I do not know if this means Nintendo ignores Virtual Boy Wario Land or not, but we finally got another Wario Land game for the Game Boy Color. Sure it could be played on the original Game Boy, but I think this land is certainly more appealing in colors. Nevertheless, Wario Land 2 takes a huge departure from the previous games, but most of them became a staple for the numbered series and even Shake It. I personally loved this game growing up, and even bought it again for the 3DS years later. Even before I owned it, I remember trading in Pokemon cards just to borrow the game. I am still bothered by how much money in cards I paid for this, but hopefully, it is more of a showcase of how enjoyable the game is than how big of an idiot I was.
A giant leap for a small man
Wario has finally got his own castle and is taking a nap. Unfortunately, thieves have been invading Wario’s new home, stolen his treasures, put on the faucet to drown the castle, and even set up an alarm-clock to annoy Wario in his sleep. I do question the logic of our villains, but Wario does not and sets out to get his treasures back, right after making sure the alarm-clock and the faucet are dealt with.
Wario Land 2 follows the trend of the earlier entries by being a 2D-platformer, but with a twist. We now have much bigger stages, focusing on exploration, light puzzle solving, and clever platforming. Wario can still charge-attack, ground pound, jump, crawl, crawl-jump, bounce of enemies, and pick up and throw stunned enemies or smaller objects. New to his moveset, is a high-jump that must be activated on his second jump, similar to Mario’s triple jump. You are going to need all of these, as each stage in Wario Land 2 uses these for clever and fun platforming, such as using enemies to traverse over spikes, or having you carry an enemy through a level, to make him useful as a platform or to throw against breakable blocks.
Each stage is different in both layout and theme. From trains that will be more claustrophobic and have roofs that will drag you backward, to forests with steep rolls and rideable turtles. The exploration is also important, as there are secrets hidden everywhere, but the layouts of levels make it never feel like a blind hunt. The only thing you can find this time is coins which will be very important for our extra-segment. You don’t even have any possibility to acquire more lives, as Wario does not have a life counter or even a form of a health bar. Instead, when Wario gets hit by a dangerous enemy or obstacle, he loses precious coins and will be knocked back. This might sound like it makes the game too easy, but it really does not. It makes the platforming ongoing, while still punishing you for making mistakes, with each level being creative in its layout to provide a good challenge.
Besides the variation and exploration, the enemies are also a highlight. Not are they only used for clever platforming and as obstacles, but instead of having hats to give you power-ups, we have enemies that give Wario certain conditions. For example, a fire breathing creature will set our hero on fire, making him run fast and eventually burn up. This might sound like a terrible thing, but making him so will make Wario run much quicker and through certain blocks that can only be destroyed by fire. The game is filled with these kinds of enemies and environmental layouts, and they are all presented in small rooms, making it so you will get a small tutorial on how they work. While they are used for puzzles, they aren’t really power-ups, since they have both pros and cons to them, making you plan more on how to get further with or without the conditions. None of these puzzles were a drag, and the transformations never lasted for too long either and could easily be reversed by something obvious, such as becoming a zombie and turning back by daylight, or water which works for every transformation. Combined with the clever platforming, I always felt challenged in some way, despite it never becoming difficult.
Ending each stage is either a door with stars above or a boss-fight. The doors are simply normal exits, but the bosses are fantastic. All of them present a unique fight, where you will have to be clever on how to deal with them. I don’t want to spoil all of them, but my favorite was a b-ball match, where I had to throw my enemy into the basket. Every fight is about as cleverly designed, with the exception of one that was way too easy. Since you don’t have a life bar and can’t die, failing a fight will only get you kicked out and has you restart the fight. Since none of the bosses were damage-suckers, this was never annoying and only served as fair punishment.
