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Nintendo DS Review: Wario – Master of Disguise

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Sure, we’ve all played his micro-games and battled him in kart racing and basketball, but since Wario’s creation in Super Mario Land 2, Mario’s bitter rival hasn’t had much of an opportunity to take the Nintendo DS spotlight. With the recently released Wario: Master of Disguise, Wario gets his chance but does the game make him a master or a disaster?

Nintendo once again passes the buck on Wario’s solo venture, handing development over to Suzak, which carries over many of the ideas implemented in previous Wario Land titles, but with a touch screen twist. As the title implies, Wario utilizes a number of different power-providing costumes in order to progress through the game and reach as much treasure as possible. While Master of Disguise will offer players a decent platformer, the game’s touch screen hook also proves to be its downfall.

Initially Wario only has access to a thief costume after he creates a helmet that allows him to enter his television and bust into the heist of renowned thief “The Silver Zephyr.” Upon entering the television show, Wario lands on Zephyr and jars loose his magic wand. Now in the possession of Wario, the wand not only acts as his looting companion but also feeds on gems, which power up Wario’s forms and grants him access to even more costumes.

Not content with the chump change lifted from the initial heist, Wario comes across a piece of the legendary “wishstone.” By assembling all the pieces of the stone, its user is, as you might guess, granted a wish. Motivated by greed, Wario sets off on a television adventure of epic proportions in order to become filthy, stinking rich.

Noticeable right from the beginning, Master of Disguise brings a completely different art style to the Wario universe. The Wario Ware cartoonish look gets spun 180 degrees and is replaced by static nicely done CG cut scenes and environments. While the graphics are far from terrible, compared to other Wario titles, the simple, stale animations that characters loop over and over fail to give the title any impressive flash in the foreground.

Unfortunately for Wario: Master of Disguise, there’s nothing really too special in its audio. While the music appropriately fits the given situation, the game is riddled with very generic sound effects aside from the one-liners quipped by Wario on multiple occasions. While his gloating gives the sound its much-needed punch, a real lack of variety in his quotes results in players hearing the same few clips over and over.

Perhaps Wario’s biggest game play nag is its indecision of whether it wants to be a platformer or a touch-screen puzzler. Many players will probably boot up Master of Disguise expecting a hop-and-bop side-scrolling platformer akin to Mario, but with all puzzle elements implemented in the title, much time will be spent diverting away from the action in order to fiddle with touch screen elements.

Wario’s movements are controlled quite well with the D-pad operating his running and jumping (which can be inversed with the X, Y, A buttons for left-handed players), while the opposing hand is free to manipulate the touch screen. Costumes are changed by drawing shapes around Wario and the game’s most definite issue is whether or not the game will recognize a player’s drawings. While overall annoying, this problem becomes triply frustrating when costumes need to be changed in a split second for situations such as boss battles. Even spelling words to answer riddles was a chore as it seriously took me almost five minutes to get the game to recognize the letter “T.”

Touch screen controls are further pushed by the ultra repetitive and lame mini-game diversions used to disarm traps found in treasure chests. The menial tasks throw objectives such as “trace this object,” solve sliding picture puzzles or connect the dots. None of the mini-games are particularly fun, especially after doing them dozens of times, and merely seem like yet another excuse to use the touch screen.

While the touch screen mechanics can come across as extremely frustrating or tedious, there is still a bit of fun to be had in Master of Disguise. The levels feature clever design that requires players to use every power at their disposal to reach the end. Furthermore, players can replay levels after receiving new powers to search every nook and cranny of an environment for treasure.

Even though the treasure mini-games will tie players up for a bit, the average level will occupy someone anywhere from half an hour to an hour. Regular save points will save players from having to re-do an hour’s worth of work as they scour the expansive levels for as much treasure as they can. With 10 levels in the game, players will be looking at between 10-15 hours of game play, a suitable total for a portable adventure.

While Wario: Master of Disguise doesn’t live up to many other platforming titles, it still provides a decent romp through the Wario universe. Aside from poor usage of the touch screen, the title still retains Wario’s platforming charm and wacky use of powers. With a little patience and the will to try something a little different, players should be able to get enough enjoyment out of Master of Disguise for at least one play through.

Wario: Master of Disguise is rated E 10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Crude Humor, Mild Cartoon Violence.

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