The WarioWare series has always relied on obfuscation and absurdity to justify the intentionally shallow gameplay of its microgames. That ironically damns the sharp design of WarioWare Gold, which, in so cleanly separating microgames by control (Twist, Mash, Touch, and later an Ultra mode that combines all three) and theme (Fantasy, Sports, etc.), exposes the almost existential emptiness of the franchise. This is WarioWare at its absolute best, a collection of the best features and some of the microgames of previous entries, but the experience of playing the game is still hit and miss.
Though WarioWare Gold, the eighth entry in the WarioWare series, brings new microgames to the table, it lacks any new mechanics. It borrows everything from Twisted!’s use of the Game Boy Advance’s gyroscopic sensor and Touched!’s use of the DS’s touchscreen and microphone. An inventive use of the 3DS’s stereoscopic display might have helped to elevate or unify these random and derivative games. Instead, even the best of the lot, a series of Nintendo-themed microgames, can only appeal to one’s nostalgia, conjuring up five-second bursts of classics like Donkey Kong Country and Yoshi’s Island or evoking the displays of the Virtual Boy and the original Game Boy.
Quantity has never been an acceptable substitute for quality, so the fact that there are over 300 microgames here is only impressive at first glance. In the end, the glut of content only works to showcase how identical so many of the microgames are to one another. “Love Struck,” for example, requires you to use the touchscreen to trace a path from a bow to a heart, whereas “Hookin’ Up” asks you to…trace a path from a man to a woman. If there are differences between the games, it’s often just a matter of artistic style, from the painterly to the pixelated, like Instagram filters offering slightly different takes of the same photo—and just ask any indie developer how far aesthetic design gets a game. Ditto one-dimensional comedy. The punny title of “Shave the World” gets exactly one chuckle, as does the micrograme’s control scheme, which involves tilting the 3DS in order to rotate a giant space razor that’s giving the Earth a nice trim, but this and other games never get any funnier, which doesn’t exactly encourage replaying them to beat their target scores.
WarioWare Gold slightly redeems itself only after you’ve suffered through the feeble punchlines of the Story mode and have unlocked Challenge mode, which puts bizarre roadblocks in front of the player that affect your interactions with the microgames. When “Wario Interrupts” is enabled, players must quickly accomplish secondary tasks, such as pouring out a wine glass or squeegeeing paint splatters, that block the actual microgames you’re being scored on. Elsewhere, choosing the “Split Screen” challenge eliminates the downtime between microgames, which normally only appear on the 3DS’s lower screen but here alternate immediately between the bottom and top.
The most effective (and effectively meta) of the Challenge mode’s options is “Sneaky Gamer,” where players must help their 3DS-playing avatar, 9-Volt, complete microgames while simultaneously keeping an eye out for 9-Volt’s mother, feigning sleep whenever she appears. These additional challenges aren’t perfect, but they make things so chaotic that there’s no time to scrutinize WarioWare Gold’s individual microgames, only to react to them. It’s the ultimate distraction, and that’s-a the Wario way.