As ye sow, so shall ye reap.
Leave it to Nintendo to make my job a little more interesting—and ‘interesting‘ (ahem)—and twice in the same week at that. First they roll out their newest piece of hardware, about which there are a number of good things to say in a review—except that nobody, including Nintendo, seems to understand clearly and precisely who it’s for. Then they greenlight and publish the newest installment of a vastly popular microgame-based franchise—an installment that, due to its essential toolbox nature, might as well turn the ‘score’ at the bottom of this review into a random-number generator. This one, as the saying goes (and game-name implies), is all on you.
[image1]Seventh in the WarioWare series, WarioWare D.I.Y. is probably better described as a ‘software suite’ than an actual game, although the goal is in fact to create your own games—your own very, very tiny, blink-of-an-eye games. If you have somehow missed out on the whole WarioWare thing up to this point, just think “constant barrage of quirky, hyperactive mini-games that pop up in your face and are over almost before you consciously register what you’re supposed to do”, and you’ll be up to speed.
D.I.Y. is a sort of Pixie Stix, sugar-rush crash-course on the fundamentals of game design. It takes the hands-on approach of the SNES title Mario Paint (also from Intelligent Systems, in fact) and expands the experience to offer functioning game-creation software that touches on many aspects of game design (sound effects and music, character behavior and event scripting, primitive animation and so forth). Your mission: To design, with a little tutorial hand-holding, a whole series of frantic microgames very like those showcased in previous WarioWare titles
Players are of course welcome to jump right in and start playing some of the pre-made, instantly-available microgames. But there aren’t all that many to begin with—the entire card offers just under a hundred—and that misses the point of WarioWare D.I.Y. After a half-hour to an hour of mandatory (and rightfully so) instruction in the ways of the game-creation software, you’ll have the basic skills to start cobbling together your own microgames (and/or comic strips—perhaps to document your personal adventures in game design).
Through D.I.Y.‘s combination of a newbie-friendly-as-possible interface and some gentle introduction to the concepts involved, players will soon get their hands, or at least their styluses, dirty in the business of making original games: They’ll be able to lay out and paint background art, draw and animate original game-character sprites, and even knock out their own brief musical tunes.
[image2]Since there is a robust Mario Paint heritage here, you’ll find useful tools even if you essentially suck at drawing or drafting a convincing, symmetrical sprite of, say, a rocket ship; it suddenly becomes much easier if you only have to sketch one side of its profile… and can let the auto-mirror function handle the rest. Ditto for the image of the fiery, flaming exhaust pluming from your rocket’s thruster. Sequence up a minimal four-step back-and-forth displacement, and you’ve got yourself a genuine animation cycle. (How you go on to incorporate this artistic achievement into a five-second microgame in which the object is to cram said flaming rocket up God’s celestial nose is another matter).
This is all very well-presented, flexible, and so far as it goes, surprisingly deep. In this one little package, you’ll find the tools to:
1) Draw a cute, unlikely-colored bug with the wrong number of legs;
2) Use said drawing of bug as a trace-template for another frame (so as to draw a ‘new’ bug in such a fashion that the original appears to be working those little legs for all it’s worth);
3) Define the area of the screen from whence descending objects such as large human feet will originate;
4) Assign behavior characteristics to said feet, such as doing their best to stamp on the aforementioned bug and/or approaching along a certain path; plan out to the second at what time-index the feet will descend (but the whole freakin’ game you’re making is maybe 5 seconds long, so don’t dawdle);
5) Work up new ‘damaged’ sprites for when the bug gets turned into a goo-stain with crunchy, leggy bits; and,
6) Even score up the sound-effects and music for the brief, tragic affair.
Also, the color-indexed, Start-to-Penis-Car Alert Condition for these game-creation tools has recently been upgraded to ‘pink’.
Now by all means, have your would-be game-designer eyes fill up with ambitious Mario-world Stars… but there are a few things to keep in mind. The emphasis here is just as much on “WarioWare” as it is on “D.I.Y.”, and you’re not going to be knocking up the next Advance Wars or Zelda: A Link to the Past.
[image3]Not only are you severely restricted in what you’re able to ‘code up’—for example, you cannot create responses to ‘slashing’ or item-dragging with the stylus, only to basic screen-tapping—but there is also a surprising amount of DSi functionality integration… by which I mean the ‘almost total lack of any. If you want to make a microgame where your players can, say, blow on the mic to create updraft, or use their inner-hinge DSi camera to put their faces (or any other camera-captured image) literally into the game, you’re all gonna have to wait for at least one more rev. At least you can import character sprites and audio from the existing 90-something games.
So would-be designers are definitely meant to stick to the instant-gratification palette, sure… but, per that old chestnut, that’s the challenge of design. Just finding ways to get around the necessary limitations requires an automatic step in the direction of original thinking. And one thing else is for sure: If you at all get into D.I.Y.‘s deep hands-on toolbox, you’ll find a long-lasting source of replay—or pehaps that should be ‘recreate’—value here. Naturally, D.I.Y.ers are able to share their creations and check out what other players/budding designers out there have managed to cook up. As with LittleBigPlanet or any other attempt at an online creative nexus, you can expect a high chaff-to-wheat ratio, of course… but if your franken-game can stand out as one of those notable grains of wheat, so much the better.
Finally, for those who happen to be Wii owners: The Wii Shop Channel’s WarioWare D.I.Y. Showcase (sold separately!) allows users to play large-screen versions of their finished microgames, utilizing the Wiimote. Nifty.
Come into WarioWare D.I.Y. with the expectation of simply diving into a vast pool of ready to play microgames, and you’ll be all wet. Understand that what you get out of this packed little toolbox is entirely dependent upon what you put into it, and you’re starting to think like a game designer. Your first D.I.Y. task is to grasp that the ‘grade’ below is malleable by the very nature of this title, and should be taken with a pinch of zeroes and ones; if you can turn WarioWare D.I.Y. into an A+ title, Game Revolution raises its pirate-stein to you and wishes you joy.
We’ll be grading your games next, matey.