Wario's many adventure have always featured weird concepts, and it would seem that Nintendo has considered the anti-hero perfect for creative ideas. Perhaps this is most evident in the Wario Ware titles, where hundreds of strange micro-games have confused, bedazzled and entertained those of us who have been trying to keep up with the series.
And perhaps an injection of insanity is just what the doctor ordered for the sleepy line up of Wii U titles - and that's why our first few encounters with with Game & Wario surprised us. The frenetic pace and creative overload has been switched out with something more accessible.
The experience is once again divided into several different games. This time there are 16 different games, but each of these experiences is more fleshed out than what was previously the case. In fact, the structure is completely different and instead of 10 micro-games with 3 seconds of gameplay each making up one story, each story now contains a single experience.
It starts out slowly with "Arrow", which teaches you how to use the GamePad as a bow, and lets you shoot arrows at robot-like enemies as you chase the high score. The tip of your arrow is made out of Wario's nose (naturally), and this allows for collecting a pepper bonus that makes him sneeze for a more powerful shot. Aiming with the controller at the screen works surprisingly well, and precision is rarely an issue.
Patchwork is one of the later challenges where you are tasked with making Tetris-esque blocks fit together to create recognisable characters. Ski lets you control Jimmi T, who has been fitted with a couple of skis. It can be seen from a bird's eye view on the GamePad and you have to pick up turbo boosts and other power ups. In Taxi you're tasked with transporting passengers before they're kidnapped by troublesome UFOs, and in Gamer you're giving 9-Volt a helping hand as he tries to play micro-games without being detected by his mother, who wants him in bed.
The varying quality between the different games is best illustrated with the incredibly tiresome Kung Fu, that sadly has nothing to do with the classic Kung-Fu Master, but instead offers a sleep-inducing platform game where a constantly jumping character is to be guided through a level by tilting the GamePad. A far better experience is to be had with Shutter, where you're tasked with taking photos of predetermined characters, with the GamePad playing the part of the camera. It works very well and is both fun and inventive.
You also have the option of experiencing Wario's strange world with friends in four multiplayer games that also come included. Disco is a two player rhythm game where you take turns in creating challenges for the other player that he or she has to mimic. Islands allows up to five players to compete in a simple "point" game where you switch between shooting and making life miserable for the opponents. Sketch is, simply put, a digital version of Pictionary.
The best multiplayer experience, however, is had with Fruit. The player with the GamePad is tasked with stealing fruit, while the other players look at the TV screen where little hints will help them figure out who the thief is among the vast selection displayed on screen. It's not complicated, but it's a nice use of the unique possibilities afforded by the console and it's something almost anyone can join in on regardless of experience.
Some creative flair and the option of either playing alone or with friends can't hide the fact that Game & Wario is a disappointment. It feels very much like a selection of tech demos that have been given a lick of paint and some Wario themes, rather than a cohesive concept in the same spirit as his manic adventures of the past. The pace and the creativity shown is missing the simplicity, and in spite of a few good ideas Game & Wario fails to be anywhere near as entertaining as Wario's previous outings.