Skipping the N64, Wario World would debut in 3D for the first (and so far, only) time on the beloved Gamecube. Despite that I was a fan of the anti-Mario, this was not the reason why I actually bought this game when it came out. The reason was that Treasure was going to develop it, which made my heart skip. If you are unfamiliar, Treasure is known for a lot of quality-games such as Ikaruga, Dynamite Headdy, Sin and Punishment and Guardian Heroes to name a few. Seeing how they have dabbled in both the platforming- and beat em up genre, I had confidence in that they would make a challenging, but an entertaining game with Wario as the star. As for memories before popping this game in for review-purposes: well, I only played through the first couple of levels, got bored, and started playing Gunstar Heroes instead. Unfortunately, this was not because I was an impatient kid.
Beat em up for newcomers
Wario has gotten incredibly rich, shown in even the title screen with his castle decorated in gold and treasures laying everywhere. However, hidden in his basement, a black jewel has awakened and turned Wario’s castle into some kind of a surreal space station and all his treasures have been transformed into fiends. Trapped in this strange hubworld, Wario wants to get his treasures back and get revenge on the cursed jewel.
The game offers four worlds, each containing two stages that ends with a bossfight each, and one extra stage dedicated to a bossfight alone. The stages are set up as 3D beat em ups, with a stationary camera on the side, similar to an old school beat em up, and some decent platforming accompanying them. Wario is quite the versatile combatant in his 3D debut. He has a three-hit combo, a ground pound, can pick up stunned enemies or constructions for hard throws, piledrive and create a whirlwind-attack, and charge-attack which can be combined with a jump for a long jump-attack. This vast moveset makes Wario fun to play around with and gives him quite a lot to work with. Some of these moves are also used for progressions, such as whirlwind for sliding away doors, and while they are simple and not in deep, it is a nice way to make opening doors more interactive than simply punching a button or lever.
Sadly, the enemies do not convey much variety. While some have slightly different movements, such as being able to fly or can charge-attack, all enemies take a long time before they even attack you, get easily staggered by your combos, and are copy-pasted for every area. This makes the vast moveset almost worthless as each common fight is very easy and gets repetitive even before the second stage. At least the stages have some diversity outside of the combat, with simple platforming being at forefront. These come in some variety, such as clinging on cogwheels and can lead to secrets, which we will come back to in the extra-segment. Unfortunately, these platforming-elements do not convey enough diversity to the game as they are straightforward and only occasionally have decent ideas. The only really creative part to these stages, comes if you fall down a bottomless pit. Instead of losing health or similar, you are taken to a small room with ghosts haunting you and you must find a spring in one of the many boxes to escape this room. This is a neat idea, but with how easy the stages are, I rarely encountered this.
The game shines more in its creativity with two segments. The first, is the search for the red crystals. You see, in each stage you must acquire a certain amount of these crystals to venture to the stage’s bossfight. These crystals are hidden in trap doors you must ground pound onto , which will take you to either a small puzzle-room or an obstacle-course. Neither is a huge challenge, but are entertaining thanks to providing good variety that focuses on his platforming-capabilities. They can be more puzzle oriented with platforming-building or take a different approach to Wario’s jumping-abilities, such as having platforms that pushes you higher up or tests your reactions. Completing each of them will reward you with a crystal and each stage has more than enough for you to venture further with, so should one obstacle-course prove too annoying for your taste, there are others to choose from. There is also the option to start from the beginning should you miss some of the crystals on the way, but you should never need this as they are not hard to find.
Second part where the game shines, is with the boss fights themselves. This is something Treasure is known for, and all here are great and entertaining due to their imaginative concepts. A favourite example of mine, is the fight against the two headed dragon where you must trick them to attack each other. Only two fights were dull due to how uninteresting they were, with the other ten being great even if they where not challenging.
