It is amazing how well Nintendo's anti-Mario, Wario, has taken off. The guy has had several games now and he even gets his own original Game Boy Advance title before Mario does. (C'mon Miyamoto-san, how about SUPER MARIO WORLD 3 for GBA? Please?) The yellow fat man now makes his next Game Boy appearance in WARIOLAND 4.
WARIOLAND has always been known for its indestructible, problem solving, greedy and cunning protagonist, Wario. The biggest change to the formula in WARIOLAND 4 is that Wario is no longer invincible. In the older games in the series, Wario had to rely on his problem solving skills in order to make it through. The running and jumping known to platform titles was almost an afterthought. And now that Wario has joined to mortal world with a life bar of his own, the idea has been pushed to the forefront, and the result is good.
Gameplay is pretty simple: you go into the levels looking for pieces of a key. Eventually you'll find everything you need and will have to activate the exit portal. Here's where it gets interesting though: the portal triggers a timer and Wario has to hightail it out of there or face the consequences. Once you get going, you'll find previously blocked off passageways are now open so that you have a fighting chance to make it out. If the timer reaches zero, Wario will begin to lose his collected items until he's out and at that point he dies. It adds an awesome scramble element to the end of every level and with the intense music it's one of the most suspenseful parts of the game.
Overall, the platformer elements work extremely well. All of Wario's moves are easily mastered and the controls are great. I really liked the opening level where hieroglyphics showed how to perform all of the moves. It was a great way of introducing Wario's controls while still holding a theme that was true to the game.
The graphical style is the main element in the game's zany styles. Everything from the design of the bosses to the absolutely incredible levels screams personality. Color is well used and it brings together a super-bright world. The animation only adds to the feel created by the game. There are all sorts of cool little effects tossed in. My only gripe is that it didn't really push the Game Boy Advance's capabilities.
Another extremely well done aspect of the game is the music. There are many different types of music used throughout the game. There are also hidden CDs that let you listen to the background music. And amazingly, there are vocals (Japanese) in some of the songs!
WARIOLAND 4 is a great platformer by all rights. While it doesn't exactly redefine the genre, it's a lot of fun and is a worthy addition to your GBA library. If you have liked any of the Wario games in the past, this is a must-own.
Platform: Game Boy Advance
ESBR Rating: Everyone
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Fun Factor: A-
Reviewer's Wild Card: A-