October 1, 2005
After absorbing the news of Nintendo's Revolution controller, I wanted to see the motion-sensing technology in action, so that meant a trip to Target for a copy of Wario Ware Twisted for Gameboy Advanced.
I'm a bit of a late bloomer to Wario Ware. I only spend a very short time playing with the original 2003 Advance game, but its novelty was mostly lost on me. Perhaps I just wasn't willing to give it a proper chance; perhaps my head just wasn't in the right place. Wario Ware is something like Frank Zappa albums: wonderfully ingenious but completely out of left field. You have to be a certain kind of individual to ever "get it."
So, thankfully, I'm far more appreciative with Wario Ware Twisted. The idea of the game is the "microgame" - simple reflex tests, mere fragments of games, spit out one after another at a dizzying clip. Most events are over in less than three seconds, and it's interesting how this approach gives the game such a wierd glow. It's the perfect collusion of channel surfing, classic Nintendo nostalgia, and Japanese wierdness. It's very much the spiritual successor to Panic on the Sega CD.
Twisted was released in the first half of 2005, and uses a motion sensor that is part of the cartridge. I'm aware that I'm playing this after Revolution was unveiled, but I'm somewhat surprised that most reviews in websites and the prozines never learned what they were getting. This gyroscope is clearly not a "gimmick" - it's a window into the future of games.
Almost immediately, I'm struck by how much more natural, how much more intuitive, this control scheme is. Instead of using the d-pad, you rotate the Advance or DS (yes, this works fine on a DS). Movement is so much more fun. Isn't that wierd? I feel like I'm eight again, and I'm seeing an Atari VCS for the first time.
I think that Twisted is easier to grasp than the original Wario Ware because of this. The microgames aren't necessarily easier, but the control is so much more natural. That "what do I do now?" time has been shortened dramatically. I haven't played Wario Ware Touched yet, but my experience with the DS - most notably Yoshi Touch and Go, Meteos, Zookeeper - reinforce this belief.
Nintendo is actively moving away from the traditional control scheme. The d-pad is headed for extinction, and their designers are discovering how to play games with the new technology. Twisted feels like a crazed collection of tech demos, 200 grand experiments.
There are a lot of excellent examples throughout the game, from the 200 microgames to the 140 or so bonus items, games, and oddball trinkets. Head over to the NES microgames. Included in this bunch is a faithful recreation of the first world of the original Super Mario Bros. This version of Super Mario is set on a giant sphere that rotates as you move left or right. Note how you turn the handheld to make Mario move; a slight tilt will make Mario walk, and a heavy turn will make him run.
It took me a couple quick tries to become accustomed to turning instead of pressing a d-pad, but I quickly caught on, and realized how brilliant a movement-based control is. Control is more intuitive, more precise, more nuanced than in the original game. In a way, I felt cheated that only three shortened levels were offered. I want a full version of Super Mario now, and I'll wager that quite a few gamers feel the same way.
If we want a clue into how Revolution games will play, Twisted is the perfect example. Remember that Revolution will allow for fully three dimensional movement; Twisted uses only one dimensional movement, and it's a wonderful innovation. And a title like this gives designers necessary experience, which only promises that next year's Revolution games will be that much more polished.
I haven't even gone into detail about Twisted's great variety of visual styles, its oddball Japanese sense of humor (even moreso than the first Wario Ware), or its endless challenges. Isn't this just the coolest thing ever? What matters most right now is the movement control, how perfectly natural it is, and how many new game ideas will arise from the new order. Clearly, there's going to be a DJ game - tell me you haven't killed a couple hours scratching discs and having a ball. If Nintendo's creativity can continue to hold, then anything is possible.