Wario Land: The Shake Dimension Reader Review
When its comes to platform protagonists, Mario's portly dimensions – unlike real life – have rarely hidden an inherent laziness in character, or indeed game design. His non-party and sporting titles aside, the Mario name has been synonymous for longevity and renowned for its rewarding of dedicated players.
And on most occasions the same could be applied to his flatulent, mischievous cousin, Wario.
It's doubly hard therefore, to level any accusations of cheap thrills to Wario's exquisitely painted and animated Wii platforming debut, but accuse we must.
Launched prior to the double delights of NSMB Wii and Galaxy 2, Warioland: The Shake Dimension clearly didn't have to work too hard to fill the console's aching 2D vacuum, but in truth, it barely even troubled the surface of its bell jar.
In days of online multiplayer, sky-budgeted FPSs and unmissable deadlines, four hour singleplayer campaigns have recently become more ubiquitous than in most of the previous generations. But that's not stopped the Modern Warfares and Halos of this generation becoming some of the best loved titles in memory.
The problem is of course, if your game is a forgivably deathmatch-lite 2D platformer that recycles the rather tired combination of basic platforming staples, tagged on waggle controls (the clue is in the subtitle), forced replays and a £35 price tag.
But of course, none of these considerations can, or should matter to the Nintendo platforming fan. Like previous entries in the series (as well as the recent Kirby's Epic Yarn), Warioland Wii shaves the basic platforming of genuine death-pit challenge in lieu of object-based puzzles and slow methodical enemy dispatchment.
It flows with predictable ease and beauty. Each level of the meagre five worlds is hand drawn, and flared with characterful background activity and movement, only now surpassed by Retro's DKCR. Wario himself is as loveable a rogue as ever – his oversized rump oft-seen wriggling down familiar green pipes, his nose a good picking and your ears party to a few cheeky one-liners.
His moves combine typical jumps and pounds with gently entertaining power ups; being fired out of a cannon at high speed, being set alight or - typically - placed in an unnecessarily tilt-controlled vehicle.
But with superb level design and controls as nuanced as ever, the problem Warioland most suffers from is an enforced structure. New worlds must be accessed by a map, itself 'bought' in another stand-alone level – the pirate shop (womanned by a feisty piratess with a weird soft-spot for Wario's flatulence).
Of course this economy is run on the millenia old currency of game-coins – so it's incredibly frustrating to realise early on in the game that not only have you already played 40% of the levels, there's a good chance you'll have to replay them to earn more coins and open up more levels.
Grinding being possibly the least-appropriate gameplay hook for a platformer, the developers tried to soften the blow by adding multiple tasks (stars) for each course – beat a certain time, collect certain number of coins, run a level without being hit, and so on. But the majority of these challenges are mutually exclusive, meaning a maximum of four numbing play-throughs on identical levels.
Many of these game-stretching mechanics are also lazily implemented – when collecting coins for example, shaking a loot bag fires quick-vanishing coins in all directions, and more often than not, down holes or over impassable walls – making a mockery of your score-attempt. Similarly, the cannon 'dash' attack required to complete the level under a specific time is so finicky you require yet more playthroughs to burn the requisite muscle memory into your poor, bored fingers.
Taken as a charmingly simple, tight-willed 2D platformer, there is little that can't be recommended, even if its lack of challenge now fades in comparison to its more recent Nintendo brethren.
However, as a lasting challenge and decent value-proposition, the most outdated thing about Warioland: The Shake Dimension is that it can't even compete with the quality, longevity or market-saviness of the best XBL and PSN – or even Wii-ware has to offer.