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Wario Land: Shake It! (Wii) artwork

Wario Land: Shake It! (Wii) review

"You have to take leaps of faith and frequently you must also deal with sloppy controls (since youíll be using devices that enhance your speed in many cases). If you happen to time a jump wrong or if you start along the incorrect route, youíll miss out on some nice rewards. In essence, the game penalizes you for not knowing ahead of time where everything is located."

I went into Wario Land: Shake It! with high expectations. Wario is a cool anti-hero, easy to love precisely because heís such a greedy rascal. Good-Feel, the developer behind the title, is the same team that subsequently handled Kirbyís Epic Yarn, also for Wii. I had every reason to anticipate an enjoyable platforming experience, but thatís not what I actually got.

Wario Land: Shake It! begins on the right foot, at least. Wario is working in his garage when a package shows up at his door. He opens it to find a bronze globe of sorts, along with a note advising him that the real treasure is inside. Before Wario can smash open his new acquisition with a hammer, though, the orb breaks apart to reveal its contents: a magical telescope that can transport him to a mysterious new world. Wario isnít interested, particularly when he hears that there is a kingdom in peril and such (rescuing a bunch of ingrates sounds a lot like work, you know?), but his ears perk up when he finds out why: the landís princess was captured while ruffians searched for--and ultimately obtained--a sack that produces an endless supply of coins when shaken. Wario immediately feels more heroic.

After passing through the telescope, Wario arrives in the strange new world and learns that there are five continents, each boasting a heavily-guarded seal. He must break every seal if he hopes to return home with his treasure, and that means defeating several formidable boss opponents. The problem is that Wario must first buy maps before he can even find the continents, and then he must traipse through a variety of treasure-laden stages. Thatís just fine on the surface of things, since it provides the yellow-capped one with a credible reason to hop, bop and stomp his way through a bunch of levels, but the setup also serves as the first of the gameís numerous problems.

The typical stage in the game will yield somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 coins, if you take the time to search every nook and cranny. Earlier stages tend to produce something close to the bottom of that range, while more challenging stages generate more income. The maps that you need to buy are quite costly, with the fifth one costing a hefty 200,000 coins, plus there are power-ups that you should also purchase along the way to extend your life meter. Unless you play perfectly--which is difficult or perhaps impossible to do on your first trip through each stage--you will wind up playing through the same levels several times just to save up enough cash to unlock each continent.

A number of available challenges and treasures provide additional reasons to return to environments multiple times. Youíll find three treasure chests hidden in any given stage, often rather deviously. There also are hidden map fragments that grant access to especially challenging bonus stages (youíll only find them if youíre especially thorough and stomp around a lot as you clear each level). Finally, there are star missions associated with every environment. These reward you for doing crazy things like not killing any enemies, or avoiding all water, or bouncing on three foes in a row without landing on the ground. The game keeps track of the percentage of levels youíve cleared, treasures youíve found and star missions youíve completed, the better to remind you that you still havenít done everything, but otherwise such distractions arenít really worth worrying about.

In every level except boss stages, your goal is to reach a cage at the end, grab it and shake it until you free its occupant. An alarm sounds at that point and then you have to rush back to the beginning of the stage before a countdown timer expires. Thereís a checkpoint icon near those cages, which seems like a good idea, but I never had any luck actually using the checkpoints. If I failed to make it back to the start of a level in time or if I died, a prompt appeared to ask if I wanted to play a stage over again. If I said ďYes,Ē I was taken back to the start of the stage (as if I had paused the game and selected ďRetryĒ from the menu). Otherwise, I was returned to the world map. Most levels arenít tricky enough that a checkpoint is even necessary, so Iím not sure why they were included when itís not entirely clear how to even use them.

The return trip through a stage grants you access to some corridors that were previously blocked by magical barriers, so itís often possible to rush like a man possessed. A fair portion of the stageís treasure is usually located along that new route, but you almost never know that itís coming. You have to take leaps of faith and frequently you must also deal with sloppy controls (since youíll be using devices that enhance your speed in many cases). If you happen to time a jump wrong or if you start along the incorrect route, youíll miss out on some nice rewards. In essence, the game penalizes you for not knowing ahead of time where everything is located. You can go back through the stage again as soon as you exit, while the location of the special loot that you missed is fresh in your mind, but thatís not exactly entertaining.

As the title suggests, Wario Land: Shake It! also makes you shake the Wii Remote a fair bit. Youíll need to hold it sideways like an NES controller when you play, but a quick shake up and down is necessary when you want Wario to use his powerful ground stomp move (which stuns enemies and moves certain blocks). Youíll also need to shake it up and down to open the numerous bags of loot secreted throughout most stages, and youíll need to tilt it to the sides to aim objects that youíd like to throw (or in a few cases, to direct a submarine and other vehicles). For the most part, all of those actions work as well as youíd hope and donít add much frustration, but extended play sessions can grow tiresome if youíre not used to giving your arms that sort of workout.

Motion controls arenít the only method the developers used to try and keep you engaged, either. They also went the more conventional route and provided beautiful backdrops for many of the stages. Wario is exploring an island paradise, so youíll see beautiful waterfalls in the background, or clouds and lush foliage and such. Funky music also accompanies many stages. It doesnít sound quite like your typical Nintendo fare, but somehow it suits Warioís character and keeps things fairly upbeat.

Unfortunately, Wario Land: Shake It! has too many unusual flaws to remain entertaining for as long as I had expected. While there were some nice surprises and some interesting boss battles, the game is often frustrating even when itís not being difficult. Later stages add some surprisingly demanding segments to the mix, but I still found my attention wandering quite a bit. In the end, I stopped playing ahead of clearing the fifth continent because I wasnít having fun anymore. I simply wasnít up to the task of braving more mediocre stages to rescue a princess in peril because there wasnít any real incentive. Wario has clearly been a bad influence on me.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (March 06, 2012)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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If you enjoyed this Wario Land: Shake It! review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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zippdementia posted March 08, 2012:

From the stories you've told on Gameroni and the stories you tell in your reviews, you have a similar history in gaming as I do, Jason. By the way, that's probably my favorite part of your reviews, that you tend to launch into some kind of history, a chunk of it usually personal, to set the stage for the emotions you brought to the game you are reviewing. That's always fun to read.

And since we have that similar background, I'm almost always with you on your opinion on games. Not always in the RPG genre, which I more or less fell out of in my early 20's and you still enjoy, but always for sure on the subject of Nintendo.

I think I would be similarly annoyed by this new Wario game, especially remembering his early games on the Gameboy, which vied for Mario with best platformers.
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honestgamer posted March 08, 2012:

Thanks for the feedback, Zipp! I don't feel like I did a lot of the writing you reference in this particular review, but I guess it's a case of the similar stuff I've done in older reviews helping you feel confident in the current one. I'm glad you found it helpful. I'm one of the biggest Nintendo fans I know, so I'd like to think that gives me something worthwhile to say when I cover Wii stuff!
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zippdementia posted March 08, 2012:

Yeah, you're right, there wasn't too much history in this review but I was jolted into the past by this line: "Wario is a cool anti-hero, easy to love precisely because heís such a greedy rascal." He hasn't really been an anti-hero in a long time, simply because he's only been featured in nose-picking, farting, mini-games for the wii in the last few years, so I guess I felt a connection there with someone who remembered his REAL anti hero days.

He also had what was probably the only good game on the Virtual Boy. That was a really good game.

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