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WarioWare: Get It Together review: This game should heed its own advice

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve looked at a formulaic Nintendo sequel and wished for something fresher. Remember, behind a pile of Mario and Zelda remakes, Nintendo has a considerable stash of irreverence and whimsy, as proven by franchises like Rhythm Heaven, Elite Beat Agents, and WarioWare.

That last series in the list is now up to its ninth entry: this week’s WarioWare: Get It Together. I can’t knock the 18-year-old franchise for sequelitis, and this latest title doesn’t rest on its Wario-styled yellow-and-purple laurels. In fact, it may very well be Nintendo’s most ambitious collection of “microgames” yet.

But ambition is nothing without execution. WW:GIT is hard to fault on a piece-by-piece basis, and when laid on a table like an unsolved jigsaw puzzle, its parts are up to the series’ standard of humor, creativity, and polish. Yet the collection has not been put together quite right, and the result is a rare case of Nintendo putting a game out before it feels finished.

A brief primer: Wario class is in session

A refresher: WarioWare games revolve around the premise of rapid-fire microgames, each roughly eight seconds long (with “bosses” lasting a whopping 60 seconds or so). The plot gimmick is that villain Wario has designed these ridiculous games in order to sell them a la carte, become rich, and pose with piles of money while laughing in his waa-aa-aa way. Since Wario “made” these games, they can be as uncouth as he is, thus allowing longtime Nintendo partner studio Intelligent Systems to get cartoonishly stupid and giddy with its ideas. (“We didn’t make this game! Selfish, brutish, farting Wario did!”)

If you like Nintendo at its most wackadoodle, you will like this WarioWare entry as much as the others. Since each microgame is so short, they all strive to leave a mark, and it’s usually a comical one. Examine WW:GIT on an art, sound, and presentation basis, and the result is a LOL-lercoaster—which you can probably ascertain from the above gallery of microgames. Aim a peeing baby statue to put out a fire. Pick hairs off a statue’s armpits. Turn a windmill enough times to beckon a giant monster to stomp toward you.

That’s only half of the WarioWare promise. The other half is typically the to-the-bone simplicity of its controls. Each microgame starts with brief instructions: “Block! Escape! Count!” Between that and whatever you see on-screen, you have a very small window of time to parse what’s happening—Do what? Go where? The last thing you want is further complication.

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In the earliest entries in the franchise, a tap of the d-pad or a single action button is all you needed to get a pretty clear sign of whether or not you understood a particular microgame. Eight seconds later, you’d try all over again. Newer titles tried wacky control twists, including a tilt sensor on WarioWare: Twisted and motion control goofiness on WarioWare: Smooth Moves. These exceptions aside, the games generally hewed to simplicity.

Perhaps this should have been named Super MarioWare

Intelligent Systems, in search of ways to spice up the series this many years in, has expanded WW:GIT‘s control portfolio. Those controls are arguably best described as “Super MarioWare.” The cast must now run, jump, fly, and blast as platforming characters inside of each microgame. In days gone by, if you saw a button in a microgame, you tapped your real-life “A” button and the button would get slapped. This time, if you need to hit a button, smack a lever, or turn a dial to beat a microgame’s prompt, your platforming character has to figure out how to touch or affect it. In older WW games, only occasional microgames would ask the player to, say, use a d-pad and fake like Mario for a second. That’s now the rub of every microgame this time around.

What’s more, WW:GIT‘s default modes want you to swap from one platforming character to another between each microgame. By the time you beat Get It Together, you’ll have unlocked 20 characters. Some float around like spaceships in a shoot-’em-up. Others obey the laws of gravity as run-and-jump Mario-likes. Still others are locked to the ground as turrets, and these characters can only move using a counterintuitive grappling-hook system (more on that in a bit).

Each character may or may not have a weapon of some kind, like an upward-shooting yo-yo, a sideways-only gun, or an any-direction laser. Other characters must use their bodies to activate or attack something in a microgame.

