I don’t envy my editor. He’s the one that finds the screenshots that accompany reviews. Obviously, as you’re reading this, there’s a screenshot up at the top of this review. But right now, as I’m writing it, I have no idea how he could pick a representative screen from a game like Wario Ware Touched!. I guess he could do what he did for his review of Wario Ware, Inc. and use a box shot. I imagine that’s what I’d do. The point is, when a game consists of nearly 200 individual “microgames”, how do you choose one screen to reflect it?
When Wario Ware, Inc. was first released for the Gameboy Advance, it caught me off guard. I think it caught everyone off guard. It both parodied the party game genre and toyed with Nintendo nostalgia, yet it still remained insanely challenging and playable.
Nintendo has a history of trying to change the way people play games. Some examples are the Powerpad, Virtual Boy, GBA connectivity, and the Donkey Konga bongos. By and large, these are gimmicks with no real staying power. But every now and then, Nintendo does something inspired. The Wario Ware formula is one such example. Instead of the game being focused solely on reflexes, it instead relies on your ability to learn the rules of each individual game, and later to recognize which game you’re playing, as quickly as possible. Games which tap into human cognition in this way are few and far between. Further, Wario Ware marries this concept with the increasing speed of various seminal arcade and puzzle games. Personally, I find that it is not possible to relax with Wario Ware. Certainly, it’s quite fun. At the higher levels of speed, though, it is also one of the most frenetic gameplay experiences available.
Wario Ware Touched! is not exactly a sequel to the original. Instead, it’s the franchise’s entry on the Nintendo DS, a system itself thought by many to be a gimmick. As a console predicated on interaction with the stylus, it would be difficult to imagine this game being played predominately with the familiar D-pad and buttons. As such, all of the microgames in this installment rely on the unique ways of interfacing with the DS. This might mean drawing, tapping, or tracing with the stylus. There are even games where you blow into the microphone.
In his review of Wario Ware Touched!, Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot wrote “It’s a good product, overall, but its overreliance [sic] on touching means that many of the microgames have you doing the same sort of activity again and again.” This is a fair statement, but there doesn’t seem to be any viable solution. It’s not possible to both hold the stylus and remain ready to tap any necessary buttons. Certainly every attempt is made at variety within the confines of the Wario Ware formula. But in the case of the DS design, it seems clear that one can use either the stylus or the buttons, but not be prepared to do both.
What is clear, however, is that even though it’s enjoyable, Wario Ware Touched! remains something of a demonstration of the unique properties of the DS. Certainly there are new microgames. But you’ll still be picking noses and revisiting perfect two second recreations of NES classics. Regardless of how fun this is in practice, the reality is that the franchise has already made its first impression, and it’s difficult to be blown away if you’ve played Wario Ware, Inc. before. This is especially noteworthy given the relative graphical power of the DS compared with the GBA. Part of Wario Ware‘s charm comes from playful graphics, but aside from the stylus, this game could have easily been on the older handheld. And a graphical push might have further distanced this game from the original in a dimension completely unrelated to the stylus. As it stands, it almost seems as if the existence of the game is meant to point out that it couldn’t, in fact, have been played in this exact way anywhere else.