Nintendo often uses the Warioware franchise as a way to show off the gameplay potential of their new hardware. Rather than rely on five second micro-games, Nintendo opens up the possibilities in Game & Wario by using longer minigames to show off the many creative inputs possible with the Wii U Gamepad. I had the opportunity to demo three such minigames.
The first and shortest game is called Ski. The object is to ski down a mountain in as fast a time as possible. This game requires that you hold the Gamepad vertically. The TV displays a 3D rendering of your skier while the Gamepad screen shows a two dimensional top down viewpoint. As the player you have to look down on the gamepad screen. By tilting the controller left and right you control how your skier slaloms through the course. There are obstacles and rough patches you can hit that will slow you down as well speed boosts you can earn. The dash is punctuated by jumps that require you to flick the controller upward at just the right moment to pull off. Tilting too far to either side will cause you to veer off course and cost you precious seconds. The ultimate folly is to look at the TV rather than the Gamepad; it is not recommended and makes the experience unplayable. Overall the average game of ski only lasts about 20 seconds, but it is still an effective example of how to use the Gamepad.
The Nintendo representative was not very eager to show me the next minigame, Thief, and I could see why. Not because the game is bad per se, but it is not a very active demonstration of the Gamepad's capabilities and requires a crowd of people that don’t necessarily have any control input. The game starts out with the player choosing a randomized character to act as the thief from the Gamepad screen. This requires that no other participant look on or else the fun of the game is ruined. Once that character is picked, the thief is unleashed into a crowded top-down street scene. As the player your job is to slowly move around the map and steal apples as they appear at random locations. To do this you should move your character slowly so you don’t arouse suspicion by the people watching the TV screen, whose job it is to identify the thief at the end of the game. There are tunnels that act as portals to aid the thief in moving around undetected. I actually found the game quite interesting while playing, and so did the crowd of onlookers behind me trying to find me out. Once the time ran out, the TV displayed the same randomized characters again and asked the players in the audience to correctly identify the thief. Once everyone made their selection using the touchscreen the game revealed that their choices were wrong before identifying my character as the thief.
The most satisfying minigame I played in Game & Wario is Arrow. Arrow requires you to turn the controller vertically and point it towards the TV. You are allowed a few practice shots before the game properly begins. The arrows on the touchscreen have the shape of Wario’s nose as arrowheads. You fire your bow by physically pulling back on the arrow after you’ve taken aim, and then releasing it. Your task is to protect your four strawberries from an invading hoard of miniscule Wario robots. Once the Warios cross the threshold of the TV screen they appear on the controller screen where your only option is to stomp them before they get away by tapping them with your finger.
Arrow is a fast paced and satisfying minigame. You can add extra firepower to your shots by adding pepper to the nose arrowhead (accomplished by tickling it on the touchscreen), which makes them strong enough to take out whole clusters of encroaching Warios at once. The game featured two rounds, the second punctuated by a boss battle of sorts with a giant mechanical Wario. To defeat the boss and win the game you have to hit red bolts on the machine before it reaches your side of the level.
Overall, Game & Wario turned out to be quite the crowd pleaser at this year’s New York Comic Con. Ski and Arrow do fantastic jobs of showing just what the Wii U’s new controller is capable of while Thief shows the potential for asymmetric multiplayer experiences. I am eager to see what other creative uses of the Wii U controller Game & Wario has in store as it inches closer towards its 2013 release.