Who says Wario can’t last more than five seconds?!

WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames! (2003)

All of us shut-in dweebs have entertained the idea of making our own video game. All that time spent not socialising has to go into some form of creative endeavour, right? After all, even the most lazy of teenagers need to recharge from masturbation eventually. And because we regard book authors as old and grey, not ones to emulate, and because we’re too ugly for film and TV, even on our own heavily filtered phones, our only creative avenue left is video game design.

You can see why we get sucked in. We’ve all played Chrono Trigger and thought, “well, I can make that, no problem.” You might even have a winner of a plot in your head somewhere, that you won’t tell anyone under any circumstances in case they steal your idea. Or perhaps more accurately, in case someone tells you it’s a stupid idea and predictably you can’t handle even the first rejection and you fall to pieces. Either way, it’s time to sacrifice your formative years in front of a computer monitor, which you were gonna do anyway, and think about how to put all this together.

Now, you’re not that stupid – you know you might need to learn what a variable is before attempting to create a game; you may even want to gain some knowledge of a loop if you really wanted to get hands-on. So, perhaps you’ll download a dedicated resource. Game Maker and RPG Maker are two particularly popular applications that I’ve deleted and redownloaded a dozen times each, as have many nerds with ambition way ahead of ability, and I wish you wouldn’t ask me how many finished games I’ve produced with either.

Or, if you’ve got a bit about you, you could step away from the cookie cutter and learn an entirely new programming language for yourself. That’s a good step for budding geeks, true, but you won’t be impressing many people, either. These things can be learned rote without tremendous difficulty, plus you can Google the tricky stuff that’s reserved strictly for the super-nerds.

But how are you gonna Google graphic design or music composition or product marketing? Because like it or lump it, even with a finished book or an indie movie under your belt, the graft isn’t over yet. You gotta get it “out there”. Now, that does aggravate me; we Renaissance men truly were born in the wrong era. Back in the day, those bums like Aristotle and Machiavelli, they could just fart out a book and there you go, it’s an enduring classic. Now we creative types have to suck toes to get anywhere on the charts, and we all feel we get much less credit than we deserve.

Well, truth be told, I don’t deserve any credit, because there are no games to my name. What, pixel art? Playtesting? Learning to write a tune? The hell with all that. These bursts of ambition rarely tend to last longer than two weeks, you know, and if you’ve done your research then you’ll know that most games take a wee bit longer than that to put together.

This is why you can’t help but marvel at the quality of some of the indie games out there. And you might have noticed that I never talk about those indie games, only games by the big boys. This is because, if I were to play an acclaimed indie like Undertale or Stardew Valley and thought them to be toilet, I wouldn’t have the heart to say it. Yes, they’ve sold loads and reviewed excellently, but I’d still be mocking someone’s pride and joy, calling their baby ugly. It’d be a bit crass, you know?

And speaking of crass, that neatly leads me to observe the fact that I would never, ever have expected Wario to become an indie game developer. Oh, he’s all about getting cash, sure, the original Wario Land games attest to that. Well, in those games he had a starring role, but he wasn’t happy with just that, oh no. He wanted to be the boss, to be the daddy.

For a time he seemed prepped by Nintendo to be a second-tier villain whenever Bowser had the day off. But having been inspired, like many of us were, by the crazy sales of another indie game, he immediately sets up WarioWare Inc., a name that sounds an awful lot like the Burkey Productions Inc. name that I never trademarked (don’t steal it). I have to doubt that Wario set up his company via a legitimate business plan and memorandum of association, but I’m not a corporate lawyer, am I? I’m a failed game maker, remember.

In any case, Wario’s got a slightly bigger problem than that, in that he doesn’t actually know how to make a game. I’ve always seen a lot of myself in Wario, you know? But he gets around this hurdle by calling all of his friends and forcing them to make the game instead, while secretly plotting to steal all the profits for himself. Now, why didn’t I think of that?

And yes, I too was surprised that Wario had so many friends, a whole new cast of characters who you’ve never seen before, but they’ll each answer the call and bring their own personality to the party. Of course, Wario’s only given them about a day’s notice to get their creative vision out the door, so the gang only really have the time to make games that last about 5 seconds each – which is a longer lifespan than any software I ever conjured up – but helpfully they each bring about 30, giving us a collection of over 200 fast and furious microgames to play on your Game Boy Advance.

And they’re an interesting concept, the microgames. You really do only get about 5 seconds and a one-word instruction, with which to establish context and work out which button to push. The games get faster and faster as well, meaning even 2 seconds becomes an aeon, a luxury. But this is the problem, you see: even if WarioWare came with 2000 microgames, at 5 seconds a pop you’re still only talking about three hours plus a few retries before you’ve seen it all.

You can go for high-scores and try some of the more expansive, unlockable minigames, like a full version of Dr. Mario (ah, that is, Dr. Wario, who I’m sure is equally as qualified), but overall you wouldn’t want to have paid full price for WarioWare, which I nearly did on several occasions. It just ain’t worth it. None of the series is, come to think of it.

I also reckon this game is guilty of a bit of original sin here. I know Nintendo were looking for some niche for Wario to fill, outside of being the fattest man on the golf course, but I reckon there’s now more WarioWare games than Wario Land games, and that to me ain’t right. Don’t get me wrong, this one is decent fun, but none of the WarioWare games have the staying power, and I don’t think they even sell enough to qualify as a quick buck either.

I’ll say fair play to Wario for getting these games made, but I would much rather if these games became what seems to be officially termed as a side-hustle for the man who should be in yellow. Generally I reckon Wario should stick to what he’s good at, which is bashing through enemies, bullying bosses and making off with a ton of loot. After all, I can’t really picture Wario hunched over a desk, clacking away at his keyboard and making some beautiful sprite animations, can you…?

7 March 2023

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