There are three kinds of gamers in the world; those who love Warioware, those who hate it, and those who haven't tried it yet. If you are in the first camp, rest assured that Warioware and the Wii is a match made in heaven. If you're of the belief that Warioware is for those who have the most minuscule of attention spans, this installment will do little to change your mind. If you haven't tried it yet, perhaps the dearth of good Wii games to date is a good opportunity to take it for a spin.
For those of you who don't know what Warioware is all about, here is a quick rundown. Warioware is essentially a collection of microgames, each lasting anywhere from three to sixty seconds in length. The controls change rapidly on the fly, as do the objectives. One second you could be trying to pick a polygonal nose, the next you're conducting an orchestra. There's almost 200 microgames grouped together in a dozen or so levels. As you progress through the levels, the games start coming at you faster and faster until you encounter the boss stage. The boss stages are usually slightly more complex than the bulk of the games, and can demand that you shake your groove thing, play through a level of classic Star Fox, or successfully navigate a car to a finish line. The game's challenge stems from being able to quickly and concisely figure out the objective and the controls in only a few seconds. Your reasoning and problem solving skills under pressure will definitely come into play here.
Each batch of microgames is divided up into a dozen or so different characters. These characters are some of the most off-kilter and bizarre ever witnessed in a video game. There's Wario himself, a pair of super-fly disco brothers who dance with kittens and puppies, a ninja in training and his master, and many more. The characters are incidental at best, and serve mostly to give each level a distinct theme. Each level is book ended with an introduction and conclusion, after which you never see or hear from the characters again, lest you replay the level. The cut scenes are beautifully drawn and animated, and are usually quite hysterical. The game seems to have a Japanese game show vibe mixed with anime. In other words, Warioware is a game where everything is loud, exaggerated, and colourful.
Lately, it seems that most Warioware games are a glorified tech demo for new Nintendo hardware. It began with Warioware Twisted, which introduced an odd twisting mechanic to the Game Boy Advance. Then came the DS iteration, which showed the many possibilities of playing with a touch screen. Now, we're given the most freedom in control ever with the addition of the Wiimote. Before each microgame begins, the player is shown a certain way of holding the Wiimote; Smooth Moves features roughly 20 different ways to do exactly this. These positions include holding the Wiimote like a pencil, the hilt of a sword, a steering wheel, an elephant's trunk, chopsticks, and of course a TV remote. Each position is explained as the player progresses through single player. These explanations are made with a calm soothing voice slowly describing how to hold the remote. These interludes are not unlike Jack Handy's old "Deep Thoughts" on Saturday Night Live a few years back. These quiet, methodical moments make for a hilarious juxtaposition with the frenetic and lightning quick pace of the rest of the game.
However, the controls are far from perfect. Since the game shows you the way to hold the remote before each game, it takes a lot of the challenge out of the game. Previous iterations would be more frenetic because you had no idea what to expect next. By showing you the controls first, there's only so many different ways to contort the Wiimote from any individual angle. You'll also reach a point where getting a high score is not so much a test of skill, but whether the Wii will pick up the motions that you are making. Some games have serious problems detecting the proper motion that you know you are making. This game is probably responsible for more Wiimotes thrown through screens than any other. The most serious offenders include the games that have you balancing a broom on your hand, saving a girl from falling off a building, and handing out flyers to people. This problem essentially breaks the sudden death mode, as most of the time you'll lose because of the twitchy controls as opposed to any mistakes you've actually made.
Multiplayer too is a mixed bag. The microgames are divided into several rule sets, the best of which involves a race between your chosen number of players (the game supports up to 12) gaining position on each other by winning microgames. However, the game doesn't end with a winner of the race, but the order of the race determines how many ropes you have to hang from. Different players then take turns cutting ropes that are connected to a random player. The winner therefore is actually the player who is left hanging when all the ropes except one are cut. It's an interesting twist on the typical multiplayer conventions. Other games include a flying game called Star Nose, where you pilot a nose through an obstacle course against another player; Bungee Buddies, a game where one player holds the Nunchuk, and the other holds the Wiimote and both have to co-ordinate jumping in a co-operative manner while tethered to each other.
Unfortunately, multiplayer has some issues that hold it back as well. There is no support for multiple Wiimotes, and everything is done by passing a single remote around. Forget about strapping that Wiimote on! This game can definitely prove to be hazardous to your living room, especially if alcoholic beverages are involved. Also, it's a tremendous pain that you have to unlock multiplayer by playing through single player first. Still, with its easy to use interface and casual mentality, Smooth Moves has the potential to replace Wii Sports as your Wii party game of choice.
As you progress through both multiplayer and single player, you'll unlock fuller minigame versions of the microgames, including a fairly decent game of darts and a game where you have to flap your arms to fly through obstacles. There isn't a great deal of appeal to a lot of these games, and most will only ever see one play through.
Graphically speaking, the game ranges between vibrant and colourful, to no better than the NES back in the day. This is clearly done on purpose, and adds to the unpredictability of the game. One game you could be playing a scene from Wind Waker, the next you're shaking bugs off a banana for an 8-bit ape. While the game may not always look like a million bucks, the art style is undeniably brilliant.
The music in the game straddles a fine line between catchy and annoying. Some levels have a jazzy vibe to them, while others have more of a rock and roll sound. The game supports Dolby Pro Logic surround sound. Like the visuals, the audio is minimalist in some places, and bombastic in others.
All in all, Warioware Smooth Moves is probably not worth a purchase due to its very nature of playing microgames. You can see everything that the game has to offer in one solid evening of gaming, which makes a full price tag hard to swallow. However, Smooth Moves is one of the best rentals that you could make for your next party.