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Release date: Available now
Review by: Ed Humphries
I grew up among the greatest generation of video gamers. In the era of the Atari 2600, Intellivision and Colecovision, the Nintendo Entertainment System solidified gaming as a hobby, and later as a mainstream entertainment choice. The NES gave birth to Super Mario Brothers; the 2D adventure that arguably fathered today’s billion-dollar gaming industry. Now we live the good life, with Wi-Fi-enabled super consoles linking battalions of virtual soldiers and adventurers across the globe. But those who stayed on the meandering path through the decades sometimes cast a wandering eye back to the great games of earlier years. This nostalgia has encouraged game companies to toss us a bone every now and again, rip an artifact from the past and apply a glossy new coat of paint, leading to the latest release from Nintendo, Wario Land: Shake It.
Wario Land: Shake It is a loving tribute to the classic 2D platform adventures that Nintendo once fine-tuned and dropped on hungry gamers once a year. Nintendo used the original NES to perfect the art of electronic entertainment with finely crafted adventures that showcased the upper limits of their graphics potential. Nintendo designers might not have invented gaming, but through their nurturing of the Mario, Metroid and Zelda series, they certainly refined it. And while they’ve begun to conquer brave new worlds in a bid to bring more gamers into the fold through easy ‘pick-up-and-play’ game concepts and controls, the company remains mindful of its past. With the release of Wario Land: Shake It, they merge their two top paradigms, combining a focus on quality game design with new features for the casual gamer.
While gamers might look at Wario and spy the prettiest Mario game they’ve ever seen, the Wario Land series actually twists the conventions made famous by the plumber’s goody-two-shoes doppelganger. Where Mario is always seeking out his lost Princess, Wario is after nothing but “fortune and glory.” This has been Wario’s stock-in-trade through his previous console and Gameboy iterations and, despite shiny new surroundings in which he finds himself cast as a reluctant hero; he is ultimately looking to stuff his coffers with more loot. Sure, the game features a throwaway story line in which Wario is summoned to a fantasy land to liberate its enslaved inhabitants, but that’s really just a plot hook to set him loose chasing the money.
Wario Land employs traditional platform game design, with the now-customary over worlds and hubs sacrificed in favor of a simple map screen. As players work through the levels, their goal is to accumulate enough coins to buy additional maps that unlock subsequent levels. Cash can be found by successfully locating the three hidden treasures on each level, as well as by exploiting a number of opportunities for liberating the generous amount of loot available to be found. Treasure chests kick out plenty of coins, and Wario quickly learns that, in addition to defeating enemies, he can stun them, grab them and, with a rhythmic wave of the Wiimote, shake them down for their loose picket change, a humorous sequence that never ceases to entertain.
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