Wario is pretty good, for a bad guy. To look at him you wouldn’t think he’d have a heroic streak at all; he’s got the squiggly moustache of a pantomime villain and a nose that would put any alcoholic to shame. Despite all this he’s secretly a sweetheart: considering that the rotund treasure hunter started life as an antagonist to everybody’s favourite portly plumber he’s saved the day a fair few times. Admittedly Wario’s heroics are often a side effect of his constant money grubbing and thieving ways, but it goes to show that, in this case at least, it’s not the thought that counts.
Recently released as part of the 3DS Ambassador programme, Wario Land 4 is a 2D platformer that sees the greedy so-and-so catching wind of the discovery of a jewel-filled golden pyramid deep in the jungle. With the dollar signs still rolling in his eyes he jumps in the Wariomobile and sets out to swag himself some loot, inadvertently stepping into the role of reluctant hero once again. Upon entering the pyramid, Wario follows a mysterious black cat straight into a trap and takes a tumble to the bottom of the structure. While the moggy scarpers, Wario is left to navigate his way through the stages of the entry passage to reach the main hub area for the game. Once there players can choose to tackle any one of the game's four passages: emerald, topaz, ruby and sapphire in any order you please, adding a level of choice to the game's structure that will be appreciated by repeat players. Completing a passage’s four stages and boss battle brings you one step closer to unlocking the golden pyramid and all the lovely treasure inside, a feat that can be accomplished by skilled players in roughly six hours.
Navigating your way through each stage is slightly different to your traditional platformer, but luckily Wario’s got some smooth moves that set him apart from the other dungaree-wearing hero whose name also ends in ‘ario’. In addition to the standard running and jumping, Wario can also dash attack to break blocks, and start an almost unstoppable charge by holding R while running left or right. The classic butt-stomp makes an appearance too, gaining power if you drop from a serious height; handy if there’s a particularly tough block you need to shift. Wario’s full repertoire will be needed to escape the golden pyramid, because jumping on enemy heads just doesn’t seem to cut it any more — instead a jump on the noggin will only turn most enemies over, allowing you to pick them up and start lobbing them around, used to great effect in both action and puzzle sequences.
Transformations are another element that put a nice spin on the platforming formula. Certain enemies that Wario encounters on his travels won’t damage him, but instead their attacks will produce a whole host of different effects that Wario can use to his advantage. For instance, being stung by a wasp causes Wario’s face to swell up, allowing him to float until he hits a ceiling. Other effects include being set on fire and zombification at the hands of the undead; the former forces you into an arm-flapping run before being engulfed in flames and as a shambling zombie you can pass through floors, albeit very slowly.
Each stage in a passage gives Wario unlimited time to explore the environment collecting treasure and hunting down the level's Keyzer. These ghost-key hybrids are quite literally the key to unlocking the next stage in a passage and once found they will merrily follow you until you complete the level. The act of finishing a stage involves locating and jumping on the frog timer, a blue frog-ish totem with a bomb attached, starting off a countdown before dashing back through the level to the spot where you warped in. These high-tension races against time are only made all the more brilliant by some absolutely fantastic level design.
Each stage in Wario Land 4 is a platform gamer’s heaven: simple enough that you’ll never be at a loss for where to go, but harbouring enough secrets to make exploration a worthwhile joy. Every passage has a loose theme that dictates the type of stages within: the topaz passage is themed around toys and games, featuring a Wario-style take on pinball and puzzles that give new meaning to the phrase "pencil pushing". The true skill in the level design is normally only revealed after the frog switch has been pressed, as previous areas are shut off and new ones opened up your bid for escape will take you on a whistlestop tour of a stage from a completely fresh perspective.
The way that a level switches it up for the return journey makes each sprint all the more exhilarating; a stand out moment is the way the lava-based level freezes over as the plunger goes, a change that allows you to reach previously inaccessible areas by standing on frozen lava flows. In fact many of the game's secrets can only be found during the countdown phase, meaning you have to balance the need to escape with the desire to snag collectibles, creating a high-pressure situation that gets the adrenaline pumping.
