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WarioWare Twisted!

Twist and shout.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

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1. Train. "Yes, oh I do apologise, I was just trying to keep a plumber's brother on a string out of the mouth of a crocodile when I accidentally elbowed you viciously in the ribs. I am so embarrassed. Please, let me help you up. Is that your colostomy bag? Oh dear."

Thoughts: Bad idea. You too often need to spin your arms like a lunatic.

2. Car. "Bloody thing! Sodding! Bloodying! Effing! Stupiding... Speed bump? Couldn't you go down that other road? The one that looked like it was made out of foam? Screwed that up now. Oi! No! Not a roundabouaaarrgghh! ButI'mtryingtoshepherdapigywithrotatingtreesoufuuaaaarrrghh!"

Thoughts: Er, maybe when it's parked. Precision is much too hard when you can hardly hold yourself up straight. Although it does have potential as a catalyst for those excruciating trips up the M1 in your Gran's Saab that you always turn down...

3. Bus. "THIS is so POINT-less, it just JOLTS a-ROUND too MUCH for me to actually make any PROG-ress. The SEN-sor keeps getting MIS-al-IGNED and I think I just dislocated my JAW. I bet it's no better in the AMB-ulance EITHER."

Thoughts: Maybe if your commute involved travelling along Roman roads in public transport's little-seen equivalent to the motorised pocket-sprung mattress with eiderdown pillows... With the sensor going off-kilter with every jolt, it's just not practical to get anywhere with it.

4. Generally just beyond the front door and out in the world. "Hehe, this is great, I ju-- Hrm. There are a LOT of people staring at me right now. Okay, okay, be cool, don't stare directly back, just keep playing; you're big enough and mature enough to stand in the queue at Sainsbury's playing a tilt sensor game without losing f-- oh who am I kidding? Let's just gently return it to the pocket and never speak of this again..."

Thoughts: What with the voices in my head, I hardly need to give the world more tools with which to batter my self-esteem. And I just knocked the cream off the conveyor belt. That man with a mop looks unhappy. Er, in fact, I think he's sharpened one end of the mop handle into a point. EEEEEEEEEEE!

WarioWare Twisted! certainly isn't a game for people who consider the word Image to be a proper noun. Not unless they like to keep dirty little secrets from the world on those days they're not throwing their hair back and slinging coquettish glances across the catwalk at an unlikely French fashion icon in dolphin-shaped frock. WarioWare's original outing on Game Boy Advance was so peculiar and intense that its content was perhaps a little off-putting to the dolphin-frockers, but the gimmick of facing an assortment of three-second mini-games that required only token reactionary control to complete - if it's not too much of a disservice to call this light-bulb-in-the-head level of genius a "gimmick" - boasted incredible accessibility, and the sense of humour and its curious quirkiness proved universally appealing amongst those who actually threw some money at it; a pitifully small number, mind you, that had plenty of us hacks whimpering or erupting violently into our keyboards in consternation.

But, most significantly to this fittingly silly intro, it was also something you could pick up and play wherever you were. So, in fact, was Nintendo DS title WarioWare Touched!, where only the occasional embarrassing bout of huffing and puffing into a microphone upset the sweeping stylus motions, which were no less cringe-worthy than watching somebody else using a Palm Pilot's handwriting recognition on a bus. With a flourish. And a quill. To be able to play WarioWare Twisted! under similar circumstances is a serious test of your conviction that it doesn't matter if the whole world thinks you're suffering from a randomisation of nerve impulses.

Except, well, some of them will think worse of you. People with videogame experience, however slight, will notice when you twist your arms sharply (to try and turn off the running water at the right moment) and will assume you're leaning into the corners on a racing game like a ten year-old child. (What? Road Rage II was engrossing.) When you turn the entire unit upside down and round and round in your hands (to help a chap who can't seem to balance navigate a bumpy course that winds up rotating 180 degrees so you're walking on the ceiling) you'll probably look like Early Man examining a stone, even if the experience is more like controlling a buzz bar by juggling stacks of china plates.

And when you're alternating rapidly moving your hands up and down as though trying to keep a car straight on a bumpy road (when you're really trying to escape an onrushing boulder and leap obstacles by racing along a train track in one of those manual seesaw-controlled moving platforms), the religious fanatic at the end of the carriage with the megaphone may think you're possessed, and the primary school teacher opposite will imagine the hand actions are some poorly disguised allusion to masturbation (or at the very least smoking behind the bike sheds) and stare on disapprovingly. It's certainly not a game for people with flabby arms and a penchant for unrealistically tight T-shirts, either.

And yet, even if you feel awkward playing it in public from time to time, in a gaming sense you're never less than fulfilled. Whereas WarioWare Touched! on the DS came in for some flak on these pages for being a bit simplistic and unimaginative from time to time (however wonderfully amusing and replayable it was and is), there'll be no such criticism of GBA title Twisted, which through its tilt sensor control system literally twists the WarioWare formula in a manner that shapes the very control scheme into something as off-the-wall as the game itself.

By now you must understand how it works: it's WarioWare-issue three-second (and less) mini-games controlled by twisting the GBA round in your hands and occasionally pressing the A button - and sometimes a mixture of the two. And unlike the stylus-controlled Touched, which had a comfortable but slightly disappointing familiarity about it, through its inventiveness and the unique application of the control device Twisted inspires the same range of emotions as the very first WarioWare. That is to say it makes the hardcore fan feel like a newborn gamer again, and it quickly demonstrates the theory of relativity to anybody who borrows it for a curious "couple of turns" before realising his watch seems to have sped forward half an hour.

