Shoddy wares

Wario showcases the best and worst of the Wii
By MITCH KRPATA  |  February 13, 2007
2.5 2.5 Stars

MICRO GAMES: Smooth Moves goes farther than any game thus far to demonstrate the potential of the Wii remote.

Between the rapid-fire fingernail clipping, hair plucking, and nose picking, it seems like just another Friday night at my apartment. But for once I’m getting credit for my expertise in these areas. I’m playing WarioWare: Smooth Moves, a game that considers no act too mundane. Under strict time limits, WarioWare also dares you accomplish such feats as drinking a glass of water without spilling a drop. Nintendo swore it was going to redefine the very concept of the video game with the Wii, but until now that seemed like a bluff.

Smooth Moves isn’t the first WarioWare — similar games have appeared on the GameCube, Game Boy, and DS — but on the Wii the absurdity reaches new heights. Nintendo describes the release as a series of micro-games: individual tasks that take five seconds or less to complete. Each game starts with a simple command on the screen, like “Shoot!” or “Stack!” Half the challenge is figuring out the goal in time to perform the appropriate action. The other half is figuring how best to use the Wii remote to do so.

Give Smooth Moves this: it goes farther to demonstrate the potential of the Wii remote than any Wii game thus far. The remote is even incorporated into the paper-thin story line. Wario finds a supernatural device called the Form Baton that bears a suspicious resemblance to the remote itself. Prior to each micro-game, you’re directed to use one of several different forms. The basic form is the Remote Control, which requires you merely to point the remote at the screen. Later on you’re treated to more creative forms like the Discard, which requires you to set the remote down prior to the micro-game, and the Samurai, in which you start with the remote by your waist before drawing it like a sword. A cynical gamer will apprehend the similarities. For the Mohawk pose, you hold the remote atop your head; for the Elephant, you hold it in front of your face. Neither of these is fundamentally different from the Remote Control. The degree to which you’re willing to succumb to the whimsical spirit of the game goes a long way toward determining how much you’ll enjoy it.

Although Smooth Moves proves irresistible in short bursts, it’s a bit dismaying to realize that the notable Wii games so far have all been mini-game collections. (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is excepted because it was a port of a GameCube game.) Just like Wii Sports and Rayman: Raving Rabbids, WarioWare still seems more like a promise of what’s to come. No doubt it shows what can be done with the Wii remote, but it doesn’t seem concerned with what should be done. There’s still no sign of a revolutionary game world on the Wii, one that will probe the boundaries of gameplay in a more metaphorical way.

Then again, maybe this is what Nintendo had in mind all along when it pledged to reach out to non-gamers. Career gamers may even be at a disadvantage — at the start of most micro-games, I found myself trying to figure out what to input into the controller instead of just moving the remote. The difference is so fundamental, it feels as if I were trying to write with my left hand. I’m still waiting for the game that ties this kind of control scheme into an immersive, compelling game world. Given the brevity and superficiality of WarioWare, it’s too soon to tell whether the Wii is truly novel or merely a novelty.

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