WW:GIT‘s campaign, meant for one or two players, frequently slams the brakes to introduce a new character. Each introduction comes with a 60-second tutorial that makes you platform your way through a short level. Then you’re off to a slew of microgames that you must complete while juggling a cast of three or four characters. When each microgame starts, the characters in your crew are randomly shuffled, and one is dealt to you. You get exactly one second to test-ride your next character before a microgame begins.

More characters, more frustration

Every microgame has to support every character’s control style, and Intelligent Systems has somehow pulled this off. If you go into WW:GIT‘s “collection” menu to research microgames you’ve previously played, it will show you a ranking of which characters are “best” and “worst” for each microgame. No kidding.

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As one example, the characters who operate as fixed turrets have serious mobility issues, because, again, they have to do this weird thing of aiming their weapons at golden rings that hover within certain microgames. Aim your weapon and hit one of these golden rings and your weapon will temporarily become a grappling hook. To move from that point, aim for another golden ring. It’s weird, and not in a good WarioWare way, especially since these microgames favor rapidly blasting to achieve an objective within eight seconds. So it’s easy to inadvertently warp when you intended to shoot something, or vice versa. Other characters are locked to the “floor” or have their movement restricted every time they tap the “A” button or can only shoot their lasers in one direction or don’t have laser-like weapons at all.

This gets awkward when each microgame’s language of interaction is wholly different from the others. Do you need to ram your body against something to beat the microgame? In one level: yep, you have to touch something with your own body, mobility be damned. In the next: nope, that’s a bad touch, so you either have to shoot a laser or platform toward the object perfectly. Yet another level: the thing you need to touch is next to a hitbox that will “kill” your character and end your microgame, whoopsie. You should’ve lasered it. And another level: why did you shoot the object with a laser? You needed to touch the object with your character’s body, duh!

I’ve run into more comprehension frustration with Get It Together than any WarioWare game. I can’t help but wonder: does every microgame need to be compatible with all 20 characters? Does WW:GIT need 20 characters’ worth of variance? Having beaten the game, I’m of the mind that some of these characters could have been consolidated, or WW:GIT could have blacklisted certain character-and-microgame combos, outside of a toggle like “Super Wild Wario Difficulty.”

Should you plan to play WW:GIT by yourself or with one friend joining from start to finish, the resulting confusion and learning curve aren’t necessarily deal breakers. The campaign forces players to use each newly unlocked character enough times to understand their basics, and subsequent playthroughs include a “use every character” toggle that ramps up the challenge and variability. Each microgame can now play out in 20 different ways, as randomly shuffled in an endless microgame session. While some of those are outright frustrating or annoying due to character-and-game mismatches, this is, all in all, the most replayable variety I’ve seen in a WarioWare game’s single-player mode.

The best parties require overlong tutorials, right?

All of this is much harder to appreciate in the context of multiplayer, and if you didn’t notice, the “Get It Together” in the title is a reminder that this game is meant to be shared.

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Once you beat the campaign, a slew of multiplayer modes unlocks, and each throws the game’s 20-character cast at new players in different ways. Maybe you pick characters from the full roster, then take them into a rapid-fire assault of random microgames. Maybe you must do that while having the entire 20-strong roster dealt at you, with only a tiny, one-second window to figure out what’s going on before each microgame starts. Or maybe you take various characters into rapid-fire action microgames outside the microgame suite—smack a volleyball against a rival or hit a puck through a variety of air hockey-like goals.

WW:GIT has absolutely no tamer option to ease new players into its universe. I would have loved it if the party modes let everyone in the group pick the same default character (Wario) and get the hang of the series’s platforming transition. I would have appreciated being able to turn the campaign’s tutorials back on when new friends show up so my buddies could organically navigate the game’s new twists and turns. Instead, should you and your friends want to embrace the dizzying 20-character cast, you’ll likely need to dip into menus and find each character’s tutorial session. This is especially true for the more intense, hard-to-control characters (whose details, for some reason, Nintendo has asked us not to describe ahead of WW:GIT‘s launch).

