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February 16, 2004

{     Wario Ware, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ (GBA)     }    

Imagine this: a race of interstellar explorers land on earth and persuade or capture a group of schoolchildren to transport them throughout the galaxies and study their psyche, biology, and behavior. Well-meaning yet befuddled, almost grandmotherly, these aliens want nothing more than complete comfort from their guests, yet are completely at a loss to provide the comforts of home for these human subjects. They hold an ersatz focus group to determine what might assuage the feelings of homesickness and learn that Earth children are completely nuts for something they call a "video game." Further tests and inquiries are made. The essential structure of a video game is derived. A fractured history of gaming is plied from the excitable youngsters. Based on this knowledge the planet-hopping scientists create their best attempt at a video game. The game they create might play something very similarly to Wario Ware, Inc.: Mega Microgame$. Wario Ware is an enormous collection of "microgames" — an extremely short task no more than 15 seconds in length — divided into a number of thematically linked stages. There are, according the the documentation, more than 200 such games. The only explanation given is a terse command such as "Dodge!" The player is then left to his own devices to figure out the goal and the means of fulfilling it within a tiny window of opportunity. None of these tasks are particularly mind-wracking. The solution will be immediately apparent to anyone who has picked up a game controller in the past 20 years. The game is a condensation of essentially every video game since the glowing screen displayed its first pixel. At its very basic core gaming can be condensed into identification, reaction, and consequence. Visual inspection of the playing field reveals the avatar, hazards, and harmless or beneficial items such as bonus points or power ups (identification). The player takes some action to avoid said hazards and/or acquire beneficial items (reaction). The game then alerts the player of the success or failure of his attempts by means of an auditory alert, change in the HUD(heads up display)/scoring area, or visual onscreen indication such as an explosion or color change (consequence). A fault in any of these aspects makes the game frustrating or unplayable. Regardless of the setting, the goal, the attitude, or the complexity of the system it is played on video games all require the same reaction: push a button (or buttons) at the right time. The simplicity and straightforwardness of Wario Ware is its most ingenious aspect. Anyone can pick this game up and understand it immediately. Much like Tetris, the consummate portable game, Wario Ware requires little from the player in terms of button presses or complex movements. Most microgames can be solved with only one button, pressed accurately. The trick is determining when to press that button in a very short time. In a split second the player needs to assess the screen, find the central object he must control, determine obstacles, and then take whatever steps must be taken to overcome the obstacles and move on. Within a very short period of time, at least for the first few minutes of each stage, the player is disoriented and finds himself repeatedly. Each of the challenges can be readily solved in this manner. And then the game gets faster, and faster. While the first run through a level proceeds leisurely enough that a player has a few scant seconds to reason out the challenge presented to him, subsequent trials accelerate to such an insane degree that nothing but instantaneous memory and instinct can prevail. The game's visual trappings provide both a context within which the player might operate while simultaneously acting as a distraction. Presented with a stationary nose and a moving outstretched finger with the instruction "Pick!" it is obvious to the player that the finger must go inside one of the engorged nostrils. Because this is a video game the player knows that a button must be pressed, because always a button must be pressed, and the finger will arrive at its destination. However, unless he is cold, emotionless android said player will almost undoubtedly miss at least once because he cannot stop giggling. Wario Ware's microgames include sports, racing, puzzle, logic, action, memorization/rhythm, and just plain weird. Presented in this split-second manner it becomes clear just how similar all of these genres are. Hitting a baseball and shooting an alien, at least in a video game context, are remarkably similar. All you need to do is push a button … at the correct time.

     » Nintendo of America's official Wario Ware site

     » Buy it...

Comments

i've heard so much good about this little bitch. it sounds like a cracked-out good time.... this is the next game i want to get for the GBAsp, well, and the House of the Dead, or whatever it's called, Pinball game. I heart pinball.

Posted by: Shane at February 19, 2004 5:34 AM

i walked in one afternoon to find a friend playing this, and had it on the tv so i could watch...the first minigame i saw was the 'shake the happy collie's paws' and i was flat-out hooked, and that's not something i say about video games too much these days. with everything from battling robots to twirling spaghetti to a cliff's notes version of fighting the mother brain thing, this game is literally hours of a good time. thousands of little good times, actually. neato!
there's a house of the dead pinball game? zombies and pinball, that's terrific.

Posted by: sarah at February 20, 2004 1:33 AM
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