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Platform: Nintendo Wii
Hello, my fellow Wii owners (though everyone else is quite welcome too). Let's face it: we haven't had much occasion to get together this year. After a promising start, the supply of decent exclusive titles for Nintendo's motion-controlled console appears to have dried up. In fact, I can count the number of genuinely great Wii games I've seen this year on one hand (and if I were to lose a finger or two in some grizzly DIY accident, I still wouldn't have any problems in this respect at least). I know we've got some good'uns on the way – Animal Crossing, Wii Music, Sports Resort – but how about a few of the quality first-party titles that Nintendo are famous for? Wouldn't it be nice to get a slice of classic Nintendo action?
I ask, because this is something that the biggest Wii release in months – Wario Land: The Shake Dimension – doesn't quite deliver. I know, it looks like a classic 2D platformer and, sure, it features some intriguing Wii remote features, but this is one of those games where there are a lot of good parts but, somehow, they don't quite click.
Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against Wario and I like the basic style and many aspects of the game design. Wario, his enemies and the scenery are rendered in brilliant cartoon form, with the lead a cheerfully repulsive, rotund character, bits wobbling as he waddles around like an overall-clad Dick Dastardly gone to seed.
The levels don't form one single coherent scrolling entity; instead we get a series of connected areas and chambers to plough through, hopping from platform to platform, shoulder-charging through destructible areas and squeezing his flabby bulk through the narrowest gaps. He can hop on some enemies to stun them, pick up others and throw them, while drop-kicking many to their doom. So far, so generic.
Where things get interesting is in the use of the Wii remote. You actually hold it like an old-school NES controller, using the D-Pad to move Wario and the 1 and 2 buttons to make him jump and charge. However, Wario has a number of special abilities and the way you harness them is by shaking the controller vigorously with one hand. Grab a bag of coins, for instance, and you can shake it until every one flies out. Grab specific monsters and they can actually be shaken into bits. Shake while Wario is standing still and he hammers the floor causing a shock wave that might make nearby enemies fall on their backs or objects topple from their platforms.
There are even sections where Wario dangles from a bar and you shake the controller to make him twirl at high speed around it, giving him the velocity he needs to hit the next high bar or burst through a set of blocks. In short, there's a whole lot of shaking going on.