Generally speaking the game looks and sounds great. The musical score is wacky but fits each stage well, the escape music heightens the tension and some tracks are even voiced, although you’ll never know what's being said. Cunning adventurers can even find a hidden disc in each level to unlock the music to listen to later in the sound room. Although the graphics don’t push the GBA too hard, they look good and fit the gameplay well; the environments are varied and vibrant, Wario’s transformations are comically animated and the enemy design is distinct and ties in to the overall stage theme. For Ambassadors, the game looks great on the 3DS screen, retaining its detailed and colourful look, its chunky look well suited to the larger screen.
From a design perspective the bosses really stand out, with each one superbly animated and about as off the wall as they come. Taking on a giant cuckoo clock is funny enough, but when a condor busts out of it and starts expressing genuine anger at being dash-attacked – that’s hilarious. Each battle is not only amusing but also represents a genuine challenge: working out the way in which to conquer each boss can be quite taxing, especially in the tight time limit you’re given. There are three treasure chests on offer for beating the boss, but as the timer ticks down some or all of the chests can disappear leaving you severely lacking in loot for your troubles.
A passage's boss battle is only unlocked once you’ve collected the four pieces of the hidden gem in each stage. Scoring all four gems unlocks the door, opening the way to the mini-game room and item shop as well. The mini-game room offers three Wario Ware-style mini-games: Home Run Derby, Wario Hop and Wario Roulette, which can be played for an extortionately high fee. These mini-games make for a short diversion from the main experience, but they are too simple to warrant longer play. Most players will only revisit them to earn more tokens to trade in at the item shop. The wares on offer at the shop are used to damage a boss before a battle begins; purchasing a black dragon to savage your opponent is a funny, if slightly cheap way to make a boss battle easier.
The Game Boy Advance isn’t exactly short on platformers: many of gaming’s greatest jumpers have had titles on the system, and most of Mario’s back catalogue is available on GBA. That's why it's so pleasing Nintendo chose to give Wario the Ambassador spotlight in favour of his comparatively over-exposed competition.
A masterclass in level design and compelling gameplay, the switch from exploration to escape is just one of the game's idiosyncrasies that make it stand out from the platforming pack. If you dig Wario and his money-grubbing ways or you’re just looking to play a solidly entertaining and offbeat platformer, then Wario Land 4 is a real treasure.
One of the few GBA classics I still need to get my hands on.
Good review. I havent played Warioland games before this, but I find this one alright. Very confusing at some parts but pretty good.
@Rensch: Agree. Glad I still have my DSlite.
Utterly mental game. Like game, like star I suppose. The first boss looks horrendous when you've nearly beaten it!
Great review... This game is such a solid yet "offbeat" platformer, due to its many core elements that juxtapose the traditional and the innovative--the exploration and escape gameplay, the linear vs. open-ended progression and a full game coupled with mini-games both of which abound with replay value. Love this game!!!
love this game and shake it for wii, wario really is my favorite character i think with wario land and warioware.
I envy the 3DS ambassadors
I played the first wario land and it was great, but it was a bit too short. I'm glad this came to my 3DS it looks much better!
^But still too short...
Ah, Wario, besides Mario,Link,Fox McCloud and Chibi-Robo, you are my favourite Nintendo character.
I can't decide if this or Shake it are my favorite Wario games.
Both are fantastic!
Wario IS my favourite Nintendo character.
Wario Land 2 is alot longer though especially with all the secret levels. Wario Land 2 needs to be remade.
Just discovered this as part of the Ambassador series and very impressed so far. Love the graphical style and change of pace compared to 'normal' platformers. Really solid game!
I Can't wait till non-ambassadors can buy it and all the other GBA/NES games. Has anybody heard when that might happen?
I own the first and IT ROCKS.
