|By Zach Patterson||Thursday, 7 Jun 2007|
Released in 2001, this was one of the earlier original platformers for the Game Boy Advance. I’ve always liked the Wario games, and when I found this inexpensive used cartridge, it was too good of a deal to pass up. While this game certainly doesn’t break any new ground for the series or platformers in general, it’s a genuinely fun game that even requires a bit of thought to complete.
The setup for Wario Land 4 is pretty simple: There is a pyramid. This pyramid has treasure. Wario goes to the pyramid and encounters crazy warps that take him to 20 or so themed worlds. In each world, your job is to find riches, 4 puzzle pieces, a floating duck-head-ghost-like key, and optionally a CD. The 4 puzzle pieces combine as part of a combination to unlock the boss for that area, the key gets you to the next level in that area, and the CD opens up a new song in bizarre sound test area. Sounds kinda like a collect-a-thon, which initially turned me off of the game. In actually playing the game however, it became clear that the pieces you needed to collect in every level were pretty easy to find, and never really a hassle. Additionally, the game makes you go to the end of a level, hit a bomb timer, and then book it back to the beginning to the level to warp out before getting blown up. Again it sounds a little redundant and annoying, but its not at all due to some excellent level designs. The levels usually are unique in that upon going through it before hitting the timer, you will explore and generally do more puzzle solving, taking your time and finding secrets, etc. Once the bomb is hit, different areas open up, and the game becomes a frantic race back to the entrance. Sometimes, it is as easy as just charging at full speed through a few screens, other times you need to navigate hidden areas that pop you up near the entrance. Regardless, it adds this nice dynamic of exploration and action to the game that is both fun and welcome.
Aside from this, Wario can also die, which is new to the series. Before, Wario was pretty much invincible and just turned into different forms and such. While there are still enemies that turn you into different forms, there’s a definitive life bar now, so you can die (and you probably will a few times on some of the tougher levels). I found this a bit of a downer since that was one of the cooler features of the Wario games was his invincibility, and the game is a tad more traditional in this respect. However, it doesn’t change all that much. As you won’t die unless you are being pretty stupid in the levels. The boss fights are another matter, as they can require some strategy and it’s not uncommon to die once or twice. There’s no game overs, though, so it’s not like you have to worry about losing any progress.
Wario Land 4 has a decent amount of levels and variety, and will likely take 8-10 hours to beat it all. The game really isn’t very difficult, but it provides a decent challenge in solving puzzles (especially in the purple pipe puzzle stages), and some stages can be replayed to find some stuff you missed the first time around. This is a good thing since the game is very smooth to control and very fun to play. Wario plays like your basic Mario clone platformer in the basic controls. However, Wario’s brute force charging and battering ram skills in addition to his butt stomping definitely give him his own feel. The special powers deserve mention too because they really add more variety and are in the game for strategic means (you usually have to use them to get past a certain obstacle) and not just to give Wario some crazy powers.
Wario is also a very emotive and fun character. The graphics have this very stylized dirty look to them to distinguish himself from Mario or Yoshi’s pastel adventures. The enemies are pretty animated as well, and reminded me of characters from Drill Dozer in their level of humor and animations involved. Additionally, the game has some really nice cutscenes to tell the minimal story. The game in fact reminded me of a Genesis game more than a Nintendo property just due to the look of the game and the feel of the soundtrack. Speaking of the soundtrack, it’s definitely good and strange at times. There’s a lot of vocals throughout the tracks, and most of them have very bassy, funky beats to them. Some of the tunes are forgettable or get tiresome, but in general it gives the game its own feel. The sound room is very strange and the music you can unlock in there doesnt sound like half the music you can actually hear in the game. Some of them seem like random sound effects with bizarre pictures in the corner to accompany them.
There’s also a few minigames, but they aren’t all that in depth or great. They felt like Microgames from Warioware, except they cost money and there was only 3 of them. I got kinda addicted to the baseball one for awhile, but they are pretty forgettable. Finally, I feel that the bosses should get special mention, as they are absolutely huge, challenging, and require you to use nearly all the abilities you are given. The last few are a bit frustrating not because they are impossible to beat, but because you have to beat them within a certain time frame, and its often hard to get the last hit on a boss when you have only 20 seconds left or whatever time is remaining.
Regardless, this is a solid platformer for GBA. It’s a pretty game and fundamentally sound, built on the previous Wario games, which were in turn built on the Mario games. It’s nothing too new for people who have played a Wario game before, but it is welcome addition to Nintendo’s fine line of mascot games. It’s disappointing that Wario: Master of Disguise for DS wasn’t up to quality, so anyone disappointed by that should check this out instead.