Monday, 7 November 2011

Warioland II on the Gameboy - A Review

For the past couple of weeks, I have fired up my Gameboy and got back into some retro gaming fun. In particular, as I browsed online looking for gifts for someone else, I decided to treat myself to Warioland II, Nintendo's final official release for the Gameboy. After this game, the future of handheld gaming would be in colour (in fact Warioland II was re-released for the Game Boy Colour some six months later) and never again would new games come out for this, one of the most revolutionary gaming systems ever made.

And so my review. It is a retro game, being some 13 years old, but in 1998 I kind of lost interest in playing video games as I tried to get this new found phenomenon called sex. Some may actually call this a retrograde step, and so since the last time I bought a video game in 1995, this was my first 'play purchase' in over fifteen years.

Wow, it took me that long to get fed up of sex ;)

Warioland 2, like most Nntendo published games, is pretty easy to get into. The gameplay design is just great, allowing you to slowly ease yourself into the game. As you progress, the levels become harder, the puzzles more fraught and like any good platformer it slowly begins to hook you until you cannot wait to get into the game and defeat the next level. As my first new game in a decade and a half, I was not disappointed with the purchase. I have had so much fun in the past couple of weeks playing the game in my spare time.

(Hey, while the Gameboy may be portable, I am still too ashamed to take it out in public. It remains my dirty little secret to be played at home only...)

One of the great things about Warioland II, is that it brings back Mario's (at the time) new nemesis Wario. The original Warioland released on the Gameboy a few years earlier introduced the villain from Super Marioland 2 to his own game.

And playing Wario is very different from playing Mario. He is a tougher character, can take far more knocks, and attacks enemies in different ways. With Wario, there is also no damsel in distress. It is all about collecting money - he is the first Nintendo hero to have completely selfish motives. So he is my kind of hero...

One way that Warioland II differences from previous platform games is that you cannot die. Yep, that is right, Wario is invincible, and so there is no 'game over' mode. But do not be fooled, this does not make the game any easier - far from it! Being invincible means that you basically have to complete the level. There is no option to save and come back later, it is all or nothing. It does require a new level of skill to get through, but it makes the angle on gameplay very interesting.

There is also one major plot point in Warioland II, and that is the multiple ending scenario. On the first run, you defeat the game, just like I did yesterday.

Then a map is suddenly revealed and you realise that there are hidden levels and alternative endings to the game. Far from bein a straight through platform game, suddenly you realise that Wario's adventures are only just beginning. For the Gameboy, this is an absolutely massive game, more than just a few days play, but filled with secrets to reveal and more stuff to find. Fantastic, and considering the era when Warioland 2 was made, absolutely brilliant.

There are some niggling points to be had with the game. First of all, the sound is terrible. I know I should not expect much considering this is a Gameboy, but Link's Awakening, released on the same system, showed how good the music can be on the Gameboy. To be honest, some of the time, Warioland 2's music can get really irritating. Secondly, for a monochrome screen, there is a little bit too much detail. I can imagine this would really be great on a colour screen, but for the olive green graphics of the Gameboy, there is just too much to take in.

But these are niggles and really relate to Warioland being made with the Gameboy Colour in mind. Overall, this is a fantastic game, and as my first purchase in over fifteen years, I am happy to say that I am now hooked to video games again. But who would have thought that it would have been my trusty Gameboy that got me back into game playing...

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