Even though it doesn’t quite have an official name yet, Game & Wario might be one of the more important titles in the Wii U library. Not just because it’s a tie-in with the great WarioWare series, but because it’s a multiplayer Wii U game that works solely off the tablet controller—and it doesn’t need four extra Wii Remotes, either.
At a San Francisco demonstration this week, Nintendo showed off four of Game & Wario‘s minigames. Two of them were geared toward single-player, while the other two were more focused on having multiple people in the room. More than 10 minigames will round out the full release, and each one’s hosted by a familiar face from the WarioWare cast.
Mario’s rival-slash-nemesis Wario hosts the “Arrow” minigame, which queues up a shooting gallery filled with Wario-like robots. By using the Wii U GamePad, you’ll pull back an imaginary drawstring on the touchscreen—displaying a gigantic arrow with a nose-shaped head—and shoot down targets as they rush you on the main TV.
At first, it’s not super impressive until you figure out that you can change the angle and power of your shot by how far you’re pulling back on your arrows. When you hit targets in the right spot with the right speed, you can rack up combo knockouts that boost your score.
In fact, the gameplay actually shifts screens at one point—the Wario-bots physically rush the field and jump on you, and to keep your health intact, you have to look down at the GamePad touchscreen and tap the bots to shake ’em off. Simply put, that wouldn’t be possible with just a Wii Remote.
Starring Wario’s girlfriend, Mona, “Shutter” is a bit of a visual-puzzle challenge that requires you to take pictures of certain characters in a crowded environment—kind of like Where’s Waldo? with a camera. It’s harder than it sounds, because the pictures you take have to be cropped at the right distance, and the people you’re tracking have to be looking right at the lens.
In this game, the Wii U GamePad works as the camera, and the closer you’re zoomed in, the less stable your viewfinder is. You’ll get a certain amount of points for how clear your pictures are, and as Nintendo notes, the game can become a multiplayer event by getting friends to act as “spotters” and help you find your targets before time runs out.
As a side note, you also can’t go all “paparazzi” and shoot pictures randomly. The stage I played only allotted 12 shots in the camera, which ensured that I had to be careful about wasting film. Even though “Shutter” can be done solo, I don’t recommend it—trying to pick out the five people you’re photobombing isn’t easy alone, especially since all the characters are designed to blend in with the crowd.
Least impressive of the bunch was the “Ski” minigame, which is exactly what it sounds like. Controlling WarioWare character Jimmy, you have to hold the GamePad vertically, tilting it left and right to race down a ski trail, and shaking the tablet to do speed-boosting tricks after hitting a ramp.
While doing all this, the controls are also inverted, so moving the GamePad one way will show Jimmy going the opposite way on the TV. It’s difficult, but not in the way that’s fun or challenging—during the demo, it just seemed kind of frustrating.
Game & Wario‘s last minigame demoed was the most offbeat one in the selection so far, and it’s actually meant for two to five players at once. In “Fruit,” the player with the GamePad, known as the “thief,” has to try to blend in with a crowded suburb full of people, trying to steal apples visible on the main TV screen. Before the game starts, the player picks one character out of a lineup in secret, then tries to keep themselves concealed during a time limit.
All the players watching the TV screen have to look closely at the crowd, as the apples can sometimes can be concealed by large groups of people, passing cars, and smoke from the nearby houses’ chimneys. If the player with the GamePad is smart, he or she can use all these distractions to keep hidden until time runs out.
At the end of the game, each of the players that were watching the TV have to use the GamePad to guess who was actually the “thief” stealing the apples. If you don’t have a lot of players, each person gets two guesses, so there’s actually not an unfair disadvantage for the one with the GamePad.
How does Game & Wario stack up against NintendoLand?
Even though the gameplay does feel limited with just the GamePad controller, most of the activities in Game & Wario‘s at least feel like they’re using the dual-screen scheme well so far. Right now, it doesn’t exactly have that excitement factor that NintendoLand or even ZombiU does, but hopefully the full suite of WarioWare-themed games rounds out to something that’ll impress early WiiU adopters.