts of conditions for the player to win as well. This takes the form of bare bones programming. For example, one game tasks you with tapping butterflies to win. When the butterflies are tapped, their 'switch' turns on. And if you set the 'win conditions' to those switches being on, the player will win when they've tapped them.
Once you get the hang of using switches and simple command lines, it becomes quite fast to create your own microgames, with the art taking up far more time than the actual programming. The problem is that your creative juices will often be unceremoniously drained from your fingertips once you hit all the control limitations. Many of my game ideas initially stemmed from a desire to want to play with sliding the stylus across the screen to achieve different goals; setting a thermostat to the correct temperature, sliding around a goalie to block an incoming puck, and so on. But of course, that's not possible with the game's tap-only controls. Not being able to make the games I originally had in mind might not seem like a significant flaw, but the game's sole method of control effectively bottlenecks the types of games you're able to make. You can jump online and use Nintendo's (terrible, awful) friend code system to download home-brewed microgames like your own, but after just a few weeks of the game being available, I'm already seeing a huge number of repeat games and ideas.
WarioWare is one of Nintendo's best modern game series, and it's a real shame that the latest outing feels like such a missed opportunity. There's just not enough tools to match the creative scope of someone who would be interested in a 'DIY' product. Initially I spent hours with the game making tools, crafting top-down shooters, fireworks celebrations, and more. Once you realize how much the controls suffocate the design, however, this is a game that turns from an interesting oddity into one of this year's disappointments.