Nintendo has made its name in the games industry by providing tightly focused and highly polished experiences for over 20 years. Its games are always regarded as some of the best in their respective genres, so what to do when it's conquered all charted territory? Invent new ones, of course.
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ defies any sort of categorisation; the most accurate label that could be applied is a minigame compilation, but even that sells the game short. While most minigame compilations are designed around social experiences for multiple players, WarioWare provides you with non-stop games at a breakneck pace that you can finish in a shorter amount of time than it takes for you to read this sentence.
The “microgames” are broken into several stages and typically grouped by themes like sports, classic Nintendo and nature. They’re almost criminally short – anywhere from three to five seconds – and only give you a one word intruction (like “Pick!” or “Fry!”) before leaving you to figure it out. They’re all very simple, usually requiring just one button or the D-Pad (rarely both) so the challenge comes from the intensity rather than complexity. The microgames themselves are, in a word, weird. During your play sessions you'll be picking noses, chopping bamboo, sniffing up snot, trying not to be stepped on, dodging asteroids and hitting baseballs. Their simplicity makes them fun to play but the oddball ideas framing them will have you laughing out loud more than a few times.
At the end of each stage you’re faced with a Boss Challenge, a longer game that typically fits the theme of the microgames preceding it. They’re all very well done, for sure, but their relative length — a whopping 45 to 60 seconds — is a little jarring when compared to the rest of the package.
After beating the challenge, stages can be re-entered to try to see how many microgames can be completed before running out of lives. While the game lacks multiplayer, competing against yourself for a high score is surprisingly engaging. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself saying “Okay, I’ll try just one more time” over and over again.
A game this far off the beaten track definitely needs a solid presentation to engage players and fortunately Nintendo really knocked it out of the park. The game just oozes style; the graphics are bright, colourful and stylish, giving the story scenes a very attractive look that makes the setting feel very distinct amongst Nintendo’s stable of franchises. The denizens of Diamond Town are as unique as the microgames themselves, featuring such oddball characters as the alien Orbulon, cyborg Dr. Crygor and, of course, Wario himself. The music, while rarely featuring anything longer than a few seconds, is peppy and upbeat and does the game's off-the-walls nature justice.
In a lot of ways, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ is the perfect video game; it’s incredibly fun to play, easy to understand and infinitely replayable. As a portable game, WarioWare Inc. delivers the ultimate time-killing experience as something that’s meant to be enjoyed in short bursts, though you’ll often find yourself playing for much longer than you had thought. The series has gone on to much bigger places since this first instalment, but there’s still nothing quite like your first dance at this insane rodeo.