A game of such great insanity that it is not surprising it came out from where it did: a minor studio quickly put together by Wario and his peers
One can rightfully accuse Wario of being a man of many sins. He gets angry for petty reasons, hates losing to the point of resorting to cheating in order to avoid defeat, and needs little to no motivation to come up with schemes to trip his rivals. Most of all, though, he is greedy. Laziness, however, has never been part of his persona; his love for gold runs so deep that, in fact, it has sent him – more than once – crashing towards adventures packing high degrees of danger, including meetings with pirates, encounters with powerful curses, a battle against a murderous clown of nightmarish look, and more.
Perhaps tired of life-threatening undertakings, and alerted by a television commercial that announced the skyrocketing of the profits of the gaming market, Wario Ware Inc. shows the character tackling a new money-making scheme. Wario buys a computer and sets up his humble software-development studio in his own house, much like a Silicon Valley entrepreneur before fame and fortune struck. Always a giving soul, he invites his friends to create games under his company’s umbrella, and the first installment of the Wario Ware Inc. saga – a Game Boy Advance classic – is born.
Surprisingly, Wario and his outlandish gang are innovators rather than imitators. Certainly aware that mini-game collections are a generally easy way to make money, they look into the overly explored genre, but – unlike many gaming companies that dabble into that market – come up with a new concept: microgames. Where mini-games present activities that last a few minutes, microgames take brevity to an extreme: a one-word short instruction, usually in the form of a verb, pops up on the screen, and players have less than five seconds to figure out what to do in order to succeed. It is an insane idea that could not be found anywhere else before Wario Ware Inc. came to be, and it’s fun, hilarious, and engaging.
The originality of Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgames does not stop there. Actually, its greatest stroke of genius is how it puts players through a thrilling test of endurance, as the microgames are played in unstoppable succession. In total, there are eleven packages of microgames: one for each of the seven developers of the company; two coming from the boss himself; and another couple of sets that mix microgames from different packs. In all of them, the challenge is the same: gamers start with four lives and must play through a series of microgames that only ends when all lives are lost. If a certain amount of microgames is cleared, one or more new sets are unlocked.
The experience is best described as utter senseless lunacy, not only because of its frantic rhythm, but also due to how crazy the microgames are, as they could only have been produced by someone with a twisted sense of humor and minimal regard for public perception. Their production values are intentionally poor, and their nature is deliberately baffling. Players will catch toasts that are about to fly out of toasters, swat flies, pick a nose, eat a banana, march as a penguin, capture a fish as a pelican, avoid crashing into buildings while flying as a superhero, shoot down spaceships, assemble robots, navigate through an asteroid field, control little aliens that are trying to avoid being trapped inside a giant glass cup, find the right cat in a dark alley infested with the felines, park a car, count the number of frogs that jump across the screen, munch a hot-dog, shake an apple tree, raise a flag, help Link reach a cave, blast Mother Brain as Samus Aran, squash Goombas as Mario, and much more.
There are small twists to the experience that add an extra flavor of demented fun to the whole package and augment its challenge and thrill. Punctual boss mini-games, that appear every time a specific number of microgames is beaten, give players back one life if successfully cleared. Additionally, the bigger the sequence of microgames is, the tougher the microgames get (as each of them has at least three difficulty settings) and both the transition between them and the time to react and perform the required activity become shorter. Therefore, Wario Ware Inc. is a game that dares players to try to use all of their skills, cold blood, and reflexes to surpass their own longest sequences in each of the packages, keeping track of the top 3 highest scores for all of them.
As an extra layer of weird nonsense, of the positive kind, all sets of microgames are centered around a theme and underlined by a storyline, quickly told through charming cutscenes of pixel art. Mona, for example, whose games are grouped under the “Strange” theme, is running late for work at a gelato shop and the speed of her scooter has attracted the attention of an armada of police cars; every cleared microgame, then, shows Mona successfully hitting one vehicle with a banana peel in the best Mario Kart fashion. Similarly, Dr. Crygor, which focuses on activities based on reality, has a bathroom emergency of scatological nature caused by wrongly mixed potions; while Dribble and Spitz, who embrace sci-fi elements, are taxi drivers tasked with taking a passenger with a surprising secret to his destination.
The shining highlights of the bunch, however, are certainly Orbulon and 9-Volt. Among all of the 200 microgames that are invariably easy to control (players just need to use the A-button or the D-Pad), creative in the weirdest way, and fun, theirs are the best. Orbulon, an alien that has hit an asteroid and needs to be rescued, offers an array of brainteasers that, due to the fact they require some level of reasoning and logic, have a couple of seconds of extra duration when compared to an average microgame, and therefore provide a pleasant change of pace. 9-Volt, meanwhile, a young Nintendo fan, bases his efforts on both the company’s classic and obscure titles, bringing a nostalgic and highly recognizable breath of fresh air to the package.
Beating Wario Ware Inc. and watching the final credits roll should not take players more than a handful of hours: it is a short experience to be enjoyed in quick bursts, a nature that fits like a glove on the handheld format. The game’s value, however, is strong, for it is mostly related to how addictive its brutally original concept is and how it is impossible not to feel the urge to try and beat the best scores for each microgame package. In addition, Wario Ware Inc. has a considerable amount of extra features. There are unlockable single-player and multiplayer mini-games that have the same captivating and simple nature of the microgames, the latter of which are insanely played with two gamers holding the same system; special microgames challenges, such as a boss-only package and a set where only one life is available; and an option that lets players tackle any of the individual microgames to death.
Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgames is a game of such great insanity that it is not surprising it came out from where it did: a minor studio quickly put together by Wario and his peers. In the exploration of the gaming developers that had been lurking inside each one of them, though, they have come across a concept whose originality is hard to match, bringing a refreshing perspective to an industry that often lacks sense of humor and that tends to forget that its main products are not games themselves, but sheer fun and entertainment. Their packages of microgames, approaching varied themes, may have low production values, but what could have been an issue becomes a major asset, for it works as the perfect background to the craziness and untamed joy contained within the game’s cartridge. Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgames is engaging, addictive, fun, hilarious, and weird; it is pure gaming bliss.