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Wario's Cube Wares on display

With a multiplayer emphasis.

We may be able to conjure 35,000 arses leaning against metal railings outside Earls Court in the pouring rain, and real-time strategy titles forming the basis of historical BBC TV game shows, but gaming still isn't "mainstream" in the eyes of many. Then again, there obviously isn't a terribly large hardcore of gamers in this country, because otherwise ICO would have been the biggest commercial success of 2002 and Wario Ware would be jammed firmly in every cartridge port in the country. So just who are these 35,000 people? Who are any of the people buying games today?

Fortunately for those of us who did buy and cherish ICO and Wario (review here - and do read it, otherwise the next few paragraphs will make no sense), their respective publishers kept the teams in question on hand and saved them a lashing for not synthesising games from focus group reports - and in the case of Nintendo's Wario team, set them to work on a GameCube version of the game with a heavy multiplayer slant.

You see, Wario Ware was very deep and intensely engaging for lone players, but with only a handful of options for a duo, and the prerequisite of the GBA SP's superior lighting for it to work in any capacity, the game was never going to be as popular with a crowd as it would otherwise. For those who missed it, the multiplayer aspect had players trying to knock blocks out of a central on-screen column, or jumping hurdles, and although the control scheme relied on the L and R buttons alone, it was obviously tricky to get both players round one GBA effectively - particularly the old murky Game Gear-shaped unit. Yes, you could argue that the Game Boy Player solved that problem, but Nintendo obviously felt the Cube needed its own, expanded version of the game. Hence "Atsumare!! Made in Wario" (as it's apparently going to be known in the far east) will focus on multiplayer, whilst a new single player game will be available to those without friends or extra control pads.

Various new multiplayer modes will form the basis of the game, starting with "Listen to the Doctor", which requires one player to follow the instructions of an on-screen practitioner who will ask you to behave in certain ways (crouch, jump, etc). But instead of paying homage to EyeToy with a webcam control system, it will be up to your fellow players to push buttons and judge your performance. The player with the highest rating at the end will win. Kind of like Monkey Olympics (on Fox), except you won't be able to throw nappies at the judges.

As for the original mini-games, it looks like there will be an "against the clock" mode in which players take it in turns to get as far through the mini-games as possible, but - as you'd expect - this is no mere ticking clock challenge. Instead, the other players will be button mashing to pump up and burst a balloon - and the final score will be taken just as it goes pop. You can also expect to see four players going at mini-game challenges on a split-screen, which should be a sight for any fifth players lurking in the wings at any rate.

For some reason, the Famitsu report that gave birth to all this information doesn't speak much of the single-player game, although we're assured there is one, and that it won't be a straight port of the GBA title, but will instead include new mini-games.

Currently there's no word on GBA connectivity, but we'd be surprised if this isn't worked in somehow. Treasure's Wario World allowed players to download demo games to their handhelds to showcase the GBA title. Certainly it would be handy to download new Cube-based mini-games to the GBA, but obviously we'll have to wait and see what happens with that.

Obviously we'll be importing Wario Ware as soon as it appears in Japan, and most reports seem to be saying that's sometime next year...