Nintendo’s WarioWare series has represented the company at its whimsical purest since the Game Boy Advance. Players play through hundreds of micro-games, each a few seconds long, in rapid-fire succession. With every minigame being a microcosm of pure and unfiltered creativity, WarioWare has always boasted vivacious energy and charm in spades.
Unfortunately, when a microgame is only a few seconds long, it inherently means that there’s also no depth behind it. Stacking dozens and dozens of those on top of one another doesn’t actually add depth, and as the WarioWare series has worn on, the mechanics it delivers the microgames with have become increasingly more gimmicky. Sadly, a new WarioWare game now is good for a laugh or two the first time around, and that’s it. Nothing in this series has been worth playing more than once for quite some time.
This new one, WarioWare: Move It! follows trend. The gimmick this time is that it tasks players with standing up, adopting a range of specific poses with Joy-con in hand, and then wriggling around. With over 200 microgames, each is broken down into one particular type of input or another, and this allows for a lot of different poses and actions. For example, the first three that you’ll use ask you to place your hands at your sides (Joy-Cons in hand) as though you’re doing a morning jog. Then you’ll be asked to raise your arms above your head, and then the third position involves you holding your hands in front of you, one on top of the other, like you’re holding a sword. Soon after you’ll be imitating a tug-o-war pose, or standing in a squat position, with the Joy-Con pushed into your side.
More and more moves get added with each set of levels, always involving you positioning your Joy-Cons in a specific way and then interacting with the microgame from that position. The microgames are all motion-based, and run the full range of movements, from tilting, swinging and striking, so you’ll need to make sure that you give yourself plenty of room, and use those wrist straps if you don’t want a hole in the TV or wall.
You need to move the Joy-Cons in accordance to the instructions for each microgame. Succeed, and you’ll move on to the next microgame without penalty. Fail, and you’ll lose a life. Run out of lives before you clear ten or so of the microgames and a “boss battle”, and you’ll fail the level. Undermining the arcade quality of this somewhat is that there’s a very simple mechanic in place to continue from the level that you failed at, and it simply involves you hitting a specific pose in time. Thanks to this, failure’s not anything more than a very mild inconvenience.
Annoyingly, there are no button or joystick alternatives to these motion commands. I’m a healthy guy who does competitive sports and isn’t disabled in anyway, so I am the potential audience for this game, but I do have a bad rotator cuff from a sporting injury, and lifting my arms above my head is incredibly uncomfortable as a consequence. I appreciate that as a motion game you need to be prepared for motion commands, and that’s fine, but my circumstances made a specific few microgames shockingly difficult at times, given the reasonably precise control that they require, and so I struggled, with no way to skip past the microgames that did cause me discomfort. WarioWare is not asking you to be particularly physically capable, but it does assume that you’re not carrying pain or injury, and while I’m not criticising the game for this (and it’s not a factor in the score below), I raise it because it’s important to be aware of it before you make the purchase.
What I am criticising Move It! for is its shocking lack of depth. The main mode is a “story mode” which bookends each set of ten or so microgames with a cut scene featuring Wario and the many pals he’s accumulated through this series. The cut scenes are somewhat amusing the first time you view them, and certainly colourful and animated to the standard that we all know and love from Nintendo, but they’re also all one-note gags, don’t build a cohesive narrative, and don’t add any actual value to the experience.
Meanwhile, each microgame is playable, once, and after that becomes painfully straightforward and pointless to play a second time. The whimsy in these microgames is great, and indeed the way that they take simple motion mechanics to stack different micro-experiences one on top of the other is massively creative. Many of the micro-games are laugh-out-loud funny, even if some others are a really lame effort at juvenile gross-out (yes, you get to plug a nose with your fingers! Snot! How funny!).
But they’re not interesting to play. Sadly, things don’t get much better in multiplayer mode, either. The best of the bunch is a board game of sorts, which two to four people can play, but it has less depth than Mario Party and its minigames (and Mario Party really is the basement standard for depth), and the flow is off, too, since everyone involved needs to adopt a specific pose and hold the controller in a particular way before each microgame can start. If someone’s having trouble with the calibration… well, it’s just a mood breaker, and there is plenty of Mario Party already on the console for people looking for that.
Nintendo’s had a bumper year, so I’ll forgive it for some filler (especially when there’s also the Super Mario RPG remake on the way yet). WarioWare: Move It! achieves what it sets out to by providing players with a bunch of microgames that use the Joy-Cons and motion control in an inventive and silly manner. You’ll enjoy the boundless creativity in coming up with so many microgame ideas. In addition, you’ll enjoy the colour and humour at first. And then, about an hour later, you’ll be done with it for good.