Wario Land: The Shake Dimension Review
After making his debut as the main villain in Mario Land 2 on the Game Boy, Wario became a firm favourite among Nintendo fans, so much so he was given his own series of platforming adventures. These followed the rotund coin-grabber as he tried to get his hands on a multitude of treasures and provided some great alternative platform action for those gamers with an itch to play as Mario’s nemesis. His Warioland series ran for four editions from the Game Boy to the Virtual Boy and GBA but hasn’t seen a new Warioland outing since he broke into micro game heaven in the highly acclaimed Wario Ware games, and last years Wario: Master Of Disguise. He’s also never had the chance to bring his unique platforming antics onto the home consoles (not counting Treasure’s Gamecube oddity, Wario World).
But now Nintendo have given him another chance to go treasure hunting in Warioland: the Shake Dimension on Wii. Once again Wario is after gold and this time the object of his desire is a mysterious bottomless coin sack, stolen alongside the Queen of the shake dimension by the nefarious Shake King. Assisted by Captain Syrup (making a long overdue return from the first Warioland) Wario has to enter the titular dimension, rescue the Queen and defeat the Shake King. Each stage has one of the Queen’s pixie-like creatures (known as Merfles) locked in a cage somewhere, which must be rescued in order to unlock each world’s boss stage. Once you’ve found them the gameplay switches and you have to race back to the start of the level (often taking a completely different path), only this time you’re against the clock.
Along the way you get to use the wii remote (held sideways, NES-style) and it’s motion sensors to help you make your way through the 20+ stages. Aside from throttling anything and everything in your path (by shaking the remote), the remote can be used to direct thrown enemies or cannons (by tilt it) or perform a ground pound move (slamming the controller downwards). Wario has also retained some of his traditional moves like his signature shoulder barge and the ability to be set alight or frozen without taking damage. The motion controls add an extra element to the gameplay but they are not the biggest reason to check out this title.
The first thing that will probably catch your eye is the game’s graphics, which are simply stunning. Each level and frame of animation has been painstakingly hand-drawn by developer Good-Feel and the result is one of the best looking 2D titles ever made. Screenshots hardly do any justice to the level of detail in the stages and the fluidity of Wario and his enemy’s movements. The variety of the levels is impressive even if they do adhere to the usual themes (there’s caves, deserts and the obligatory snow levels). There are even a few cut-scenes provided by Production IG. It’s a real shame then that the main platform elements aren’t quite up to the same standard as the art design.
While each stage has been designed to accommodate both the exploration and the mad dash back to the start, they never offer much of a challenge. This is compounded by enemies that pose very little threat to Wario and seem content to simply meander aimlessly through levels, leaving environmental dangers like spikes and lava to deal the damage. In fact the only time you’re likely to lose a life is during the admittedly excellent boss battles. Instead, the main challenge lies in finding all the treasures (there’s three on each level) or completing ‘missions’ (achievements like completing a stage in a certain time or without taking damage etc.) which do at least give the title some decent replayability past the four hours it will take to see the ending.
Overall, Shake Dimension is a good addition to the series, but you do leave feeling it could have had a bit more to it; more levels and more challenging platform elements would have made this a must have rather than a ‘maybe’ purchase. Ignoring the Wii ware title Lost Winds, and the plethora of golden oldies available on the virtual console, this is the best 2D platform game available on the Wii. And if it’s successful enough (and sales certainly haven’t been disastrous so far) it may hopefully pave the way for similar franchises to receive brand new 2D adventures (Yoshi and Donkey Kong, we’re looking at you).