Game & Wario review: mini-game factory
Wario may have started as a villain turned platforming star, but he's long since transitioned to a handy repository for Nintendo's zaniest ideas. Game & Wario captures the gonzo spirit of Wario and his bizarre little cast of characters, but it is ultimately only a decent, somewhat uninspired mini-game collection.
That term might be off-putting, especially given the glut of awful ones we saw during the heyday of the Wii. I don't mean it disparagingly, and in fact mini-game collections can be extremely useful tools to show off a wide breadth of experiences -- especially for a console with its own unique control mechanism. The problem is that with very few exceptions, this one covers ground already tread by the launch title Nintendo Land.
Take Arrow, for instance. Wario pulls back a bowstring to launch arrows at approaching enemies, and intermittently raises the GamePad to serve as a shield. The idea itself isn't bad, but it was largely already done in "Takamaru's Ninja Castle" portion of Nintendo Land. Many of the games come down to similarly tried mechanics, like alternating between viewpoints (Kung Fu, Taxi, Shutter), or tilting the GamePad to steer (Ski, Ashley).
A few of the games don't actually need to be on the Wii U at all, and would function just as well on any touch device. Patchwork is a wonderfully simple puzzle game, but nothing about it needs two screens. Bowling is similarly a simple swipe-and-tilt game, as the larger screen only serves an artificial purpose to show your shots afterwards. Bird, the final unlock in single-player, is an homage to the old Game & Watch titles that inspired this game, with all the simplicity that implies.
Two of the standouts, Gamer and Design, hew most closely to the old WarioWare tradition. Gamer is, essentially, a WarioWare game. It adds the clever twist that the young boy, 9-Volt, is in danger of being caught staying up past his bedtime. In this instance, paying attention to the larger screen (to see signs of your approaching mom) while completing the quick WarioWare tasks on the small screen becomes a frantic, fun, and sometimes frustrating exercise. Design similarly has you completing quick tasks in rapid succession, though a few playthroughs reveal they're basically the same tasks in the same order.
Most of the games have 3-5 levels of difficulty, but none are so deep that they tempted me back all that often. The draw to return seems to be the tokens, which can be cashed in for trinkets in a vending machine. Most of its items are obvious pieces of game advice, but it does randomly hand out inventive little toys and doodads that are entertaining for a few moments at a time.
The multiplayer offerings are a mix of uninspired throwaways and clever ideas as well. The Sketch game is essentially digital Pictionary, and Islands is a simple tossing game. Fruit makes better use of the asynchronous gameplay, having one player watch the TV to pick a thief out of a crowd. Disco lets users trade notes in a rough approximation of music game "highways," but the concept works better than the uneven execution.
Miiverse Sketch, a third function on the main menu, is actually a neat idea that should be implemented into the standard Miiverse. It lets users submit their own words, and tasks players with quickly sketching out that word in only 60 seconds. It gives a bit more meaning to the drawings we've seen littering the Miiverse, but I'm afraid the idea will die when Game & Wario falls out of popularity.
That day is likely to come sooner than later. Mini-game collections are best used as examples of a device's unique functionality. That means that they need to be unique themselves, and too much of Game & Wario feels like it's been done before. Its handful of smart designs provide fleeting thrills, while the rest are unfortunately forgettable. 
Game & Wario
This Game & Wario review was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher. The game is now available on Wii U on disc and Nintendo eShop.