Wario Land: Shake It!

Is this upcoming Wario release Nintendo’s best-kept secret or worst-promoted game? We really can’t decide. Wisely casting aside last year’s disastrous Wario the Thief, Nintendo are returning to the Wario Land franchise with all that confusing disguise-swapping malarkey substituted for remote-shaking fatty rage. Wario’s ‘thing’ this time round is not too dissimilar to the N64’s Mischief Makers – grabbing things and giving them a good ol’ shake. And so your mad remote flailing becomes pocket-emptying foe jangling or – performed near structurally unsound architecture – a level-morphing wobbler. There’s more: shoulder barges are now remote-shunt activated, and yanking down while Wario is hanging slingshots him to new heights.

Shake it! also fits nicely into the ‘2D renaissance’ currently underway – that is, using the processing power of modern machines to make this most visually traditional of genres more glamorous than ever before. Developed in conjunction with anime studio Production IG (they’re the heads behind Professor Layton’s stunning Belleville Rendez-Vous-esque cutscenes), Wario has never looked finer, a hand-animated creation inside vibrant, if simple, worlds.

Saying that, this is more than a traditional 2D platformer, Nintendo dusting off the puzzling elements that always define Wario Land against Mario’s straightforward antics. Each level hides three treasures that Wario must track down, leading to plenty of hidey-holes and hidden routes to lengthen the experience. With shake-to-activate cannons and tilt-controlled vehicles (only a mine kart has been confirmed so far) there’s a dash of Donkey Kong Country to the proceedings. Despite his shift to a more sophisticated platform, Wario himself hasn’t been spoiled in the process; he’s still the blubbery buffoon we’ve come to know and love over the years. Whether bounding around inside a snowball or shaking down yet another goon for a thousand shiny pennies, he remains Nintendo’s comic star and our biggest hope for autumn entertainment.

Aug 8, 2008