Minigames! This has been the rallying cry for the Wii thus far, gathering players from far and wide who seek the oft-advertised “fast, addictive gameplay.” Launch title “Wii Sports” and “Rayman Raving Rabids,” have showcased the Wiimote’s abilities in simple, short game modes, varying from the completely mindless to the thoroughly enjoyable. This isn’t all the Wii has to offer — games like “Madden 2007,” “Call of Duty 3” and “Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” are genuinely exploring the Wii’s capability of creating full games — but there have been a slew of titles focusing entirely on what are traditionally small facets of a larger gaming experience.
“Warioware,” wildly popular on the Nintendo DS, was the culmination of this genre. Featuring rapid-fire, self-consciously stupid “microgames,” “Warioware” sought to find new ways to use the DS touchpad and prided itself on its lack of depth and quirky sense of humor. A no-brainer for the Wii, Nintendo simply took the previous sentence, replaced “touchpad” with “Wiimote,” put “Smooth Moves” on the end of the title and slammed out a game.
Irony can be a fine line to walk, and “Warioware: Smooth Moves” walks a razor’s edge. It’s a party game in the tradition of “Mario Party,” with room for up to eight players in some of the games. Each game mode functions a little differently, but they’re all built on the same microgames. There are a couple different ways to hold the Wiimote, as indicated by a name and a little diagram (the Elephant pose imitates a trunk, the Mohawk pose imitates said hairstyle, and The Big Cheese imitates an erect phallus). The player gets an image and an instruction, say “Drink,” where the player has to hold the Wiimote on his face and tilt it upwards slow enough to not spill, but fast enough to beat the time limit.
The other microgames range from the fabulously ludicrous to the simply incomprehensible. You’ll have to switch gears in a car, rearrange papers, sweep up leaves or grate a cellphone in a cheese grater. Some of the games simply require a single, quick and simple movement before passing the remote on, and some we couldn’t figure out even after two hours of play. The use of the WiiMote is good for the most part, but leaves you hoping for something a little more ridiculous than what was being offered. The humor of the microgames relies on novelty, but this gets tiresome the second time you see each game and have to deal with the fact that they’re either boring or frustrating.
The fast pace, the dynamic of passing the Wiimote around and the slapstick humor of the microgames make WarioWare an obvious party game and an ideal drinking game, but if you plan on using it like this, make sure you’re already buzzed before you start or your pregame will fall flat. It’s fun to watch your friends flail around swatting imaginary flies, but you’re going to spend an inordinate amount of time doing just that — watching. Playing with seven other people means that you only play one-eighth of the time, and when you do it’ll probably be just a quick jerk of the wrist before you have to relinquish the fun. You’ll screw up a lot, so you’ll end up drunk, but don’t expect Beirut to be going away any time soon.
“WarioWare: Smooth Moves” is right in line with what we’ve seen from the Wii so far: It seeks to get players up and moving, to challenge traditional ideas of videogames and to make videogames more accessible. These aims are all well and good, but “WarioWare: Smooth Moves,” like a bad term paper, doesn’t have a whole lot supporting its thesis of fast, simple fun. It’s by no means a failure, and will easily provide enjoyable diversion at a party, but addictive it is not. The Wii’s launch titles are already over, and it’s no longer enough for a game to list “showcasing the Wiimote” as its primary purpose. It’s time to move past minigames. “WarioWare: Smooth Moves” is quick, easy, approachable fun, but it is also shallow and short-lived. It’s everything that the Wii’s promoters said it would be, but also everything that the Wii’s detractors said it wouldn’t be.