Review: Wario Land: Shake It! (Wii)

Shake, shake, shake!

Over the past decade, Wario’s platforming adventures have been drastically reduced in order to make way for his journey into the party genre with the much-loved WarioWare franchise. Though many enjoyed these party games, they never came close to achieving the same feeling created by the Wario platform games. When Wario Land: Shake It! was announced, many gamers grew ecstatic at the thought of Wario returning to his home turf. Unlike his last platforming adventure on a console (the Treasure-coded GameCube outing Wario World), Wario Land: Shake It! brings the series back to 2D. Was that change worth the risk?

On display at a museum is an ancient globe, housing another world called Yuretopia. The once peaceful land was invaded by the greedy Shake King. The queen of the Yuretopia, Queen Merelda, is imprisoned and so are her subjects. To top it all off, the Shake King steals their valued treasure: the Bottomless Coin Sack.

In the ‘real’ world, pirate Captain Syrup observes the crisis and sends everyone’s favorite antagonist, Wario, to the ancient globe. Wario ventures to Yuretopia to restore peace but fails to see how he is benefitting from all this and refuses to save Yuretopia. But then he finds out about the Bottomless Coin Sack, changing his mind in a heartbeat.

The world of Yuretopia is split into five continents, each consisting of four standard stages, two hidden stages, and a boss battle. Shake It! doesn’t allow you to just progress from world to world as you please, you have to earn it. After successfully clearing each level and defeating the world’s boss, Wario must purchase an area map to progress to the next level. If you don’t have enough coins to buy it, you will have to return and gather some more.

Judging from Wario’s size, one could easily assume that he isn’t very fast and can’t jump very high. Ironically, Wario actually is a fast runner and he can jump fairly high. In Shake It!, the main goal of each level is to make your way to the end and rescue a pixy-like being and then dash back to the beginning before the timer runs out. You may not always be taking the same route back but you will always find yourself dashing back at high speeds.

The best way to progress through the game is to acquire as much treasure and coins as possible. This is generally done by finding coins scattered throughout the game, shaking sacks to find coins, and by ramming into treasure chests to acquire treasure. Each level has three treasure chests to locate, and for a heads-up, the chests aren’t always the most evident to locate and to reach.

Shake It! is played in a similar fashion to Super Paper Mario: turn the Wii Remote on its side and press 2 to jump and 1 to perform a dash attack. By shaking the Wii Remote, players can execute the Earthshake Punch and shake objects and enemies. While attached to a bar, a quick shake of the Wii Remote will build power so that Wario can jump to higher areas.

The great thing about Shake It! is that there is just enough shake to keep the game feel balanced. Some players may feel that they sometimes have to shake the Wii Remote too often but the majority of the game feels rather balanced.

Controlling Wario isn’t the only thing that the game does a good job of executing. Some of the levels in the game put Wario in the cockpit of a submarine, requiring him to get from point A to point B. Along the way though, there is treasure to be found, coins to be collected, and enemies waiting to be shot down. Controlling the submarine, just like controlling any other vehicle in Shake It!, is simple – tilt the Wii Remote to steer and click 2 to fire torpedoes.

Perhaps the best part about Shake It! is the variety in levels. One minute you are in the depths of the water shooting down enemy submarines and the next you are admiring the sights in a sky palace. Each level has its own unique feel, and accompanying that are unique twists that each level boasts. One level for instance might put a strong emphasis on swinging on bars, whereas another focuses on controlling a particular type of vehicle.

Speaking of the Shake Dimension, Shake It! is one of the best looking games on Nintendo’s Wii, period. Everything in the game is hand-drawn, right down to the backdrops. No polygons are to be found in Shake It!. If you have been a gamer since the NES or SNES was released and still have a strong passion for high-quality 2D gaming, Shake It! will be right up your alley.

That, however, doesn’t mean that the game deserves a perfect score in the graphics department. For those widescreen users, you will be pretty disappointed to hear that Shake It! only supports 4:3. Instead widescreen users will be greeted by a nice border on the outside of the screen.

The game’s upbeat, cheery soundtrack sets the right tone for a Wario platformer. A more orchestral direction might have been even better but the soundtrack is nevertheless amazing. Even Wario’s grunts and the other random sound effects in the game are worthy of a nod.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, Wario Land: Shake It! is the pinnacle of 2D gaming on Wii. The game is so well thought-out and executed that the $49.99 price tag is a steal. If you are an old-school gamer wanting in on some 2D action, Shake It! won’t disappoint. The only downside is the length of the game that to some will be a slap in the face. Four to five hours of gameplay simply isn’t very long. Still, Shake It! brings platforming on the Nintendo Wii to new heights offering an enjoyable mix of motion control and standard gameplay.

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