E3 2008 Preview
If there’s one developer you can
count on to dabble in two-dimensional gaming, it’s Nintendo. Their history with
2D action/adventures is massive. Another bit of history will be made when Wario
Land: Shake It! arrives on September 22. This side-scrolling gem is instantly
magical: it’s the kind of game that feels like something you played 20 years
ago. But it’s not an old or aged experience — Shake It! is yet
another variation of a gameplay style loved by so many.
Once Upon a Game Boy
Many of you should remember Wario
from his Game Boy days. But unlike those titles, which were fun but a little on
the stiffer, more clunky side of gaming, Shake It! is nearly as seamless as a 2D
Mario game. Wario has his own way of running — a sort of burst run that lasts
for only a few seconds. The control layout is pure classic Nintendo: hold the
Wii remote sideways, use the D-pad, and press the 1 and 2 buttons. But he can throw his body into special devices that will
shoot him around the screen temporarily. The player gets to control Wario during
this shoot (when he’s running at top speed), and will be able to blast through
brick walls and bash enemies in the process. It’s very easy, moderately quirky
and strikingly addictive. There aren’t any big innovative features to speak of.
But this is one of those games you won’t be able to put down.
Physically, Wario Land could have
been made for almost any platform. Its graphics could be duplicated easily, and
the basic gameplay could be reproduced on any machine. Thus, to make it unique,
Nintendo added several short puzzles to solve during your journey.
Upon finding a locked gate, you’ll
notice a sign in the background that shows what has to be done next. In one
level in the demo (which according to Nintendo was near completion, as is the
entire game), you had release the gate by shaking the remote. This causes Wario
to stomp down, but that’s not the cool part. When he does this, bottom-level
barriers rise and top-level barriers fall, allowing for a wide mix of
up-and-down gameplay that seemed to get more complex as the game went on. In
another area, the path was cleared by picking up a ball and throwing it at a
specific target. You throw by holding the 1 button and tilting the remote. You
can perform another type of stomp by jumping and pressing down on the D-pad.
There are other moves as well, but there wasn’t enough time to uncover them all
in the time Nintendo provided.
The visuals have two distinct
elements: (1) the backgrounds are traditional 2D content and (2) Wario is
animated as well as a cartoon character. His gestures, facial expressions and
overall fluidity are uncanny. You’ll spot a different look on Wario with every
move: when he crouches down, slams his body onto the ground, throws items,
collects objects and so on. These may not be the most original animations I’ve
ever seen but they’re definitely in the top 10 for their impressive execution.
Shaking its way into stores this
fall, Wario Land: Shake It! is going to be one of the best titles of the year
(and potentially the best 2D action/adventure 2008). Stay with GameZone
for more on Wario’s adventures in the coming months.