I write this with quite possibly the worst cold I've had this year. I groan when I talk, my nose is stuffed, I'm wearing a neck warmer indoors. It's October, sure. Winter is fast approaching. The days are growing darker, life is gloomier, and I'm feeling it - and it's not fun.
What I need is a game to surprise me, and get me so engrossed in what it has to offer that I forget about the real world for a little while. I need a damn good time to cheer me up before I head in for an early night, and roast on the electric blanket.
Can Nintendo's grumpiest of characters, Wario, offer that to me in his first outing, Wario World? Can a platformer beat 'em up grab my attention and turn my day around? I sure hope so...
Text dumps will always concern me when they're chosen to open a video game, but this one is thankfully short enough to not overstay its welcome.
It tells the tale of evil spirits that were locked away in gemstones that would eventually be stolen by Wario and locked away with all his other riches. Greed isn't a virtue, however, and it has come back to bite Wario, as one of his gems comes to life, destroys his castle and unceremoniously dumps him into the hub world of Wario World.
This game will see you control Wario on his quest to restore order, and probably do something about the evil spirit that caused all this trouble - I mean, that'd be sensible. I don't know much about the backstory of Wario. He's an evil version of Mario, that much is obvious, but I don't know where he comes from.
What I do know is that he has a hub world to explore, and themed levels to traverse.
For a short fat man, Wario controls really well. He's nippy and can jump and climb and, as we're taught by the Spritelings, he packs quite the punch.
The B button unleashes a torrent of violence in the direction of your nearest foe, as Wario brutally punches and kicks whatever is in sight. It's cartoony violence, sure, but these goofy looking dinosaurs are not going to be having a fun time unless they can get their act together.
Most explode into coins after a few hits, but some require a little more convincing. Those that are knocked out can be picked up and thrown around, either at other enemies or out of the stage entirely, usually finishing them off for good.
Needless to say, I am very much liking what is going on right now.
As our To-Do list pointed out, we have several objectives for this level and, thankfully, we can go for as many of them as we want and/or can find without the need to be kicked out of the level when we get something valuable.
Here, I pick up one of eight pieces of treasure hidden in chests that are only revealed when their coloured button is pushed. I don't know what the relevance to the Game Boy Advance is, but as I'm currently emulating Wario World, I'm not terribly fussed right now. I do have the disc, though, so might investigate further some time.
For now, though, we're going to learn yet more about how this game operates.
Wario doesn't do pipes, but he does do trap doors, and they all lead to a little mini-challenge that rewards you with crystals, a set number of which are required to open the door to the boss fight at the end of the level.
Most are straightforward, but they impress on account of them being used as a sort of testbed for interesting mechanics.
In one, shadows give clues that floating platforms are somewhere overhead, but you won't get the best of views unless you move the camera with the C-stick - something you don't need to do on the world above because it's pretty much locked to that 2.5D perspective.
Down here though, the camera is your friend as you puzzle your way across jumps, or smash the right number of blocks to climb up and around to your reward.
As the level went on, bigger, stronger enemies spawned in, and they will gladly respawn as soon as you give them enough room to do so. I believe the game keeps track of how many punches you've thrown, presumably for a reward later on, so why not go nuts and start massive brawls?
I was already liking Wario World. It was simple and straightforward and satisfying to do almost everything. Movement is swift and navigating groups of enemies is a breeze, even if your only option to dodge is to jump out of the way as best you can.
But what sold it for me is another one of the trap door tests...
As soon as I saw Wario grab hold of that ball, scooting into position on it, I knew Wario World was the entertainment I was looking for. The test, incidentally, is to fit through a gap without touching a spikey ball. In any other game, that'd be a jumping puzzle, testing players' positioning or timing or something.
Here, you wiggle on a floating ball, clinging to whichever side of it makes sense, physics be damned. I'm in awe.
The final boss was unlocked and was sadly nothing special. A more significant threat than the enemies on the level itself, sure, but another 'hit him until he's down and throw him off stage three times' kind of encounter.
Upon clearing the stage, I opened up another one back in the hub world. I wasn't expecting much from Wario World - heck, I didn't know anything about it - but I didn't expect that I'd then turn right back around and try to check more things off my To-Do list.
Does that not look fun or what? Yeah, sure, I'm not the greatest of platform navigators, and the fighting is very button mashy, but it is so rewarding to me that I can't help but smile. That level is now complete, and I'm ready for the next.
Wario World was an unknown entity to me, but I am so glad that is no longer the case. You can bet your bottom dollar I saved and intend to go back to it, perhaps even on the GameCube itself. Actually, no, scrap that. I still need a memory card...
Though, I read that one of the criticisms of the game is that it is on the shorter side. Maybe I could just churn through it? I expect it to get more complicated and challenging, but hey, if half an hour of playing has done this much for me, another few hours shouldn't be ignored.
Hidden gems are always great to finally discover, and while I was quite late in finding out about Wario World, it's great that I have it in my collection. I don't think it'll amaze everyone for its technical prowess, or floor me with its plot developments, but it kept me entertained and engaged, and I want to play more.
Forget about that blue and red guy with his squirt gun - this chubby little brute needs to be the main event.
The end of the game (yeah, sadly Wikipedia spoiled it for me) will see Wario in surroundings that change according to how many Spritelings he saves throughout the game. Save only a few, and he'll have to be content with a campfire. Save them all, and he'll have better digs than what he started with. Good job, Wario.
Wario World, developed by Treasure, first released in 2003.
Version played: GameCube, 2003, via emulation.