Version tested: GameCube
We'd have far more parties than we do, but not everyone can tolerate our taste for depressing music played by skinny shoe gazing types that jingle jangle along with voices that convey the emotion of someone who has just lost their job, their drug addled girlfriend, all their money and possessions 6,000 miles away from home and denied promotion to the Premiership on a penalty shootout all on the same, day. It all sounds woefully improbable, but you couldn't make this stuff up.
All of the above (and more, but you actually want to read about a videogame, right?) did actually happen to this very correspondent, not all of it on the same day admittedly, but in very quick succession a couple of years back, and yet thanks to the wonders of the party he triumphed. But how so? Well, apart from whinging a lot to anybody within earshot, he partied, got a better job out of it (to the envy of any sane man in the Western world), partied, got a better girlfriend as a result (who, get this, plays games) and earned more cash. Then partied some more. See, Mr white boy loser, put down the Rickenbacker, stop feeling sorry for yourself, be unspeakably beastly to poor defenceless videogames and party on. It really is, more or less, that simple.
Married with twins
And now we've solved the woes of modern man with the twin joys of the party and videogames (and got a girlfriend to help clear up afterwards - you see, all bases covered), what better than a party game that marries these twin disciplines and inspires such bemused happiness that you could generate electricity with the energy. Wario Ware Inc is its name. It's twenty quid, it's merciless fun, it's a bit short, but it's great. You should buy it.
If only all games were so relentlessly centred on stupid, hopelessly endearing fun, we'd probably have even more smile lines than we have already. After all the incredulous experiences we've had of late in the company of videogames of late, this is exactly what the doctor ordered, providing some light relief after endless badly designed, pathetically frustrating efforts which some of us have had to spend several days in the company of lately. And, of course, it puts a smile back on our faces after the antics of Urs Meier. The git.
Moving on from national sporting tragedies, if you've played the GBA version that this is ostensibly based on then you'll immediately know what to expect. Fun. Stupid, hilarious, genius fun that is so simple it screams at everyone else making games mouthing the words "See! I'm fun! This is Entertainment! Are you entertaining?" (Subliminally, anyway; if you play it backward through a Sinclair Spectrum internal speaker). As well as that, you'll also notice that all of the microgames that comprised that wonderfully compelling handheld package that kept up from having 'Michael Douglas in Falling Down' moments on the tube all of last year have been ported over identically to form the basis of Wario Ware Inc. A package of sheer joy, for you, your home, and your army of bemused friends.
In the loosest sense, the crux of the game is to simply complete a series of randomly selected microgames, which last no more than a few seconds. As with the GBA version, it ranges from a couple of seconds of conventional gaming, culled from a huge selection of early Nintendo titles from the 80s/early 90s, along with a plethora of surreal tasks designed specifically for your shocked bemusement.
For the lonesome player you have little choice other than to trawl through batches of microgames, themed in relation to the various oddball characters that the game has to offer. In simple terms, you basically have to conquer each stage's 'boss', which involves progressing through 24 microgames before you reach it. If you fail four times along the way then it's Game Over and you must restart from the beginning.
If you haven't played the original, then you might initially wonder why anyone would be so bowled over by a bunch of retro-gaming snippets stitched together for the attention deficit MTV generation. It's one of the most simple gaming ideas ever - kind of a quick fire ladder match that's over in a matter of minutes, but quick enough to have another quick go between tube stops... But of course this isn't a handheld we're playing it on, so its 'quick fix' ethos is rather lost in the context of a home console, and although is still a mighty fine diversion for a couple of hours, the chances are (especially if you've played it for hours on end like we have), that you'll blitz through all the different 'levels' and instead hanker after the real deal, the multiplayer mode.
Honey I shrunk the games
Fully trained up, entering the various multiplayer challenges breathes new life into the concept, with nine typically quirky games for up to four players. Unlike most party games ever, there's no room for CPU activity, and the game shrinks to fit the numbers you have. Without wishing to simply turn this review into a tedious trawl through the rules and features of each mode, we'll try and sum up the pros and cons of what's on offer.
One of the simplest and best of the lot, Survival Fever, has each player boogieing cheesily in front of a crowd, with a spotlight shining at random to denote your turn to play. Succeed and keep your audience, fail and they walk away - with the winner being the last man standing. As with the best of what Wario Ware has to offer, it's fast, frantic, hilarious fun. Others, like Wobbly Bobbly, make life even more difficult for you by placing upturned turtles underneath your player every time you fail, and forcing you to stay balanced between rounds.
Other random craziness appears in multiplayer challenges like Balloon Bang, with each player assigned to a series of microgames until they succeed, with the rest of your mates tasked with pumping up a balloon with the intention of making it burst while you're in the hot seat. However this, and others like Milky Way Delirium and Card-E-Cards, seem to rely more on pure chance than actual microgame skill to determine the winner.
Trust me, I'm a Doctor
Even the hilarious Listen To The Doctor has more to do with your friend's willingness to be sporting and applaud your antics ("play this while looking mysterious") than your actual performance, and it's instances like this that make them games you don't feel like coming back to very often. Outta My Way, meanwhile, is a game of seeing how annoying you can be, as the non playing contestants leap around your playing area to form as big a distraction as possible [I was good at this one -Tom].
But while many of these modes seem cute in the first instance, their longevity is likely to be pretty minimal. Wario Ware Inc is at its best when it's actually bothering to conjure multiplayer versions of its own wacky games, like Jump Forever, or Paper Plane, which are both multiplayer takes on quick fire microgames, and brilliant - for a while. Question marks remain on just how long you'll want to play these before, well, familiarity sets in. Although there are 200 microgames in there, just a handful appear to have been turned into multiplayer versions (such as the rotating nose picking game, or the one where you have to avoid the snot dripping out of the woman's nose). If there had been substantially more genuine multiplayer games to get to grips with, it'd be an essential work of gaming genius and we'd insist that every GameCube owner rushed out and bought it when it appears in Europe on September 3rd.
As things stand, the one-player game is genius but works better as a handheld distraction, and the two-player games are hilarious comedic fun, but there simply aren't enough modes to sustain your interest in the long term, and too many of those are chance-based to warrant much in the way of extended play.
Waaaaaaaaaaah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!
On the other hand, it is being released at a bargain price, and for the money it's well worth it if only to treat yourself to the funniest gaming experience you're likely to have all year. If the answer to all our problems is to simply party your way through them, then consider Wario Ware Inc as your gaming ally. It's not perfect, and we hope Nintendo takes the concept further, but it's still well worth checking out even for a few hours' worth of hilarity.
7 / 10