The game itself lasted about 4 hours, with a save-feature that saved after each stage. With 25 stages at first, Wario Land 2 was a comfortable ride that had plenty to offer. Smart level-design, fun puzzles, clever transformations, great boss fights and giving you a varied and fun adventure that focuses on Wario’s abilities complementing the stages. It was not the most challenging game there is, but it always had something to give the levels a new approach and none of the stages overstayed their welcome or were not enjoyable. Even the maze- and water-stages were fun and that is impressive in itself, especially for on-the-go gaming.
Gameplay Score: 9.5/10
Wario is in colors!
It is great to see colors again. Wario Land 2 pops out with plenty of uses for the new handheld’s specs, with levels being especially lovely because of this change. Each environment is diverse, such as urban locations, factories, forests, Wario’s narcissistic castle, and much more. Thanks to the colors, even the environments themselves can vary from each other, making the world feel much bigger. The details of these environments are also very well done for the handheld, with lovely backgrounds.
Wario looks very good and has some new changes to his design, but is still recognizable. What is really eyecatching about his presentation, is when he transforms. From getting crushed to stung by bees, all are accompanied by humorous animations, giving it all a cartoon look. The enemies are on par with him in both details and animations. We have a broad cast of creative enemy-designs, making the stages feel even more diverse and creative. Even better are the bosses that don’t just offer a new fight each time, but also have their own unique style and are well animated. There are some small cutscenes that use the in-game presentation and they work very well, making us see each time what area we are going towards. I just wish there were, at times, more of them, as the levels did not always flow well from one to another. I was quite stunned when I went from a cave and then ended up in a subway.
The soundtrack is once again consisting of one track that is remixed throughout the game, with some other tunes being sprinkled in other places. The music piece is very enjoyable and lighthearted with a silly tone to it. Each remix is also complemented by a different tone, such as more bubbly and echo in water-stages, and more upbeat when you are in a hen-farm. By having such clever use of one track, I never minded that it was used so often as the compositions of them are very well done. The other tracks are also great and easily a treat to listen to.
Presentation score: 9/10
Oddly enough, far from just a cash-grab
As mentioned before, there are plenty of coins to collect in this game, both hidden and in clear sight. Why would you go out of your way for them though? First of, after the end of each stage, you will be presented with a panel of 3X3. Here, you will be asked to guess which number is hiding behind this layout from 0 to 9. To get a better idea of what lies behind, you can flip one of the 9 panels for 50 coins. You can choose whenever you want to guess and should you guess correctly, it will provide you with a map-piece. You will also see how the numbers look on the bottom screen, making it easy to differentiate one and seven for example.
This is not the only thing you will be spending your coins on. Inside levels, you can also find secret doors where you can play another mini-game. Here, you will be presented with 8 cards, each with a different enemy photographed on them. After seeing all of them once, they will be mixed and you will be presented with one photograph that you will have to find amongst the 8 cards. Then, you can pay for how long you will be able to look at the cards before they vanish again, ranging from 50, 100 and 200 coins, with the higher amount making the cards being shown for a longer time. Should you guess correctly, you will be awarded a special treasure! However, unlike the previous minigame, you will have to use the coins you collected in the same stage as you found the door in, which can make this harder as coins are very valuable.
We don’t stop there, however. While these are enjoyable additions and they make coin-hunting more fun, after one playthrough, you will discover that you have only visited 50% of the stages. There are plenty of hidden pathways and even different endings that you can get to, giving the game a lot of replay value. Making it easier, you now have access to an overworld map and can choose to play the stages you’ve unlocked at will. This will at least double the playtime of Wario Land 2 and all the stages are a blast to go through, with some being even more challenging. The collectibles are also well worth it, as it will give you a neat unlockable that won’t be spoiled here.
Extra Score: 10/10
I was very surprised how well Wario Land 2 had held up. It has so much to offer in its variation, creativity, replay value and is simply a fantastic game to play! Despite focusing on exploration, platforming, and light puzzles, it still gives focus on what Wario is capable of, including his transformations, and still makes it easily accessible and fun to play on-the-go. Taking the leap to do something unique, really paid off for our hero and I feel a little bit better about giving away my sparkling Charizard.