There are a few minor niggles to make note of. The tilt sensor can very occasionally go a bit skewiff when the world starts rocking you on your axis, but it does right itself between mini-games and has yet to cost us anything spectacularly important through this failing. That's one thing. Then there's the quality of the unlockable mini-games. Historically these ought to be unlimited extensions of some of the better mini-games, but there's too much emphasis here on showing off clever ideas; playing a record and scratching at it is fun when you have three seconds to realise that's what you're meant to do - followed by that momentary warmth of artistic appreciation before the next task pops up - but after about ten seconds "freestyling" you'll wonder why you thought it was so impressive in the first place.

Fittingly for an activity predicated on manipulation of a gyroscopic sensor, though, the rest of the game is almost perfectly balanced. Without an English word to prompt us prior to each mini-game it sometimes took a couple of goes to figure out the aim, but for the most part progress is consistent without ever feeling like a formality. You're not just watching a slideshow of great ideas and pointing at them with a pen-shaped stick (a drunken and quite unfair summary of WarioWare Touched! that we voiced to friends the other week and now wish to publicly soften to: watching a slideshow of great ideas and pointing at them with a pen-shaped stick whilst being drip-fed morphine); here you're tackling a slideshow of quick-fire problems and solving them by spinning the overhead projector round like a Catherine Wheel.

The quality of the mini-games is such that you just want to cook up a pot of the finest fun-frothing nouns and glaze them with adjectives like "exultant" all day long - in the hope of one day happening upon a collision of characters that accurately conveys your immeasurable affection for them. We couldn't even get through that sentence without lapsing into the routine. All around the house are torn up scraps of imaginary notepaper with phrases that weren't quite frothing enough; such is our sense of professional and personal satisfaction with Twisted that we'd very much like the website to effervesce as your eyes skip from word to word...

There are so many fine examples, but a few spiral to mind quicker than others. The aforementioned pig-herding features a little piggy who bounces off a short cupped line of fence posts and then heads off to the opposite side of the screen; the goal is to twist the GBA so that the standing fence posts rotate round to block off his escape. Another features a hand with one outstretched digit upon which rests the tip of an upturned umbrella; the goal being to keep the umbrella from toppling by moving the hand back and forth across the screen as though you were balancing a baseball bat. There's the one where you have to tilt the GBA to help a gliding Wario land in a cave on the right. There's another that involves smashing a house with a wrecking ball by literally swinging it. There's the one with the squirrelly clothes-iron that glides over stains as you try to point it in the right direction. There's pointing a bow and arrow at an apple and pulling the trigger. There's aiming a cannon at robots and shooting them. Or twisting Wario round to align his spine properly - complete with nails-on-blackboard-like cracking joint noises. And there are more than 200 in total, most of which are genuinely impressive and few of which ever stray far enough down the scale to strip away the grin.

Perhaps the highlights though are the twisty interpretations of old Nintendo titles with one particular character, 9-Volt. We don't want to spoil it all (actually we do; we want to talk about it all day long, but we know to stop when the boss's whip starts cracking bone as well as back-flesh), but a couple of quick highlights: rolling a Metroid morph ball around a 2D level so it collects some missiles, and most notably the circular Super Mario Bros. levels. For the latter, imagine proper 8-bit SMB played on the outer rim of a trundle-wheel; you twist to control movement, and you press A to jump. It works so well it's almost sad that nobody thought of it before.

The single-player game features more than 10 characters whose tasks have to be beaten, and some of them "mix it up" a little by changing the rule-set (giving you an unreasonable amount of time to complete 14 tasks, perhaps, and then topping you up with a couple of seconds each time you succeed; or simply upping the speed to almost unmanageable levels) as well as varying the control scheme (some task-sets are tilt-only, one or two A-button-only, plenty more using both), and even though you'll finish them all off pretty quickly, it'll take a long time for you to see all the mini-games more than once (you can of course go in for specific ones once you've played through them once), and an even longer time if you plan to unlock everything the game has to offer.

Whether it's worth it for some of the unlockables is debatable, as we've said, but some of them are just as wonderful as their proper-game equivalents. The two-players-on-one-GBA stuff is going to break consoles in some cases, and some of the tasks which are extensions of regular mini-games are not only enjoyable but increasingly addictive, soaking up time in very much the same way as those Flash-based mini-games that involve lobbing penguins. In fact, that's a pretty apt comparison in one particular case. The ski-jump involves tilting the controller so your skier speeds up to the ramp, hitting A within a small window of opportunity to jump, quickly adjusting for trajectory and then using the tilt sensor to guide the skis through the sky in order to get as far as possible. Cue lots of "I just did 150m!" followed by rapid passing around of the machine and "Ha! 185!" Etcetera. Plus, basic as it sounds, there's something about making sheep jump over a fence by hitting A at the right moment that does completely the opposite of sending us to sleep. Perhaps it's the micro-sheep and occasional pauses to try and catch us off-guard that do it.

Whatever: it's enough. And that's as true of all this warbling as it is of the game's sense of value. So, for those who like us found WarioWare Touched! to be slightly disappointing, there's wonderful news: Twisted is much closer in spirit to the original WarioWare. We're tempted to say it's the best in the series to date. Whether you import it from Japan or the US (where it's due out in March) or wait for the hopefully inevitable European release, this is one of the best reasons yet to own a Game Boy Advance - so much so that it's overshadowed the arrival of new DS and PSP games in Eurogamer's mythical tower this week. In fact, never mind sitting on the fence; let's twist ourselves off on the side that says "Best WarioWare evah!" and come up with a smile. Elbowed colostomy bags and all.

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9 / 10

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