I'm slowly getting into it
I love this game. Partly because it is fun and partly because my little sister hates Wario because he is "a jerk who enjoys farting", if I remember correctly.
@Punchout87: The only thing that we know of as of right now is that Japan just got The Legend of Zelda on the 3DS VC last week so it shouldnt be too long before NA gets it. As far as GBA goes we are not even sure IF they will ever make those available to non ambassadors.
@punchout87 - No new information. Only the NES games have been confirmed for release to the general public. As for GBA, Nintendo stated that they currently don't have plans to release them to the general public at this time.
@James - Japanese general public gets Super Mario Bros. on 5th January (the second NES Ambassador game for 3DS).
Couldn't help but be bothered that every hidden pathway and those Lab-rooms just ended in money/jewels. The game gives them no value, so they feel worthless.
But, more over, I consider Wario Land 3 one of the best of all time, so anything is gonna disappoint.
Even after 10 years, Wario Land 4 still looks amazing with an offbeat soundtrack to boot. The visuals are animated and detailed, from the distinct enemies and bizarre bosses to Wario himself and his transformations. The gameplay is excellent as there’s a nice blend of platforming, puzzles and exploration. Only later in each stage, the game then switches to Metroid-style escaping where Wario races back to the entrance within the time limit. Aside from the main game, I find the minigames fun to play as Wario's Homerun Derby is my favorite. Wario Land 4 is an outstanding GBA platformer and knowing Nintendo re-released it as part of the 3DS Ambassadors program made it sweeter.
Sounds like a great a game!
I've really been enjoying the Warioware Mega Microgame$. It has made me actually like Wario. Now there is also no point in buying Birds and Beans on eShop.
@WesFX I felt the same way. I went into this expecting it to be like Wario Land 3, which has much more content and was disappointed that instead of solving complex platforming challenges and puzzles to get a unique treasure, there were only 4 generic jewels per level, all in plain view. It's still a good game, but a lot less stuff to do than Wario Land 3.
My first GBA game. So many memories I'll treasure of the good times I've had with this game and my new Glacier Gameboy Advance.
Thank you Nintendo for bringing back my two favorite Wario games of all time
This game is a blast, still got my copy and my DS Lite. There is no way I'll wait for ambassador for any GBA games. When I see a good GBA game in a used games store I always buy it.
@20 Exactly what they said about MM3D .
My little bro got this for christmas present. He finished it before new year. I love the art style too, I remember doing a little comic of this back in the day. Sadly, our dog ate the cartridge, so I really welcome this download!
The darn dog also ate Sword of Mana and chewed a gamecube controller chord :/
This one is quite the delight.
The greatest portable platforming series, bar none.
Still working on warioware, can't wait to get to this one too. So glad I bought at launch, I missed so many GBA games and now I have the classics just for being over eager at launch. Awesome Sauce.
Yay, finally another review! really good game
One of the better GBA games and also one of Nintendo's best games overall. 7,8/10
Thank god it's a ambassodor game
Really like it, it can be quite challenging. Will you please also review Kirby and the Amazing mirror???
I'd say this is the game that brought Wario back to mainstream after SML3. And while i'd love to see more games that are as quirky and fabulously unique as Wario Land 2 and 3 i guess they don't sell so well.
I think i never beat this fine game on the GBA so i'm looking forward to do that on my 3DS some day.
Wario Land 4 is alright and at most, I'll give it a 7/10. A good platformer for the GBA, but way too short and I personally didn't like the rush-to-the-exit concept since going through the level was fun but not when backtracking, not to mention the leastest amount of bosses in the series, putting Virtual Boy Wario Land aside.
Wario Land 2 is one game in the series I would call good (and the first I played), but WL4 is the second best, in my opinion. I didn't enjoy WL1 since it felt too slow compared to its later titles and I didn't enjoy WL3 the most due to its endless backtracking and uninteresting music. Now, I may sound like I'm a Wario-hater, but in truth I am not. I do like Wario, but his titles has their ups and downs.
