Inside Pulse 12

Review: WarioWare Touched! (DS)

Game: WarioWare Touched!
System: Nintendo DS
Genre: Action/Minigames
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 2/15/05

The original WarioWare Inc.: Mega Microgame$ on the Game Boy Advance literally came out of left field and became a cult sensation. The game would throw over 200 “microgames” at you, consisting of incredibly simple tasks that had to be completed in, at most, five seconds. You shifted from game to game, the action got harder and faster, and the experience became as chaotic as humanly possible. And we loved it.

So us fans of Wario’s new genre were ecstatic when we found out that there were going to be not only ONE, but TWO new versions of the game! The first we heard of, WarioWare Twisted!, was the sequel to the original GBA game. The second, WarioWare Touched!, was to premier on Nintendo’s brand new DS system. As soon as I heard that I’d soon be partaking of super-fast gameplay on a touch screen, I preordered my DS. This was the system seller for me, and I’m sure many other people as well.

So the launch comes and goes, and WarioWare Touched! turns out to be slated for February. I’m a bit disappointed, but still looking forward to the game. It WAS what I mainly bought the system for, after all. So after three months of waiting (and not purchasing another DS game since December), I finally have the game in my hands. Was it worth the wait? Is it worth my purchase of the system? Read on NOW!


STORY

WarioWare Inc. has become incredibly successful since the debut of their first game, and Wario can’t be any happier. Well, maybe not, as he’s still stealing stuff. Recently, he stole two portable gaming devices and hightailed it to the streets. Along the way, he trips and drops the portables down the sewer. An old man comes out of the sewer and asks Wario if he lost either (a) the stuff he stole, or (b) the shiny new dual-screen system in his other hand. You know, kinda like that story of the gold coin / silver coin or whatever. Wario misses the point completely, attacks the old man, and takes everything. Afterwards he plays around with the new dual-screen system, and figures out he can make a ton of money by releasing a game for it. He cons his friends AGAIN, and this is where we pick up.

Essentially, the story is simply “Wario and friends making games for money ‘Part 2′”, and is simply there to hold the myriad of microgames together. Nothing really new here.

Story: 5/10


GRAPHICS

The first thing you’ll notice is that the majority of the game looks much like its GBA predecessor. The visuals are largely in two dimensions, and contain a dazzling array of graphical styles. Some games look incredibly simple, such as crude drawings on a plain black background. Some take pictures or motion-captured images and animate them humorously. Some are fully animated, containing a myriad of colors. Some are sprites ripped directly from NES game. And there are a select few that actually use 3D graphics in the presentation. The microgames themselves alternate between using one and two screens. When using only one screen, the top screen will simply contain the WarioWare logo.

Now, it’s true that many of these games do not fully take advantage of the DS hardware. However, the truth is that it doesn’t NEED to. The visuals themselves are incredibly crisp and clear. They are bright, and vibrant with color. And with the many variations of graphical styles, WW Touched is in a league of its own. (And for the record, when the game DOES use 3D in its games, its the best 3D I’ve seen the DS produce.

Graphics: 8/10


SOUND

Like the graphics, the music and sound in WarioWare Touched! contain a specific style all their own. There are a large amount of music spread between the games, and there seems to be a lot more of it this time around. Not too many tunes are reused, like in the first game. The best tunes come from each character’s theme.

Speaking of character themes, both of the new characters introduced in this game (Ashley and Mike) have their own themes, complete with vocals. Also, the vocals have been translated into English for the US version. Ashley’s theme plays during her stage, and it is one of the better tracks in the game. The lyrics are quite humorous, if you pay attention to them. Mike’s theme, on the other hand, is a bit irritating. (What can I say? He’s a karaoke robot. BA-ZING!) Luckily, it only plays during his introduction.

Once again, each character contains a decent selection of voice samples. Many were taken from the first game, but there are a few new ones for each character as well. Hearing Wario belt out “YOU SUCK!” when I messed up had me in stitches the first time I heard it.

Sound: 7/10


CONTROLS/GAMEPLAY

As promised way back at E3, WarioWare Touched! uses the touch screen and stylus to control the microgames, as well as the microphone in a few cases. In fact, outside of the Start button, the face buttons on the unit aren’t used at ALL. This game is Nintendo’s first real test of what the DS can really do.

When you first plug in the cartridge, you’ll be able to choose between a left-handed and right-handed control scheme (which is a nice touch). Next, you’re taken directly to Wario’s first set of games. The interesting thing is when you first begin a stage, you’ll have the opportunity to play a “sample” microgame. This isn’t part of the main set, but it will give you a clue as to what gameplay mechanic is needed to complete that particular set of games. Wario’s, for example, consists of tapping on the touch screen. Completing X amount of games (and clearing the “boss” game) completes the stage, and will take you to the menu screen after the epilogue.

