WarioWare: Touched!

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the WarioWare series is that it didn't debut on the Nintendo DS but in fact preceded the system by quite a bit. The zany collection of 3–5-second microgames that each game in the series comprises is almost like a giant bag of gimmicks—miniature gamelets that provide entertainment for less than a tenth of a minute and that could never be worked into full-bodied games of any sort. This melds so well with the DS' touch screen—which almost seems to be ahead of its time for the degree of "gimmick" status that it receives—that one can't help but ponder how on Earth both of them weren't conceived at the same time.

Whether they are indeed gimmicks or not, the grab bag of microgames in WarioWare: Touched! and the touch screen on the DS form fit so exactly that the former uses the latter almost exclusively. About 95% of the game relies solely on the touch screen for control (yes, at the exclusion of the control pad and buttons), with a small portion of the game also making limited use of the handheld's microphone. The result is a wonderfully interactive, precisely controlled gaming experience that is new to the world of interactive entertainment.

With the fine point of the stylus in hand, the player is asked to jab, sweep, and swirl around the screen, doing anything and everything from tracing simple Chinese characters to poking goombas and koopa troopas to death. Collections of microgames are categorized by the types of stylus movement required to complete them, and there is even a group of games that sets out to find creative uses for blowing into the microphone—with some impressive results for such an apparently simple control scheme.

True to the WarioWare brand, the microgames this time around are never terribly complex, though skill and speedy motions are often necessary to beat the games. Likewise, the graphical style is primarily light and simple, if not bizarre much of the time. But the graphics, like the brief-but-catchy musical scores, join the style of gameplay perfectly in creating a mood of haste and an atmosphere of craziness. All three elements speed up in unison as the player progresses through a series of microgames, serving as a constant reminder that only quicker reflexes will allow survival in the seconds ahead.

What's truly weird about this mess of extremely short-lived speed tests is how incredibly addictive and fun it is. For those who haven't already discovered this pleasantly surprising aspect of WarioWare games, it isn't too late to get lost in their world of randomness. After 10 or 20 minutes of the madness, most anyone would find himself simply unable to leave the universe of WarioWeed: Transfixed! Indeed, he would be stuck there until the DS' battery runs dry, at which time he is painfully withdrawn from his virtual reality while he desperately searches for the charger—probably unknowingly gripping the stylus for dear life throughout whole the ordeal.

One problem this condition presents is that it naturally leads to the completion of the game in a couple of days or less. Even though the number of microgames might seem staggering at first, their intense brevity reduces them to little more than a short stack of tasty but not entirely (ful)filling pancakes. Touched! attempts to provide replay value by giving each microgame an individual high score to reach, but that can end up being as fun as scraping residual syrup off a plate. It is often enticing at first, but too much of it at once leads to gotta-beat-it-100% anxiety rather than enjoyment, and the unchangeable between-level music that's played every five seconds might give way to bad dreams at night.

After surviving a bout of addiction to WarioWeed, one's thoughts are likely to be focused on two key aspects of the game, one of which won't be its shortness: how unexpectedly fun such a random and untraditional bunch of "gaming" tasks can be, and how great it feels to be directly controlling objects on the screen by touching them. It turns out that the two apparent gimmicks are in fact the best parts, and together they make both the handheld and the game worth owning—if that conniving Wario is worth having around, that is.

Review by Watoad

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