Review by Couch Tomato

"There ain't no damsel ins distress here folks"

Was I lucky when I stumbled upon Wario Land at my local game store? Wario World wasn't a fun game, and I didn't want just a Mario rip-off, so I cautiously approached it. As soon as I plugged it into my shiny new GBA, something told me this was neither beat-em-up a la Wario World or simple platforming a la Mario, in fact it's a lot different than both of them.

Storyline 8/10
One day Wario was doing absolutely nothing and remembers hearing that Captain Syrup and her Brown Sugar Pirates have stolen a statue of Princess Toadstool, which is apparently pure gold. Thinking he can beat up Captain Syrup and taking the statue before Mario does, he sets off on an adventure, not caring how hard Captain Syrup is, only thinking about the massive castle he could build with the riches!

Graphics and Sound 9/10
I'm terrible at describing this, so bear with me. Point is, they're pretty damn good.

For a fairly early GB game, these graphics are spectacular. Wario looks very well animated with his sneaky grin and just him overall. The background don't have huge amounts of detail in them, but enough so that a lot of levels fit the theme and you don't feel like you're going through the same place over and over. I especially like how smooth and clear everything is, especially for an 8-bit system.

As for the music, it fits each theme well—like if you're in a cavern, the music will have a depressing beat to it, while in parts where the game is just a simple brawler, the music has a lazy theme to it.

Controls 10/10
Could these be any better? Wario jumps with the A button, and can jump at least double as high if you hold the d-pad up while jumping. He charges with the B button, destroying blocks and stunning most enemies. By holding up and B, you can hand hold a 10-coin piece in your hand useful for throwing around or paying the halfway toll for the checkpoint. Pressing up can get you through some doors too. If enemies are stunned, you pick them up by standing next to them. Press B to throw them around, preferably to a wall so they're dead. :D

Gameplay 10/10
The main point of each of the 40 levels is to get to point A to point B in a rather long time limit, avoiding enemies, running, jumping, swimming, climbing ladders, you know the drill; however, there are many, many things to do along the way to keep you busy. The main point of the entire game, however, is to get as much treasure as possible, which, along with the controls, easily sets it apart from Mario and make a regular side-scrolling game into an adventure. That's right; there's no score counter here, just a bank deposit, which is added up at the end of each level.

There are 40 courses in all. The worlds include Rice Beach, Mt. Teapot, Stove Canyon, SS Teacup, Parsley Woods, and the captains lair itself, of course each with it's own boss with a mind-bending puzzle.. If you're willing to go through the trouble and find it, you can actually discover a whole secret world! There are plenty of levels, such as ones where lava chases you, train levels, mine cart levels, cave-type levels, water type levels, and even some ice levels. There is a mid-level checkpoints that you need to pay 10 coins for, but you don't have to, if you want to risk your life and hang on to those 10 lovable coins.

The enemies and blocks are the main source of coins and hearts (100 hearts net you an extra life). You can charge or hit your head under the blocks. These can have a coin, a 10-heart icon, or a hat (explained later). The game's enemies are its strong point, as they come in tons and tons of them, as opposed to ol' Mario's simple Koopa and Goomba. They all have a certain weak point. Jumping on or charging the weak ones will kill them and that gives you a coin. The slightly harder ones will be merely stunned. You can either charge them to kill them for a coin, or pick them up and throw them at walls or other enemies, killing them, which rewards you with hearts. Getting hurt by the enemies turns you into small Wario--in which he can't charge and dies in one hit--regardless of which hat you have.

Hats, by the way, are your main form of power-ups. If you're small Wario, garlic found in blocks will turn you into normal Wario. The 3 different hats are the Bull Helmet, the Jet Helmet, and the Dragon Helmet. The bull one allows your charge to be longer and stronger, and you get a ground pound, stunning all enemies in range; the jet helmet allows you to fly for a few seconds, and makes you run considerably faster; and the dragon hat can destroy all blocks with ease (most useful underwater) and kill the enemies with one shot of the dragon hat's fire breath. Along with making your life easier, they can help solve some puzzles which can lead to a huge amount of coins in secret rooms, as well as help you find secret levels (explained later).

