Platform games very rarely require anything in the way of in-depth storylines to get things underway, instead relying on an enjoyable gameplay mechanic to keep gamers hooked. In this respect Wario Land certainly does not buck the trend, with its wafer-thin plot that has the rotund protagonist traipsing after the Shake King in the hope of gaining untold treasures as a reward, inadvertently saving a whole world in the process…The gimmick for this latest Wii Remote motion-led product is that in the ‘Shake Dimension’ Wario can pound the ground, as well as jiggle enemies and items around with a simple waggle of the controller. Tilting also comes into play when aiming objects before launching them around the screen, similar to the egg-shooting ability in the Yoshi’s Island series, either to hit switches or merely despatch enemies in an alternative way to pounding into them from above using Wario’s butt-stomp.
One of the main attractions of Wario Land for Wii is its gorgeous graphics. As soon as the game commences, players are treated to a fantastic animated introduction sequence, courtesy of Production IG, the group that works closely with the likes of Bandai Namco on video clips for several ‘Tales of’ RPGs. Sadly the lack of voice-overs and plethora of subtitles tarnish the experience to a certain degree, but it still looks spectacular. And thankfully the allure of the game’s visuals is not limited to the initial scene, as when jumping into the main adventure players are thrown into what appears to be an interactive cartoon show, with highly detailed 2D characters and locations, complete with vibrant colours throughout. The production levels are certainly of the highest calibre on the aesthetic side, which is why the almost instantly forgettable soundtrack comes as quite a shock. Gone are the catchy tunes of Wario Land 4 and in come a whole host of cheesy, extremely out-of-place ditties that are totally lacklustre and can seriously detract from the overall enjoyment factor in places.
Once the volume has been turned down it is time to get back to business, and jumping into the thick of the action Wario is controlled by holding the Wii Remote on its side, as with the old 8-bit NES pad, the 1 and 2 buttons are used for jumping and dashing, whilst the directional pad takes control of Wario’s movement. The game is split into five separate worlds, each with five levels contained within, plus a bunch of hidden stages complete with extremely heightened difficulty to throw a bone to traditional gamers that believe the main jaunt is too much of a walk in the park. Each level has Wario trundling his way through the sumptuous, highly-detailed, hand-drawn locales, pounding the ground when certain objects block his way (launching them into the air to continue past), grabbing enemies and bags of money (shaking them like crazy to collect as many coins as possible), and then finally reaching the end point where a Merfle from the Shake Dimension has been captured by the Shake King.
At this point the game turns on its head somewhat, removing the sedate pace and replacing it with a hectic bout of nerve-twitching platforming. A large timer appears on-screen and gamers are tasked with having to charge back through the level to reach the start point once more before the Shake King annihilates Wario. In Wario Land 4, when the timer reached zero, Wario would start losing a considerable amount of the treasure he had accrued over the course of the stage, yet in The Shake Dimension it is a simple case of ‘if the entrance is not reached in the allotted time, gamers must start the stage over again’. To spice matters up even more, rather than simply taking the exact same route back to whence you came, Wario can be guided through previously inaccessible sections, uncovering hidden treasure and being able to complete objectives set out at the start of each stage (such as Defeat the Golden Enemy, Reach the Goal in a Set Time or even Do Not Fall in the Water…there is plenty of variety to stretch even the toughest of gamers).
This is where what appears to be a very short game opens up to reveal itself as a much longer one for those that take the time to weasel out every last hidden element and complete all of the set objectives to reach the 100% completion mark. The only problem is, no matter how pretty the game looks or how many extra achievements are packed in, something is definitely missing on the whole; a little je ne sais quoi that prevents Good Feel’s The Shake Dimension from reaching the dizzy heights of quality reached by the previously internally-developed Wario Land games.
The majority of the elements from past adventures have been included, such as harming Wario for his own benefit in order to solve puzzles (setting fire to him and directing his burning carcass towards fire blocks to barge through them being just one example), unearthing zany collectible treasure items, and even facing off against weird and wacky bosses at the end of each world. Good Feel has tried to go the extra mile as well, mixing the aiming technique from Yoshi’s Island into Wario’s exploits in the lavish Shake Dimension, complete with a motion-based twist (tilt the Wii Remote left or right to aim in either direction before letting rip), as well as the use of ‘vehicles’ like the Unibucket (a large Unicycle with a bucket on top for Wario to sit in, which is guided by tilting left and right with the controller) or the Subwarine (again guiding the submarine up or down by tilting appropriately), and even gymnastics (grab a metal bar and keeping shaking the controller up and down the spin Wario around enough before letting fly) to help make this a better end product. Yet that little spark, the touch of magic that Nintendo-developed games normally have, is sadly absent. That is not to say the game does not have its fun moments, because Wario Land: The Shake Dimension is definitely an enjoyable platform romp for the most part, and will give most gamers good value for money. Just keep your expectations a little lower than some others would say and disappointment will not come crashing down upon your head…