Even if your friends try to wing it as fresh-faced newcomers, the party modes include their own attention-stretching modifications. In one party game, each round’s winner plays a microgame in a smaller game-within-game window while the other players bonk and smack into said window to obfuscate what is happening. If you’re already trying to figure out whether your character jumps, shoots lasers, or changes its entire control scheme whenever the a-button is pressed, you probably don’t need the additional handicap of a squished miniature screen.

WW:GIT could have gotten around this by trying to ease new players into its systems without sending novices into menus and an overlong tutorial slog. Here’s just one idea: the wackier party games would be more appropriate for parties if they included an “only one character” flag.

Concessions and a glimmer of future WarioWare hope

In the game’s defense, if your ideal four-player group gets to equal footing in the WW:GIT campaign, then you won’t face a comprehension lapse. At that point, you’ll find that these party modes include some solid variety to spice up the “wave of microgames” default. Variations include a twist on Hot Potato, a “who contributed the most” point-scoring twist on the two-player paradigm, and a milquetoast Smash Bros. clone featuring Get It Together‘s big cast.

I get the sense that the people who designed WW:GIT made these four-player modes for themselves, possibly bored to death by testing the same 212 microgames repeatedly (and maybe suffering from pandemic-related cabin fever). If you have always wanted a WarioWare title that would do well with a consistent party-gaming group, all willing to train up through the campaign, this is the best option yet in the franchise.

For those who prefer their party games with pick-up-and-play potential, WW:GIT is a tough sell in its current incarnation. Meanwhile, as a single-player game, I’m left thinking about how the game’s final boss hints at a much better idea. While I won’t spoil how you get there, it’s important to clarify how this fight plays out.

Once the boss arrives, you take control of one of the game’s characters and beat a character-specific challenge that’s tailored to the character’s move set. The confrontation plays out as an eight-second microgame that makes total logical sense based on the character’s limits on jumping, hovering, lasers, and so on. The boss then transforms, and you switch to a second character who must face another specially tailored challenge, also eight seconds. This continues until you’ve completed a little over a dozen perfect-fit microgames, all chained together with the boss character’s conceit.

I loved this! After dealing with so many frustrating and unsatisfying moments due to occasional character mismatches, I was utterly charmed by how Get It Together‘s designers accounted for over a dozen shifts within a level. I felt like I was playing a hyperactive twist on a classic platformer like The Lost Vikings. I wanted an entire game that felt like this. Maybe Nintendo will continue tugging on that thread in a future WarioWare game.

Until then, the WW:GIT that we got is staggeringly short. It’s roughly 70 percent of the usual microgame count, and it lacks the unlockable slew of quick-burst, score-chasing arcade microgames that prior $30 WW incarnations included on portable consoles. You’re paying more for this sequel ($50) to get less content, and its character bloat or unwieldy multiplayer access do not make up for that. Since we can’t send Get It Together back to Nintendo’s kitchen and expect the chefs to add salt, seasoning, or additional cooking time, you’ll have to make your peace with this week’s lukewarm Wario platter.

The good:

  • Nintendo’s most unhinged series remains a LOL-lercoaster of whimsical art and sounds.
  • Should your favorite four-player group invest in the entire game, the party modes are the franchise’s most robust yet.
  • Replaying eight-second microgames is spicier with more character variety.

The bad:

  • The series’ traditional simplicity has been disrupted by a generally unwieldy platforming premise.
  • Playing this with newcomers is an utter mess, which nixes a lot of its party potential.
  • Devs skipped some much-needed balancing to smooth out the weirdness of such a large cast of characters.
  • No online modes; has Nintendo not, uh, seen the news lately about in-person gatherings?
  • Lack of unlockable arcade-style games really compounds this game’s less-content-than-usual injury.
  • Certain microgames chug at less than 30 frames per second, and that’s a series first.

The ugly:

  • The final boss hints at how good this game could have been.

Verdict: A certain party-playing crowd will overcome the awkward bits and have a blast. Most won’t. Rent, don’t buy.

Listing image by Nintendo