Wario Land: Shake It!ESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Good Feel
Dolby Pro Logic 2
The current home consoles are a breed of machines that see a very little number of 2D platformers released. In fact these titles seem to have been relegated to the handhelds, which isn't a bad thing, but I would like to play more of these on a bigger screen. Well Nintendo seems to be one such publisher that has released a few good 2D platformers for their console, and they have once again stepped up to the plate. Their most recent release is a title called Wario Land: Shake It!. After having some extended playtime with the game I would have to say that most platform fans out there will enjoy what the game has to offer.
I am not the kind of person to value graphics over gameplay as I believe that they go hand in hand. If the game looks good it has nothing to do with the gameplay, but these two attributes can feed off each other making the game and the enjoyment of it that much better. Shake It! has a sheer beauty and liveliness that makes the game’s visuals one of the title's brighter points. It is the first game of the series to use hand drawn graphics and not pixelated sprites too, so that adds a bit of charm to the title.
The levels are stunning as they maintain a great deal of variety, whether they’re lavish jungles, a casino, Asian temples or a Wild West train. All the characters, from the tiniest of goons to the most massive of bosses, are very detailed and colorful with tons of personality. The animation is especially brilliant being filled with all sorts of details that are not only beautiful whose moves are very fluid as well. It is always hilarious to watch Wario catch on fire or run into a wall at high speed, but it is also hard not to feel sorry for some enemies, like the chickens who are rendered featherless by a good shaking. The game's framerate is pretty solid with minimal clipping and very little to no stuttering. You’ll be hard pressed to find any fault or any great consequence here.
There is also an animated introduction and ending in Shake It!. This is done by the talented folks at Production I.G. These are the same people who also worked on Ghost in the Shell and The Prince of Tennis. This was a treat to watch as you can see how their experience and artwork really does add to the beginning and ending of the game.
My only gripe with the visuals is that, despite the game running in 16:9 mode, the game's action is set within the borders of a 4:3 screen with the sides of the TV being occupied by bars with various statistics. It is these bars that fill out the rest of the 16:9 real estate. I think the reason for this is due to the fact that 2D platform games are usually designed in 4:3 but regardless this is a noticeable flaw in the otherwise impeccable presentation.
Shake It! uses in-game Dolby Pro Logic 2, so gamers can hear the great soundtrack and effects. The soundtrack absolutely matches the game perfectly and the tunes are, for the lack of a better word, 'hum-able' (editors note: is that a word?) as the catchy jazzy tracks always exude a light-hearted and fun mood. The sound effects in a game like this should be funny and silly, and the game does such. From Wario’s grunts or his patented screams to the Tom and Jerry like sounds that occur when he’s sliding on his huge belly, the game's audio is almost like watching a cartoon at times. Overall the whole sound package is perfect for what is there.
Shake It! features a regular Nintendo-like story. You play as Wario, who must rescue a kidnapped queen and the magical Bottomless Coin Sack, the latter of which is the primary driver for his interest in this rescue mission. You will make your way through five worlds, each of which feature a handful of levels and a boss fight to end each one. You'll jump, punch, slide, collect money and smash your way through things. It is your typical Nintendo platform game and very much a Wario Land title. Shake It! is more focused on platforming rather than puzzling as the game tends to aim less towards transformations and props and more towards the thrills of jumping and climbing. The premise is a pretty simple and common one and it is nothing that most gamers haven’t seen or done before.
There are a total of five worlds in Shake It! And each spans five levels. When you reach the end of any level you must free a critter called a Merfle and then run back to the beginning before your time limit expires. The feat is a little tougher than you may think, but I’m sure most will find the repetitive task an annoyance. It basically sends you back through the level you’ve already finished which appears kind of silly at first. After you finish all the levels in a world, you’ll have to face a boss to start the next.
Shake It! seems like a run of the mill platformer thus far, and while for all intents and purposes it is it simply excels at what it does. With several hidden paths leading to money or treasure you will find that skill, experimentation, good reflexes, and knowledge of the levels is the key to unlocking these secrets and even more of the games fun factor. Shake It! encourages you to go that extra mile, not only because all the levels have three hidden treasure chests in it, but because they also have different objectives that can be achieved. These are varied and range from finishing the level in record time, collecting a certain amount of coins or defeating a hidden rare enemy. There are even some really odd ones like avoiding water at all costs and so on. After playing the game I found having to go back to the beginning of a level once you reach its' end is not so boring or silly which after all. Some of the hidden paths can be accessed and explored, but watch the clock as should it wind all the way down you will have to start the level all over again.
There is some replay value in Shake It! too. You will find maps to secret levels are hidden throughout some of the stages and you will be able to unlock certain music tracks and the even purchase the all important heart upgrades. In the end you may be able to finish a certain level in record time but Shake It! makes sure you keep coming back for more looking for the extras, thus making the game worth your money.
Controlling Wario is not too bad and I found the learning curve to be pretty straightforward. You control Wario by holding the Wii Remote on its side. Classic moves like his shoulder tackle and the butt stomp make their expected appearance alongside with a few new tricks. By flicking the Wii Remote up or down the greedy sneaky brute punches the ground with all his strength, shaking the entire screen to stun enemies or make certain items bounce. Throwing items is accomplished by tilting the Wii Remote towards the desired direction. This was a tough one for me, especially in heated situations, as I found time and time again that my aim was not so good sending my object off on its own. But with a little practice anyone should be able to overcome this. The game isn’t just about jumping and tackling either as the classic yet original Wario Land stunts are still there; like a car with a boxing glove, a gadget that makes Wario run really fast allowing him to break certain obstacles, or catching on fire to burn down an obstacle. Shake It! may not bring anything particularly revolutionary to the table, but it plays wonderfully. Veteran Wario players will sweat in some places, while yawn in others while newbies to the series should be able to adjust once they get over the learning curve.
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