At the end of each level there are two very tempting mini-games; one shows you two buckets. You pick the right bucket, the amount of coins you found in the levels is doubled; pick the wrong bucket, and a ten ton weight will drop on you, taking half your coins away. You can play up to 3 times in one turn, and the grin Wario has on his face when you start the game is so convincing that you'd play the mini-game, and yet if you lose on one of your tries, the sad look on his face is so sad it makes you almost think that he really is unhappy about losing his money and not so that you're emotions would be swayed to play a few more times. Almost. The other is one where you play for lives; you're given five bombs to throw at enemy across the river with good timing, and depending on how much you paid for the course and how good your aim was, you'll get a lot of 1-Ups—you'll need these, because if you get a game over you couldlose a treasure or half your coins!.

Viola! But don't think that's it; there are still a huge load of secrets to find in this game, most notably treasure and secret levels. In some levels there may be alternate exits that you need to search out and find (marked on the world map with a dot), sometimes by skill, others by luck, some by hats, and occasionally using altered levels as an advantage. You see, with some courses you complete, something might happen to it. For example, when you complete Rice Beach, it floods This could help, as the raised water level could help you get to platforms you never dreamed of reaching—this only being one demonstration. The secret levels are often fun, and some hide the occasional treasure. Don't forget there's an entire whole world to be discovered, so look hard!

Treasure can be found in some levels, hidden or not hidden, totaling 15, which will eventually lead to something good at the end. You can't tell at first, but once you beat the game the levels with treasures you didn't collect will be flashing on the map (though you probably collected most or all of them on your first playthrough). If you find a key in a level, there's a skull door somewhere in the level where the key can fit. If you're new to Nintendo, let me introduce you to something I like to call the trademark Nintendo Secret. Things such as fake walls, blocks that appear in mid-air for no reason, and other very suspicious structures may hide the keyhole. For instance, on this one level, I couldn't find the keyhole. Then I noticed in one room a suspicious block by its lonesome on a platform. I hit I and crushed it to reveal nothing. Of course, our beloved company wouldn't put that there for no reason, right? Much to my suspicion, it was secretly hiding an invisible door leading to the keyhole! It's times like these that you feel rewarded that you investigated carefully all your surroundings and made sure not one thing was overlooked.

Replayability 3/10
With all those good things said about this game, I painstakingly have to write this next section. This game unfortunately has little or no replay value, especially if you know the Nintendo Secret that I explained earlier, in which case you found everything on your first playthrough. You could get a huge amount of coins to get the best ending, but you won't want to and here's why: many of the levels are rather simple. I know this should've been mentioned earlier but I mean, there is occasionally no theme to some levels, which is weird because a lot of levels are supposed to have specific themes.

Mind you, there are plenty of types of levels, but many are in between, which sometimes puts it behind such games as Crash Bandicoot. Those levels are definitely fun the first time through, but then you'll realize there's no point in going through them again. No hard modes, or something. So be cautious, those of you who simply love to go back to games over and over again, because in this game it's one playthrough and it's on the shelf for a few months.

Final Words: Buy or Borrow?
Finally, that's what Wario Land is all about. A fun platformer that is simply different than Mario games because, well, everything—the treasure hunts, the mechanics, and the overall atmosphere of the game. As mentioned earlier, plenty of levels are pretty simple with the occasional trick here and there which will please and make you charmed the first time, but since hardcore Nintendo fans can beat this game 100% in two or three days, it's just worth it to see if a friend has it first before paying for it. However this plaformer is definitely one that should not be missed, so buy it if necessary. If you're willing to overlook the lack of replay value and want a fun experience overall, then get away from the ol' red and blue plumber, and try out yellow and purple's outings—they're sure to make you hungry for more.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/09/06


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