[19 November 2003]
The way we view time has changed dramatically since the advent of the telephone. Before then one had to send a letter to communicate with anyone who was further than a hop, skip, and a jump away. Said recipient then had to read it and write back, all of which could take quite a while.
Then came Alexander Graham Bell and his telephone. Suddenly one could talk with nearly anyone—instantly. (That’s assuming the person you wanted to speak with had a phone, and all the lines weren’t in use.) Jump ahead quite a few years and we start to see people with these rather clunky grey things pressed against their ears while (gasp!) driving. Then the wire went and the phones became smaller and smaller and smaller until they became no larger than a baby’s foot.
Everyone was/is suddenly connected to everyone else and is only a phone call away. No longer are secretaries telling us, “He’s out of the office right now. Can he call you back?” Instead of leaving a message or voice mail, just hang up and dial his cell phone. Instant contact. No more rapping your fingers on the desk, waiting impatiently for a returned call.
Through this, time ceased to exist. The sun still rises and sets with the moon nipping at its heels and nine to five is the standard work day, but those are remnants of a world long gone. Especially since the birth of the Internet, and with it e-mail and Instant Messaging, waiting patiently for anything has become an art in and of itself. We want everything now, and even that’s too late.
Instant gratification is the new way of things, and Wario Ware, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ has delivered just that. But as much as it owes its success to so-called Internet Time, it owes an even greater debt to its predecessor: Mario Party. Thanks to the lucrative Mario Party franchise (and rip-offs like Crash Bash), minigames have become quite popular amongst gamers. Instead of playing level after level of the same old thing (i.e. shooting, jumping, collecting), minigames offer you 30 to 60 seconds of quick, sometimes quirky fun. Instant fun… or so you thought.
With over 200 microgames, Wario Ware delivers not 30 to 60 seconds of fun, but three seconds. (In the time it took you to read that sentence you could have finished one of the microgames.) The more games you win, the faster they become. And the farther you progress, the weirder they become.
At first the games seem normal enough (catching a stick, jumping rope, hitting and catching a baseball) but then things become… odd (cutting a steak, shaking a dog’s paw, pealing/eating a banana, picking your nose). Through this game, Nintendo honors its roots with truncated versions of Donkey Kong (hopping over a barrel), Duck Hunt (shooting two ducks), The Legend of Zelda (entering a cave), F-Zero (staying in the center of the track) and more.
Some quick math tells us that with 200 games at three seconds appease, Wario Ware‘s lifespan is a scant 600 seconds. (Outside of a strip club, who in their right mind spends $35 for 10 minutes of fun?) But that’s where the deception lies. Wario Ware tricks you into thinking you’re playing for a few seconds here and there, but by the time you’ve figured out what to do in each game, the timing, and which button to press (either A or the D-pad), you’ve already lost.
Despite each game’s simplicity, chances are you won’t beat half of them on the first try, especially the mini-bosses. Once you factor in the cutscenes and between game animations, time starts to whittle way. One could take Wario Ware on a three hour road trip and reach then end of the game with ease, but half the games would remain locked. Making repeat play a must (several times over) if all the games are to be revealed, including full versions of Dr. Wario (which plays no differently than the classic Dr. Mario) and Fly Swatter (all the Mario freaks out there will remember the early minigame from Mario Paint).
One might purchase this game thinking they’re in for some quick fun and they’d be right… and wrong. And maybe that was Wario Ware‘s hidden agenda—to trick us into thinking we were eliminating that thing called time once and for all. By giving us what we want (fast paced, addictive gaming), they’re disconnecting us from the rest of the world and forcing us to slow down so we can remember what time is. What time means. They’re making time mean something again by embracing our lust for instant gratification.