It so weird, I like Wario, but for some reason, I never followed his platforming games after SML:Warioland. I have a few series of games that I've been meaning to play, and one of these days, I'd like to play Warioland 2-4 at least, then maybe others like Master of Disguise and Shake It!.
i do NOT like this game ): . it just doesnt appeal to me. i dont think its fun.
I just can't get into the Wario games. They get great reviews and people love them but they seem like generic "grab the treasure" platformers with no real purpose to me when I play them. I'm not rescuing a princess or saving the world from evil; I'm just grabbing money and treasure and clobbering generic enemies for no particular reason.
While I agree that WarioLand 4 is a great game, WarioLand 3 is the best in the series. At first, I was turned off by the fact that you could actually die in the 4th iteration. It's still great though, but not quite as good as WarioLand 3 and Shake It (Wii).
Awwww.... I remember this game from such a long time ago... Ambassador program, why do you have to resort to poking my nostalgia bone?
I never was a huge fan of this title. It's fun, but certainly the weakest of the series. It's also very short and didn't have the best art-style in my opinion. Especially Wario looked drunk.
By the way: It is here that Wario really started to get strange. After this we got the Warioware games, Wario world and Wario: Master of disguise. In comparison Warioland: The shake dimension was pretty normal!
I prefer this game to Wario Land 2 & 3. Only the original Wario Land comes close IMO. And its not about how long a game takes to complete is, its about how much fun you have doing so and how much fun you have in replaying the game. It may be short and relatively easy to complete all the levels but its still fun to do so.
"I'm not rescuing a princess or saving the world from evil; I'm just grabbing money and treasure and clobbering generic enemies for no particular reason"
Perhaps that's the best part. I tire of heros, personally. Just give me a good cartoonish romp with fun levels and ideas, and don't bother justifying morally why I'm gathering coins or bashing enemies. Mario doesn't do it for the princess either; that's just a ruse. ; )
Besides, when you're playing the levels, what difference whether you're doing it to save a princess or just collecting money? It still plays the same.
wow i've been so busy with mk7, sm3dl, sf643d, and all the other games, that I havent even tried this game out past the tutorial. I didn't even think this game was going to be good. I made a big mistake and i've been valuing the other wario game on the ambassador program.
This is a bit off topic but I do like tales of great heroes and save the princess stuff even though I could care less about the princess most of the time. What gets you into the game is the places you go to. Stopping the dragon from eating the funny gorons, getting revenge for the sacking of Castle Town, those are the types of moments that make a game personal. Even when there isn't really a story, I like games that are pretty. Kirby's Epic Yarn, Yoshi's Island, Mario Galaxy, Etc.
But sometimes you like a game that can just let you play as a stupid, greedy guy for a few minutes and that is where Wario Land comes in. Not that there aren't pretty things in Wario Land. The stages look nice and the music sounds nice but it is rather hard to notice that when you are elbow slamming weird enemies with a fat guy who has a weird nose.
Speaking about saving the princess: Wario really doesn't have to be a hero! For that purpose we have Mario!
One of the refreshing things from the first Warioland was that Wario wasn't a hero!
Well, a few years ago, I bought this used for my GBASP. Unfortunately, I only played through the Easy Mode, and was sucked into my DSi. While this isn't the 3DS Ambassador title I play all the time, I'm glad I can play it just selecting it from a menu.
Really wished I had gotten my 3DS two days earlier before the Price Drop and the Ambassador Program just so I could have gotten my hands on the most nostalgic game (not to mention, the first ever GBA game I ever had) on my 3DS. Sadly, my birthday is on August 14th and not a few days before... But alas, there's some hope for the eShop sometime in the future.
@Rargon should have got an iopen box model, thats what i did, still got the price drop plus 20 dollars off (for the open box) and i still got all the ambassabor games,
pretty good i must say
One of my favorite GBA games of all time!
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