As I’ve mentioned recently, since the turn of the decade I’ve been obsessed with the online multiplayer deathmatches and dominations of a certain Modern Warfare 2, to the point where I’ve been seeing snipers in my sleep and idly fantasizing about tossing semtex into a group of hooligans raising hell outside our flat. What better way, then, to soothe my frayed nerves and assuage my battered psyche, than by settling down to a type of game that, for me, started it all off all those years ago – a 2D platformer on a Nintendo console? Enter Wario Land: The Shake Dimension (aka Wario Land: Shake It! in the US).
Playing Wario Land: The Shake Dimension is very different to my recent playtime with New Super Mario Bros. Wii; Wario lacks inertia (which is strange considering his weight), so jumps feel a little rigid compared to the plumber. But goals remain essentially the same: traverse a world, picking up coins as you go, until you get to the end of the level. The twist here is that Wario then needs to get back to the start of the level to keep all of the treasure he has collected, and almost invariably, the journey back involves different routes, enabling developer Good Feel to pack in clever secret rooms. Each level also has 3 distinct items of treasure to collect, an example being the ‘Six Week Old Curry’ in the first level, and also a series of challenges to conquer. These are surprisingly difficult, but as I’m none the wiser as to my reward, I’m not immediately compelled to bust a gut achieving them.
In terms of visuals, this game delivers. More painterly and hand-drawn than its polished Nintendo-developed counterpart, Wario Land still shares a vivid colour palette and bold sprites. The animation is rather ‘languid’, for lack of a better term, and feels like it borrows heavily from Japanese anime in both style and execution, although this shouldn’t be a surprise considering the developer’s base of operations. One thing that sticks out like a sore thumb are the borders running down the side of the screen, which house which treasures you have collected, but essentially reduce widescreen playthroughs to a 4:3 ratio, which really grates.
Enemies are a little on the unimaginative side, but then I have only made it through the first world, so this has the potential to change for the better. The boss was big and bold, and demanded a surprising level of strategy as it shifted through various phases. The shake controls; which allows Wario to pound the ground with his fist, or shake a treasure bag to reveal a shower of sparkling coins; is a nice touch, but I’m left wondering how quickly this novelty will begin to pall. Other Wiimote uses – such as tilting it to steer a ‘Unibucket’ along a tightrope – are great fun, the tricky physics presenting just enough challenge to make these platforming sections a real highlight of my playthrough so far. More of this, then, should ensure that Wario Land: The Shake Dimension wont be totally eclipsed by Nintendo’s own platforming efforts.