Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review - Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (Game Boy, 1994)

I'm a big fan of both the absolutely weird Super Mario Land and the more conventional but still plenty wacky Super Mario Land 2. Wario Land, the third game in the series, ditches Mario as its hero in favor of Wario, has some truly goofy enemies, and lets you power up using garlic. While it hits a lot of the same odd notes as the previous Land games, Wario Land is absolutely its own beast.

Where the previous Mario Land games focused on jumping on bad guys' heads to knock them out, Wario Land allows enemies to be stunned by a shoulder charge, picked up and thrown, and damaged by pulling out huge coins and beaning them in the head. It has a distinctly different rhythm from other Mario games, and also features much slower movement and floatier jumping. The physics work, but feel absolutely divorced from Mario style physics, even the nontraditional Land games. Wario can also collect three powerup hats, one which lets him charge further and stick to ceilings using horns, one that lets him blow fire, and one that lets him fly short distances. The only traditional Mario powerup present is the invincibility-granting Starman.

The premise of Wario Land is completely tied to its hero's greedy nature. Wario goes to a pirate infested island to wreck up the joint and take their money so he can show Mario who's boss. Coins are required to buy your way into mid-stage check points, and can also be used to clobber enemies. Each stage ends with a gambling opportunity to increase that stage's total haul. In addition to just clearing each stage, players are encouraged to scour every area for hidden treasures. The amount of money and treasure you collect determines whether at the end of the game Wario can afford a shack, a mansion, or even his own moon. The game's larger, longer, and has more to do than Mario Land 2, but in spite of that I don't find it nearly as fun.

There's nothing heinously wrong here, but Wario Land just doesn't click with me. I don't like its physics or its movement speed. The slow, farty music, while 100% appropriate to the game's hero, doesn't do anything for me. The graphics are fine, but the environments aren't very exciting. Stage design is a mixed bag, and while using the different power ups to find treasures can be fun, some treasure rooms can only be found by walking back and forth pressing Up until you find invisible doors. It's still better than a lot of Game Boy games, but I can't enjoy it the same way I enjoy the previous two Mario Land games. I haven't played the rest of the Wario Land series yet, but this first game didn't exactly inspire me to hunt them down. Wario is a very fun character, and I absolutely love the Wario Ware series, but his premiere starring role leaves me slightly bored, wishing I was playing a better Mario game instead.

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