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Wario is Nintendo's anti-hero. He first appeared in the follow up to Super Mario Land 2 GB (the original 90's Gameboy), Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3.
A fresh way to play a platform game as there were no princesses to save, no world in peril, just the need of an overweight moustached man to earn enough money buy his own massive castle and make Mario jealous.
Wario Land: The Shake Dimension Wii (Wario Land: Shake It in the US) is the back-to-basics addition to the erstwhile series of platform games spanning fifteen years or so.
Platform games task you with getting from point A to point B. The world you journey through is usually based on different levels, and populated with enemies, switches and lifts to be negotiated. As you work through each level you pick up various collectables that accrue score, special abilities and access to hidden areas.
The Wario platform games take the fine tuned pretensions of the equivalent Mario games and give them a rash-brash injection of brawn and evil genius. Whereas Mario games are based on precise jumps and inviting explorable levels, Wario keeps things much simpler.
His added bulk means that he can knock enemies over by simply walking into them. In addition to this he has a variety of charge and stomp attacks that wouldn't be out of place in the brawler genre. This takes the platform game in a decidedly contact sport direction.
After the Wario World Gamecube departure from the two dimensional platforming formula, and the Wario: Master of Disguise DS innovative heavy approach, Wario Land: The Shake Dimension is a welcome return to simple side scrolling platforming mayhem. Classic Wario platforming is chosen in favour of overly innovative interactions (a lesson learnt perhaps from Wario: Master of Disguise DS perhaps). Just the Wii-mote controller is used, and in horizontal orientation recreating the retro gaming feel seen in Paper Mario Wii.
This is essentially the follow up to Wario Land 4 GBA (Gameboy Advance), and could easily have been released on that system. In fact the immediacy of play and brevity of levels makes the game feel like maybe it should have been a portable handheld, rather than home console, release.
Wario attracts players who are tired of being good citizens, saving the princess and doing away with evil. Along with this tongue-in-cheek about turn in family values the gameplay itself takes a more direct physical turn. Although predating Sonic the Hedgehog Megadrive, Wario's fast action bashing, sprinting and jumping certainly foreshadow Sega's attempts to respond to the unstoppable Mario franchise in the mid-90's.
If playing a Mario platform game is like a well choreographed movement through the ingenious level design, Wario is more like a bar room bawl. Add to this Shake Dimensions's intelligent (read: restrained) use of the Wii controls, that match its canny return to two dimensions and you have an experience that reminds players how good games used to be. The simple addition of shaking the Wii-mote to de-robe enemies of their money bags and coins is a video-gaming sight to behold.
Wario Land: The Shake Dimension's levels are much like the last outing on the GBA. Because of this each one lasts no longer than fifteen minutes or so, although later levels do extend the experience a little. This is not to detract from the game, but rather to wonder if it would have been better placed as a handheld version.
The simple controls and clear cartoon graphics make this a relatively easy play for young gamers. Provided they have mastered the left and right D-pad controls they should do fine here. There are some exuberant explosions and full-contact fights, but these are kept in the playful cartoon arena of the art style.
Intermediate gamers have plenty to get their teeth into here. From the Wii-mote tilt controlled throwing, to the shake attack the game exudes exuberance from every pore.
Expert gamers will appreciate the edging back towards the Mario platforming fun with larger more explorable levels that invite players to replay them for improved score and loot.
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