Game Review – Wario World

Today I’d like to write another game review, this one at the request of a friend: Wario World. I played it on the Nintendo GameCube, the only console you can play it on. Developed in 2003 by Treasure, this game is one that’s flown somewhat under the radar for most people, and it’s not one of Nintendo’s better-recognized games. Even among the other Wario spin-offs, it’s not the most well-known. Should it have more recognition? Let’s charge right in, shall we?

In Wario World, you take the role of the one and only Wario. At last satisfied with all the riches he’s hoarded over the years, Wario has settled down in a magnificent castle to bask in his own greatness. Unfortunately, among his collection is a Cursed Jewel that gains sentience and destroys the land around it, robbing Wario of his wares in the process. Now you must travel to this cursed new world, regain your lost loot, and punch that jewel back to whence it came.

Wario World for the Gamecube | Nintendo game consoles, Nintendo ...
The cover art of Wario World.

Let’s start off with the level design. As short as this game is, it makes good use of the limited space it has and provides a nice variety of levels to play on with multiple secrets to find. It has the standard progression path of unlocking sections as you go, but you still have the freedom to play each stage at your own pace. This gives an element of variety to what would otherwise be a linear experience, and there’s some puzzle-solving to break up the combat. The OST works well for what the game is, and some of the tracks incorporate beat-boxing, which is a unique touch.

The fighting mechanics work, which is important in a beat-em-up game like this. The controls are mostly intuitive, also an important element. Wario’s movements are a bit imprecise, but what he lacks in precision, he makes up for in brute strength. There’s just something so satisfying about slamming your enemies into the ground. Wario’s fairly decent at parkour as well, though the depth perception can be an issue at times, which is especially obvious in the penalty pit and sky puzzle sections.

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Sparkle Land, one of four worlds in the hub.

Speaking of penalties, the consequence for failure is rather soft in this game. When you die, instead of just getting kicked out and having to start again, you have the option to revive yourself… as long as you have enough rupees money. In case it wasn’t obvious before, Wario really loves his money. There’s no shortage of it to go around either, and you can build up more health points if you go treasure hunting. Be careful not to fall off steep cliffs though, or you’ll wind up in the penalty pit, which can bleed your wallet dry if you stay there too long.

The base concept is the most interesting thing about this game for me. Wario may be the protagonist, but he is not a good guy. He clearly isn’t saving the Spritelings out of the kindness of his heart. Wario only acts if there’s something in it for him. As he fights enemies, he’ll sometimes trash-talk them, telling them to “get outta here!” and “have a rotten day!” He also mocks you (the player) in the pause screen. This game is a refreshing change of pace from the ever-present “good guy defeats bad guy” and “plumber saves the princess” tropes.

Wario, fighting the Spideraticus boss.

My biggest issue with this game is the characters. Wario himself is perfectly fine, I have no problems with him. He is, after all, number one. For everyone else, however, it’s a mixed bag. I appreciate the hints the Spritelings give (though they sometimes give too much away), and I love the attention to detail that they’re still stuck in their boxes in the end scene if you still haven’t saved them, but something about their normal design is just a bit unsettling. Some bosses also sit dangerously close to the uncanny valley, most notably the Winter Windster.

On the subject of enemies, a lot of the enemies in each level are just the same 5-6 enemies but with different sprites. I get they can’t make unique enemies for every single level, but a little more variety would’ve gone a long way. As for the bosses? On a positive note, most of them are creative and have unique mechanics that make them fun to play against, my personal favorite being Spideraticus. However, I still have issues with some of them; several suffer from the previously mentioned uncanny valley problem, the Cursed Jewel is somewhat underwhelming as far as final bosses go, and DinoMighty… well… if you have nothing good to say, say nothing.

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The second-best ending, in which Wario basks in his greatness once more.

I was able to finish Wario World without too much difficulty, but I didn’t go for full completion this time. There are 6 endings in this game, and they all depend on the number of Spritelings you were able to save. I was able to find all but 2 of them, which got me the second-best ending. Also, a note of advice, in case you’d like to try Wario World out for yourself: start by saving fewer Spritelings, you’ll get funnier endings that way.

Much like Wario, this game is short. You can probably play through the whole thing in a day or two, maybe three if you’re a completionist. It’s obvious that a lot of creativity went into this game’s design, but it’s a bit rough, like the developers didn’t have the time or budget to make it exactly the way they wanted. It has the bones of a Rank IV, but unlike Wario, the body’s in desperate need of some more fat.

Wear and Tear

2 thoughts on “Game Review – Wario World

  1. I really like the direction Nintendo took with Wario, setting up this whole spinoff series based around his character with different gameplay. Didn’t play this, but Wario Land was fun to play as a kid and I’ve heard great things about WarioWare. Sega could have gone this route with Knuckles, but they screwed up, a real missed opportunity I thought.

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