Shake your money maker.
When you think of salvation, it’s not often you think of the anti-Christ. In this case, though, the Wii’s redemption has come in the form of the fatter, hairier anti-Mario. Wario Land: Shake It! is a rare gem on the Wii - a glistening oasis of traditional, old-school gaming fun in a desert of mini-game collections and rehashes of popular Nintendo franchises.
[image1]It's refreshing to play as the bad guy in a Nintendo game. You don’t get any of the sticky sweetness of the giant pink omnivourous marshmellow that you found in previous games. Wario is a selfish, pudgy little jerk with nothing on his mind but gold coins. But in this instance that happens to make him the perfect hero.
In a magical land that exists in a globe, a pirate king has captured a race of effeminate bird-elf people, a princess, and a bottomless bag of gold coins. The bag is the important thing to remember here, because there’s no way Wario would go on this adventure if there wasn’t something to gain for himself. With the help of his red-headed pirate girlfriend (what's with fat dudes and hot redhead chicks anyways), he's off to restore order to this once peaceful land.
Although most of the game is played using the traditional old-school style D-pad and 2-button controls, you will have to do some bashing and tilting to progress through the game. And the best part is that the gestures actually work pretty well, especially compared to just about every other experience I’ve had with the Wii-mote. That is not to say that the motion controls are without flaws, but things go off without a hitch 4 out of 5 times.
The only time it is really an issue is with the aiming of cannons and throwing of baddies. Other than that, the levels where you control a submarine or maneuver a rocket ship by tilting were actually fun. I know, I can’t believe it either, but the blasted game actually had me enjoying the incorporation of tilt controls.
Variation is another wonderful aspect to this game. While it is a platformer with a limited number of actions available to you, the developers have done a great job of making sure no two levels play quite the same. Gimmicks are rarely, if ever, repeated and each level has its own theme. From pirate ships to jungles to icy tundras, no two levels look the same. And it all looks wonderful, like a glorious, playable cartoon. I’ve seen my share of poorly rendered Wii titles and I found it refreshing to play a game that looked so polished on the system.
[image2]Beyond the looks, there is a ton of replay value in each level. Each one has three hidden treasure chests that start off fairly easy to find in the early levels but then have you scratching your head trying to figure out how to reach them later on. Each treasure is unique and odd in its own way but seems to serve no greater purpose beyond giving the completionist another reason to play through a level again.
More enticing are the included sub-missions, challenges that are thrown in on top of your regular goals that add a some spice to the jambalaya. They could be anything, like get 'x' amount of coins or take no damage or kill no enemies (or some combination thereof). They are a great excuse to go back and play through levels you’ve already beaten and can be aggravatingly challenging sometimes.
There’s also a bunch of secret maps hidden throughout the game that unlock even more levels. Finding these ancient scrolls is just about the most difficult part of the game. It gets easier once you’ve played through story mode, but that’s no excuse for not hunting them down along the way.
At the end of each stage, you will face a boss in an epic, no-holds-barred match to the death. Each battle is unique, requires you to destroy the boss in certain way. My particular favorite is the race car fight. It all leads up to a rough final battle with the pirate king who has just the right amount of toughness to be beatable but not feel like your going for a walk in the park.
[image3]If you own a Wii and you enjoyed The New Super Mario Bros. for DS or the classic Super Mario World, then I can guarantee that you will vibe with Wario Land: Shake It!. It has the retro appeal of traditional platform adventure games mixed well (for once) with the unique sensor controls of the Wii. I found it to be innovative in the sense that it used the Wii-mote in a way that worked in tandem with the game instead of the game trying to work around the control scheme.
If I had one major complaint about the game, beyond the sometimes daunting tilt functions of the controls, it would be that that Wario is a man without hats. Plural. He does have the one hat after all, but items or headwear that give you odd abilities is a mainstay of Nintendo Mario-world based franchises and was something I more or less expected. I realize that this may be a superficial complaint as there are times when Wario is lit on fire or turned into a snowball, but it just seems like such a no-brainer.
Beyond my tirade of tradition, though, I seriously found Wario Land: Shake It! to be one of the best experiences I’ve had with a Wii game since Super Mario Galaxy. If you enjoy platform games, then this is a must-have for your collection. I find it rare that I play anything on the Wii that I really get into, and this game happens to be it for me. Now if I could just stop my hands from shaking.