GB – #14 – Wario Land 3

History:

I have never actually played a Wario game before! Well, not counting the WarioWare games, which are obviously fantastic…

Expectations:

From what little I’ve seen from this game it looks like I’m in for a pretty solid platformer, which is really all I can ask for.


Day 1:

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I have to say, after playing through a couple levels, I’m pretty into this game so far. It looks like there’s going to be a lot of backtracking, which I’m really not into at all, but the levels seem short enough that it probably won’t be a huge issue for me. There’s a lot of charm and style here, and for my first time seeing Wario in a platformer I’m actually a lot more impressed by the guy than I thought I’d be!


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And… the honeymoon is over.

After spending some more time with this game I still love the style. Wario is a ton of fun to watch and control. However, what starts as a fun, simple platformer quickly turns into backtracking, key-finding Metroid style adventure game. For me, that’s a complaint…

Don’t get me wrong, the game plays just fine, but I’m just not into the find the key to find the chest to unlock the ability to find more keys and more chests kind of formula. This is especially true when it’s not completely clear where it is you’re actually supposed to be going.

I’m not giving up on Wario Land just yet, and I did make progress tonight, unlocking the second world and a new power-up. We’ll see how it goes.


Day 3:

So I’ll admit, after playing through more of the game over my lunch hour it’s kind of growing on me. A lot of it is that it’s not completely clear what Wario is capable of, so progression may seem impossible until you figure out not how a certain mechanic works, but simply that it exists at all!

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With a slightly better idea of what it is the game is expecting of me, and what I’m capable of actually doing, I’m finding myself playing through Wario Land 3 much more naturally, and enjoying myself a lot more as a result.

I’ve unlocked several new levels and several new routes in old levels, and having a good enough time of it.

My one potential complaint, and I’m not sure if this is going to be a trend or not, is the nature of boss fights. When you engage a boss in their boss room, at least the ones I’ve fought so far, their attacks will knock you all the way out of their room, sometimes a fair distance back. I understand that since Wario can’t actually take any damage there has to be repercussions for getting hit, but this gets real annoying real fast.


Day 4:

It’s kinda hard to gauge my progress in this game. The easiest way to look at it is that every level has 4-5 objectives, and every time I visit a level it’s to complete one of those objectives, so I’m constantly running around the map visiting both new and old stages as I gain new abilities or trigger new events so that I can complete a single objective then go to another stage. I almost reminds me of Super Mario 64 where you can only get one star from a level at a time, except in that game you can just jump right back into the same level to get the next star.

What’s happening as a result is that the game is becoming extremely formulaic. None of the levels are that big, and since I visiting them repeatedly for (slightly) different reasons, they become boring very quickly. This would be fine if the platforming held up, but it’s really nothing special, and in fact I mostly just find myself getting more and more annoyed by the damage mechanics!

Since I started playing I’ve unlocked the ground pound and, well, swimming abilities. I really have no idea how much further I have to go…


Day 5:

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And the pattern continues…

I unlocked the ability to break bricks with my head which allowed me to go back and explored previously inaccessible sections of old stages, as is the custom. This time I found myself back in the already annoying city level, facing down an even more annoying boss!

As one would expect, the level’s boss involved a back-alley match against street smart rabbit and is crooked turtle friend acting as the goalie. While not directly reflected in the game, I’m fairly certain I heard them both crackin’ wise at one or more points in the match. Well, matches because holy crap I could not deal with this encounter!

First to three points wins and jumping on the rabbit turns him into a ball. Likewise, if he jumps on you, you become the ball. The turtle will duck all the rabbit’s shots and block most of yours. You can knock the turtle into his shell, which implies that the way to win is to squash the rabbit into a ball, line him up, then jump on the turtle and quickly go back and kick the rabbit into the goal.

NOPE!

After failing at that for several attempts I found all you had to do was punch the rabbit into the goal over the turtle’s head with pixel-perfect accuracy! Hit the rabbit too early or too low and the turtle catches it, hit it just a hare (badum psh) too late and it bounces off the top of the goal. Of course the rabbit-ball is bouncing up and down as you’re hitting it so lining up that shot becomes a real pain. Once I did finally find the sweet spot, though, it was a pretty easy win.

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Unrelated, I just got an iPhone for the first time since smartphones and, man, it takes some really awful closeup shots…

Later…

I fired the game back up for about another hour in the evening, opening several more chests, unlocking new stages and areas, getting some new powers… and frankly I just can’t stand to play this game any longer.


Conclusion:

So… Wario Land… It’s one of those games that I really hate to hate but for me it just pushes all the wrong buttons. My biggest qualm in any game is arbitrary difficulty or challenge, and Wario Land 3 is that concept manifest. The fact that Wario is invincible is a really cool idea, and that the game is built around this idea is again, very cool. The way it decides to build around, though, is ultimately just extremely frustrating and annoying. Every enemy in the game is capable of either slowing you to a crawl, or knocking you back to the beginning of the stage. Hit by a fish or an ice cube or a fireball and you’re sent rolling/sliding/running back to the starting line. Fall in the water and you can expect the current to take you back to square one, with no way to jump out and save yourself some time.

Smaller quirks are just made all the more irritating by the larger ones. At one point you’re given the ability to hold and throw enemies and items. Problem is, the slightest contact with the environment and you lose whatever if it is you’re holding, oftentimes requiring you to run all the way back across the stage to find a replacement. God help you if you miss your target!

Bosses present the same issue. Since you can’t die your punishment for getting hit is to get sent back at least one screen, making learning any given fight take much longer than it should, and be entirely more frustrating than it should.

Further emphasized by the aforementioned issues is the fact that nearly every time I picked up the Gameboy my very first thought was, “Why am I doing this again?” There is an underlying story in the game, sure, but you’re given no sense of progression in it. You find a chest that rewards you with a random artifact and more stages or paths open for you. This pattern repeats ad nauseam until eventually you get sick of the game and hammer out an angry review because you should have been having way more fun with it! The lack of story in a platforming game would be just fine if the platforming could stand on it’s own, which it mostly does. The actual control of your character while you’re not being sent flying across a stage is probably the best part of the game, as is solving some of the more clever, or challenging, puzzles. I especially enjoy the segments that have my go into a rolling ball and maintain that ball over a difficult platforming path to roll through a smaller section at another point in the level. That’s fun! Sadly, this is all marred by the fact that you’re constantly revisiting old levels and dealing with everything ELSE about the game that ruins what should otherwise be a very fun experience.

Liked:

– Wario has a ton of style, and playing as him was a lot of fun.
– When the platforming was fun, it was a lot of fun, and actually quite rewarding.
– While not as classic as the tunes in Super Mario, the music here was pretty great.

Disliked:

– There’s not enough story to really keep you engaged over the fairly long game.
– Open world gameplay and day/night cycles don’t feel like they add anything positive to the game.
– The game becomes overly frustrating due to damage mechanics, especially with bosses. The game loses a lot of it’s pacing as a result.

Wario Land 3

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