The menu is a bit different this time around as well. Each character’s stage is represented by a chibi version of that character. (To play Wario’s stages, you need to tap on a mini-Wario, etc.) The more stages you clear, the more characters will show up on the menu itself. They’ll also move around the screen by themselves and interact with stuff. And after a while, things can get cluttered. Luckily there’s an “Arrange” icon you can tap at the bottom of the screen, and everyone will return to their original positions afterwards.

Last time, the microgames were divided by a particular theme (Weird, Realistic, Sci-Fi, Waro’s Really Great, etc). This time around, the games are divided by gameplay mechanics. In Mona’s stage, you’ll have to use quick strokes with the stylus to pass (slicing watermelons, shooting arrows). In Jimmy’s, you’ll need to rub the screen (erase a chalkboard, spin plates). For Kat & Anna, you’ll have to draw lines and “scribble” items (trace shapes, connect wires to a battery). Dr. Crygor makes you spin things in circles (unlock a safe, turn a radio dial. New addition Ashley will have you dragging and dropping items (filling a coin purse, dividing objects into categories). New addition Mike makes principle use out of the DS microphone (make a pinwheel spin, keep a paper airplane aloft). Good ol’ 9-Volt seems to be the only character that has a true “theme” to his games, and that’s quick versions of old Nintendo classics (keep the Metroids off of Samus, collect coins out of coin blocks). Wario once again appears with a new set of games in the last stage (in what capacity, however, I won’t spoil), and they involve a combination of all the gameplay styles.

Unfortunately, if you were a fan of Orbulon and Dribble/Spitz, I’m sad to say they don’t have their own microgame collections. They aren’t COMPLETELY forgotten, as they do make cameos in the new character stages. But worry not, as WarioWare Twisted! will bring them back again.

Again, the microgame formula remains in tact. Players will only have a few seconds to complete whatever task the game presents them before moving on to the next level. Interesting to not is that not all of the games require five seconds. There are quite a bit of games that give you double time to complete, and they are mixed in with the five-second games (rather than separated, ala the first game). And after you play a microgame once, it is unlocked in your “album”, allowing you to play it whenever you want.

Completing character stages not only unlocks more stages to play through, but also a bunch of “toys”. When a new toy appears, you can make it appear on the menu screen by tapping a pink spaceship. Most of these toys are simple 2-second diversions meant more to be time wasters than anything else. You interact with them by using the touch screen and microphone (and on a rare occasion, the face buttons as well). You’ll be able to play with a yo-yo, a harmonica, your own pet chameleon, a parrot that apparently repeats what you say, a piano, and other interesting items. (The “Virtual Grandmother” is one of my favorites.) The enjoyment of these items really doesn’t last too long, however. You’ll be done with them after a few seconds of experimenting. After you’re done, you can move your new toys to the “Toy Room” for display purposes and show friends.

For the most part, the gameplay is just as awesome and surreal as the previous game. Yet, there are some things I can find wrong with it. For one thing, the “Boss Games” aren’t that good. For example, Wario’s first boss game simply has you tapping flies through a glass window. Jimmy’s has you filling a bucket with rainbow dust. Mona’s is simply bowling with odd pin placement. There are a couple that shine, such as Ashley’s boss stage and Kat & Anna’s, but they mostly seem average and boring. Especially the last Boss game you’ll encounter. MAN, that was a let down.

Another thing is that the maximum amount of speed a game can go has significantly diminished. In the first game, the speed capped about 75 levels. For this game, the speed caps at around 30 or so. Maybe this is because of the new touch-screen interface, and perhaps it can’t be operated at much higher speeds. But if you manage to get in a good rhythm in a certain microgame, it certainly seems easy enough to get incredibly high scores without even trying.

Finally, I have a gripe about Mike’s games. They are the ones that use the microphone, and those games are the only ones that have a “Sssshhhh!” stage that appears. When it does appear, you’re not supposed to blow into the microphone or else you’ll be penalized. Now this is a nice way to keep players on their toes who think they can blow their way to victory…if the stage appeared randomly. Instead, a “Sssshhhh!” level appears every six levels. EVERY SIX. What’s the point of watching out if you know exactly what’s coming? Now the player knows he/she needs to blow every five stages, and then wait about 12 seconds before resuming! It was a nice idea, but not implemented very well.

Gameplay: 7/10


REPLAYABILITY

Let’s not mince words here: the game is short. Very short. There are 186 microgames total, and each character has at least 21. (A far cry from the 25 a piece from the first game). You could unlock all the character stages and microgames in one dedicated afternoon of playing. Yes, it’s that short.

BUT, just because the game is short does not mean that there isn’t much to do once you finish! Once you get all the microgames, you can try each of the character stages again in order to obtain a record of 30 points or more. This unlocks new odds and ends for your toy box, as well as brand new full-version minigames. And the minigames have their OWN records to beat, so you can unlock even MORE items for your toy box.

