Ever find yourself sitting on a plane or in a waiting room with your GBA and a shiny new game, lamenting that you don't have enough time to sit through the requisite 30-minute intro to get into the gameplay? And by the time you get home, your attention is drawn away by those fancy consoles with bright, beautiful television displays and comfortable, ergonomic controllers? Maybe you wish someone would design a carefree, simple yet addicting title for the road, so you could leave the arcane storylines and mechanics at home?
Don't fret. Wario hears you.
The yellow-suited, red-nosed antihero has always had a knack for making (or stealing) money. Now, Wario has obviously been reading up on those IDSA reports we see every year and discovers that the field of videogame development is a lucrative one indeed. Ever the entrepreneur, Wario buys a laptop, sets up shop in Diamond City and, like Miyamoto, calls his friends and gets them to design a whole bunch of games. Then, he publishes them under his own label, gets rich(er), and skips town. The name of his little shop? WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$!
Of course, games can't be released until they're tested, and that's where you come in. Wario and Co. have over 200 microgames for you to review, each with three levels of difficulty. Apparently, Wario hasn't played a game since before he began starring in them, as all of his microgames (think mini games, but more mini) require only the D-pad and the A button, and quite frequently, only one of the two. Sound simple? Here's the catch: you only have around five seconds (sometimes less, sometimes more) to clear each game before moving on to the next. I guess Wario gets what he pays for, and he isn't paying you a dime.
Each programmer has his or her own level, where you'll have to clear a certain number of games to continue to the next. Mona, for example, is trying to get to work with the 5-0 on her six, while the cerebral Dr. Crygor just needs to pee. You'll soon find yourself bombarded with mini games - with nothing but a one-or-so-word hint like "Pinch!" or "Look out!" as guidance. You may have to catch toast in midair, chop a board in half, or simply survive until time runs out. Half the challenge is figuring out what to do and holding back the laughs. Pass or fail (you get three misses), after an epileptic transition sequence, you're onto the next task. After a set number of challenges (anywhere from ten to twenty-five), you square off against a longer but still simple boss game: examples include a shmup mini-stage, a sidescrolling platform sequence, and a few tributes to Punch-Out!!.
After all the programmer levels are complete, there's still plenty of WarioWare to play . . . erm, "test." Once any given microgame is played during a stage, it can be repeated for practice or pleasure from its programmer's game grid. Moreover, several "full" single-player games can be found, from deluxe versions of microgames like Jump Forever and Paper Plane to complete Warioized versions of Nintendo classics like Dr. Mario, Sheriff (which has stood the test of time very well), and that fly-swatting game from Mario Paint. There are also a few two-player games where each player grabs a shoulder button for some touchy-feely multiplayer goodness. Right now, Bahn is sitting on a bus somewhere trying to get a cute co-rider to play with his Ding Dong.
WarioWare's visual style is difficult to describe because it's all over the place. Diamond City and many of the programmers look like they fell out of EarthBound. The microgames vary wildly in terms of level of graphical detail. Some use only a handful of colors while others have more detail, but generally, the best-looking games are the ones based on Nintendo classics. (Did I mention that an entire set of microgames is based on vintage Nintendo titles from Metroid to Mario Clash? Oops.) On the whole, WarioWare looks almost like a Game Boy Color game in terms of detail, but with superior use of color and animation. That's far from a complaint, however - bright, simple visuals not only fit the "less is more" theme, but make the split-second decisions required a lot easier.
Surprisingly, WarioWare sports some of the best soundtracks to grace the GBA yet. There's a wide array of sounds and music, ranging from surprisingly crisp Japanese vocal pieces to radio-DJ-sounding mix transition effects to the requisite digitized voices (which are surprisingly bearable this time out). The level tracks that play between games add a lot to the flow and intensity of a particular set, and while the simple beats that play during games aren't offensive, you'll be too busy concentrating to remember many of them.
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ may have more than 200 little games to master, but the total gaming experience is more than the sum of its parts. The real fun is trying to survive a barrage of successively faster and harder challenges when you don't even know what's coming next. Easy to pick up, easy (in theory) to put down, the game is not only probably the GBA title most suited to on-the-go play, but one of its most fun games overall as well. The unlockable full games are worth the $30 price of admission alone, and when your batteries run out, even the manual is packed with stickers and brain teasers. (Who says Nintendo games are just for kids?) WarioWare is more than just instant action - it's an instant classic.