That is unfortunately a big issue: there is no sense of challenge or good difficulty-curve. This would have been fine if the game had more creativity, and while the bosses and the trap-doors are entertaining because of their clever designs, the rest of the game could have used a lot more. Wario’s moveset is incredibly fun to play around with, but no enemy makes him use different tactics, and the platforming has some nice moments, but are often basic and at best functional. I even forgot that I could literally suck up money to use them for buying health from vendors or to respawn where I died, should I bite the dust. On top of this, the difficulty is uneven and the final level can be a chore. Thankfully, the game takes about five hours to finish, so it does not overstay its welcome, even if it gets repetitive before the second level.
Gameplay Score: 5/10
Creativity on a lower level
Being in tone with the game’s cartoony artstyle, each stage is vibrant with a lot of strong colours, fitting each setting the game takes you to. The first world has a forest-level and a garden with plenty of green areas, while the second has a haunted mansion and a circus with diverse areas like graveyards or trampoline-tent, showcasing creative use of this style. The enemies are also appropriately made for these segments, such as turret-turtles in the forest, ghosts and skeleton-crocodiles in the more spooky areas. Unfortunately due to how most are reskinned versions of previous enemies, they are easily recognised as copy-paste by their animations, which ruins the immersion. There are thankfully some that are different such as the sharks in the haunted mansions, but the visuals can only hide so much.
Sadly, this also leads me to an unfortunate criticism as well: the enemies vary in creativity quality. All are fitting sure, but when you go from a level with turret-turtles and then are met with rather traditional skeletons, it gives a sense that not enough time was given to really go out of the way to make these worlds bizarre. This is a shame, cause this is excellently shown with the boss fights, as you fight some very strange creature, such as the bikini-wearing crocodile, evil cupid and plenty more that I dare to spoil. The off colour-textures that do not match well in the levels, such as light-brown trees being off placed in murky forest with no good transitions, makes the areas nice aesthetically, but also unpolished.
Though these are only issues that keeps the game from reaching the higher standards it could have had , as there are a lot to to praise this game for. My personal love is for Wario himself actually. The animations of his attacks being so devastating and eye catching, are always a pleasure to witness, and the multiple of punches sounds impactful and I enjoy his PG-rated mean comments towards the enemies. Then there is the soundtrack, with gorgeous, upbeat jazz fitting each stage wonderfully. The winter-level has more trumpets and jingle-bells, fitting the Christmas-vibe, and the circus has accordion for a more jolly approach, and I love how everything is uplifting and has a silly attachment to them. Even the menu-theme is just Wario mocking you, and it really shows that they put a lot of effort into this part.
Presentation Score: 7.5/10
Treasure made treasures into valuable treasures
As for other things to do in this game, there are a lot of collectables to search for. First off, in every level, there are five spirits you can free from cages, which in the end will determine how good of an ending you will get. Second, are Wario-parts for a gold statue you can collect in each level for a heart-container, which are not very much needed due to how easy the game is. Lastly are the treasures you can find by pushing colour-related buttons, and these unlock small minigame-collections from WarioWare, Inc.: Minigame Mania, which you can play if you have the GBA-connector. I find it very puzzling that you actually need the device to play this, but at least it is a nice reward. Searching for these items is actually fun and adds more diversity as you must explore and be more creative in how to get to certain areas, even if it is still quite easy to 100% this game. The multiple endings are rewarding and entertaining, but the hearts are not worthwhile and I can only really recommend the treasure-hunting if you have a Gameboy connector and not access to the original game. Still, searching for them is enjoyable.
Extra Score: 7/10
It is kinda interesting how this entry is similar to Wario Land 4, in that this is more of a beginners beat em up. It has creative and entertaining boss fights; it is fun to beat things up with Wario’s moveset and there can be above average level-designs. Sadly, it seems the game was on a tight production-time as the platforming is hit and miss, the progression can be dull and repetitive, and the difficulty-curve is all over the place. Still, treasure hunting does unlock some entertaining rewards and while more creativity could have gone a long way, the presentation is eye catching and the tunes are ear-pleasing, helping the atmosphere and adding to the satisfying beat down. Though this is far from a game worthy of the Treasure-logo, newcomers to the genre is in for a treat.