Speaking of records, you also have the option of going through each of the 186 individual microgames and obtaining their high scores as well. And its here that you’ll be spending a LOT of time after the unlocking is complete. Whereas obtaining everything will take you a day or two at most, getting all the high scores can extend the life of this game for weeks. And if you want to beat your best? Well, that’s even MORE playtime sucked out of your life.

Be prepared to spend quite a while mastering this one.

Replay Value: 8/10


BALANCE

Like usual, the premises of the microgames are very simple and easy to learn. There are three difficulty levels per game, and they get even harder once the speed picks up. The learning curve may be small, but mastering the game takes a while, especially with the new gameplay mechanics.

Unfortunately, I don’t like the way the games are divided this time around. Since they are divided by gameplay mechanics rather than theme, it gives the impression that you are doing largely the same tasks. In a stage where all the games revolve around “rubbing” the screen, there’s a chance you could get bored with it rather quickly. Granted that in the first game, there are many instances where you had to mash the A button, or spin circles with the D-Pad, etc. But they were scattered across the stages, making it less apparent. It’s all in the presentation, and Nintendo chose to present it in a manner that works against the flow.

Balance: 7/10


ORIGINALITY

Despite working with a preexisting gameplay formula, the amount of new microgame ideas staggering. While its true that you’ll occasionally see touch-screen remakes of old microgames, you’ll also see quite a lot of new concepts that fit perfectly into the WarioWare formula. I swear, once out of every five new microgames I’ve played, either one of two things occurred: (1) I burst out laughing at the absurdity of the game, or (2) I thought to myself “Why didn’t I think of that?” In fact, there’s one game that I can’t play without falling to pieces laughing. (It’s in Mike’s section. You’ll know what it is when you find it.) WarioWare Touched! simply OOZES creativity.

Want examples? Okay, during a typical WarioWare game, you’ll be unraveling toilet paper, popping bubble wrap, connecting two people via the red string of fate, lighting fuses, sweet talking loved ones, shopping for clothes, solving addition/subtraction problems, chiseling statues, petting dogs, waving goodbye to people, operating a handcart, training for boxing matches, knocking over dominos, stripping Wario naked, saving the planet, and putting out fires by peeing on them. And any game that comes out in the US that has you PEEING OUT FIRES deserves to be played at least once.

Originality: 9/10


ADDICTIVENESS

The same qualities that made the original WarioWare so addictive a still present in WarioWare Touched!, and once again, it sucked me in for the entire day. I literally had to FORCE myself to put down the DS, stuff it in a drawer, and refrain from looking at it when I wrote my “first impressions” segment on the day of the release. And if I’m not careful about it, I will fail my college courses this year over this game. It’s THAT ADDICTIVE!!!!!

Perhaps this is why so many are complaining the game is short. On the one hand, quite a few managed to procure 95% of the game in a single day. On the other hand, they fail to mention that they started playing at 11:00 AM, and only took a break at 10:00 PM that evening. Really, if you actually pace yourself, you can make this game last a lot longer. But still…good luck on actually making that happen. Seriously. Its too fun to put down.

Addictiveness: 10/10


APPEAL FACTOR

A lot of people bought a DS early because they KNEW there were going to be some amazing games for it. Metroid Prime, Mario Kart, and WarioWare were only a sample of those games that topped each gamer’s list, and they made sure that they got the hardware in preparation for these games. Is it a sure-fire purchase to them? Of course! Hell, they probably have it and are ignoring this review right now!

Still, there are those that chose to hold out a bit longer and see if the games would actually arrive in more than just trickles. And while the games are still trickling today, they KNOW that this is a game that could make the system a hit. Would it appeal to those who haven’t bought a system yet? It might, yes. But really, it falls JUST SHORT of killer app status that makes everyone and their brother by the system just for the game.

Appeal Factor: 7/10


MISCELLANEOUS

After playing this for a few days, I took some time to reflect on my early assumptions on how this would be the ultimate DS app, and how I thought it was worth preordering the entire system for. I did so by asking myself a few questions:

Is this a good game? Yes. I had a lot of fun with it.

Is it the best game on the system right now? Most likely. The only competition it has at the moment is Feel The Magic: XY/XX.

Is it the one thing that will make everyone by a Nintendo DS? No. That killer app hasn’t hit the market just yet.

Will this type of game sway the PSP fan? Hard to tell. Depends what his/her tastes are.

Was the game a satisfying experience? Absolutely. Despite its flaws, it was worth every penny.

So even though I was wrong about this being the “ultimate” DS game, it is quite a good sequel, and deserving of plenty of praise in its own right.

Miscellaneous: 6/10


THE SCORES

Story: 5/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Replay Value: 8/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 9/10
Addictiveness: 10/10
Appeal Factor: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 6/10

Overall Score: 74/100
FINAL SCORE: 7.5 (VERY GOOD!)