Call it the innovator's dilemma.
Sure, you can come out with a provocative, cutting-edge game that defines its genre. But then, what's next? In the case of "WarioWare," you take the brilliance of the original idea and franchise it to death.
Fortunately, five games into the series, "WarioWare: Smooth Moves" for the Nintendo Wii finds a reservoir of wit and enough new ideas to keep the original charm chugging along.
If you missed the original, "WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$" minted the idea that bundling together lots of very, very short interactive activities actually would produce feelings of pleasure rather than assembly-line pain. Packed on the portable Game Boy, "WarioWare" was a smash, streaming bits of gaming to a short-attention-span community of gamers weaned on fast-cut MTV and instant-messaging.
The game was such a hit, a sequel was inevitable. And Nintendo was ready to deliver. A GameCube version added multiplayer, and, not long after, the Game Boy DS showed off its touch screen in a game, appropriately subtitled "Touched." The Game Boy got its own sequel, adding motion-sensing to the franchise.
With all this tinkering and tweaking of the formula, it was inevitable that Nintendo would invest in a new version of the game for the Wii. After all, Nintendo's new gaming console earned accolades for its innovation in interface, providing a motion-sensing game controller that looks like a TV remote. And "WarioWare" was just begging for a chance to bring its low-fidelity graphics and spiked humor to a new territory.
"Smooth Moves" crash-landed on the Wii with all the anticipation an avant-garde series commands and the ironic burden of having to continue to push the envelope.
This time around, "WarioWare" never fails to amuse, but the shock and awe of a massive, creative explosion is gone. This iteration remains so faithful to earlier incarnations that, unless this is your first time visiting Wario's microgame world, the Wii version feels more comfortable than provocative.
That's not to say the game is without its pleasures.
Holding the controller to your face like an elephant's trunk and plucking apples, waving your hips to hula-hoop a donut or trying to insert dentures in the mouth of a fast-moving grandma keep the smiles coming, even if the novelty has worn off.
Like its namesake, "WarioWare" always arrives ready to party and poke a finger in the eye of propriety. But like the class clown, it will also always have to look for new ways to keep its schtick interesting.
Who's It For: As strange as "WarioWare: Smooth Moves" is, it's simple enough for anyone to pick up and play. And since it's weird, people watching eventually will want to give it a try, just to see what all the fuss is about.
If You Like This, Try That: Since the original "WarioWare" debuted, the idea of microgames has stuck in the popular imagination. Neither "Rayman Raving Rabbids" on the Wii nor "WTF" on the PSP is as fast-paced or even as micro as "WarioWare," but both find their fun by loading up on the mini-games.
Best Part: Instructions on how to hold the Wii controller take a page from Jack Handy's "Deep Thoughts" segments on "Saturday Night Live." A soothing voice provides surreal commentary while coaching you through each technique.
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