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Review: WarioWare D.I.Y./WarioWare D.I.Y. Showcase

6:00 PM on 04.30.2010 // Jonathan Holmes

At first I wanted to start this review with a "Do you like to do it yourself" reference to The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but then I thought, "Is that how I really want to be remembered in the annals of Internet history? As a peddler of lame references and bad jokes?"

Every word, every image that has entered the Internet will survive -- in some form or another -- for all time. After the human race is gone and the Earth is governed by super-CPUs in the cloud, my thoughts about videogames will probably be the only thing these self-interested artificial life forms will find interesting about me. "Oh, he used to judge our ancestors, sometimes with an air of pretentious mockery," they'll muse. "What a jackass," they'll exclaim, as they kick the dirt off their feet; dirt that may contains the remnants of my long decompsed corpse.

The digital footprint we leave via the Internet will long outlive us. That brings me to WarioWare D.I.Y. (DS). More than a game, this DS title allows regular people the chance to create tiny, easy-to-make, AI-driven artistic expressions of themselves, to be shared with the world via the DS's Wi-Fi connection, or played on your TV via WarioWare D.I.Y. Showcase (WiiWare). You may be dead in 100 years or so, but the stuff you make in this game may last forever.

That's great and all, but the important question is this: Does the game provide you with the tools to create something you'll want to be remembered for, or does it merely let you make a series of lame, referential-humor joke games? Hit the jump to find out.

WarioWare D.I.Y. (DS)
Developer: Intelligent Systems/Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: March 28, 2010
MSRP: $34.99

If you're not familiar with the series, you should know that WarioWare is all about five-second comedy "microgames." Sudden surprises, bizarre premises, and unreasonable demands are series trademarks. There's one microgame that shows up in most of the games in the series that tells you to "PICK!", then presents you with a black-and-white drawing of a nose and a finger. The finger is moving left to right, and with just a few seconds to spare, you have to win. But how do you win? Oh yeah, "PICK!" Press the button when the finger is aligned with a nostril! Take too long to figure that out, or press the button at the wrong time and miss the nostril, and it's instant failure. Press it at the right time, it's finger in the hole and near-instant gratification.

Historically, the WarioWare games feature crude, humble, and creepy-but-amusing visual design. WarioWare is videogame equivalent of the Spike and Mike or The Animation Show indie animation festivals. That hasn't changed with WarioWare D.I.Y. The difference is that now, you can finally enter the festival yourself.

The game comes complete with comics, built-in songs, and over 90 microgames packed in. Some of them are pretty good (particularly those based on other Nintendo series like Pikmin and Metroid: Zero Mission), but their main purpose is to give you ideas and examples to guide you towards making your own stuff. Making games is the star of show, but there are music and comic creation tools. It feels a lot like a sequel to Mario Paint on the SNES, except now you can share your creations in the game's virtual world, and with the real world, via both local connections and Wi-Fi.

Wario is the first to introduce you to the game creation tools, as he asks you to finish the graphics for a game that he's been working on. This works as both a tutorial on using the game's drawing tools, and an opportunity for comedy. I've long been of the opinion that comedy games only work when they allow the player to be funny, as opposed to just presenting the player with a bunch of pre-scripted jokes. That's exactly what happens here. Wario doesn't tell you of the context in which your graphics will be used in-game, which results in something like Mad Libs for videogames. Whatever you come up with for graphics will likely look funny in the unexpected context into which Wario inserts them. Trust me, it's funnier to play than to read about.

The music creator isn't as funny, but it's still pretty awesome. It's easy to use, and has a fairly large bank of instruments and sound effects to rely on. You get four tracks and a percussion section to work with, and you can make songs up to 4 minutes long. Suck at laying notes down by hand? Try the "hum" option. It allows you to place notes in real time by singing into the DS microphone. It's not perfect, but if you've got decent pitch, it will give you a head start on laying down some tracks. If you have no ideas for songs at all, you can just ask the game to write music for you and your games. On top of all that, you can also stick in wacky sound effects and add filters to your songs. Like most Nintendo apps, they do their best to make this music maker fun, even if you suck at using it.

The comic creator is probably my favorite app in the WarioWare D.I.Y. package. It allows you to create a four-panel black-and-white comic. You get the basic pencil and fill tools, and built-in graphics if you need them. Where it might take you hours to create a finished game, and a little less for a full-length song, you can put together a pretty funny comic in a matter of minutes. 

That's not to say the microgame creator is bad by comparison. It's surprisingly painless to create animated characters (with up to four frames of animation each), backgrounds, and AI programs. You can also edit other games (acquired in-game or from people online) and tweak them any way you'd like. This is the easiest game creation tool I've used yet.

The problems come from the limits put on the player/developer. Sometimes they're understandable, but other times they feel a little excessive. There are only fourteen colors to choose from, which is a bummer. As a result, every game you make or play with D.I.Y. will look like a low-end GBA title at best. The upside is, the limited colors force you to learn how to shade in the old-school checkerboard pixel manner. There are even palettes set to automatically lay down the checkerboard pattern for you in different color combinations. Still, it's hard to understand why they didn't give us the option to use a few more colors, and go checkerboard if that's what we wanted.

The same goes for the lack of control options available for user-created games. You can't set any of your games to be controlled with the D-pad and buttons, or even by clicking and dragging objects on-screen à la The Legend of Zelda: The Spirit Tracks or Nintendogs. It's all point-and-tap for every game. Clever developers will find ways around this, by laying D-pad and button icons down on the touch screen itself or using other tricks, but why should they have to?

There are also serious limits put on the game's online distribution functionality. Friend Codes are required, which isn't that big of a deal if you have the Internet and are willing to go to WarioWare fansite forums to find some friends. The real problem comes from how games are exchanged. You can only put two games, one record, and one comic in your storeroom at any one time. That may sound like a lot, but considering that it's not uncommon to find someone online who wants to give you ten games at a time, it's a pain. You've got to ask them to drop two games in their store room, go grab the games, tell the person you got them, ask them to take those two games out and put two new ones in, and so forth. The game also doesn't allow you to store a whole lot of microgames on your cartridge -- just 90 in total. It may sound like a lot, but most microgames are over in just 5 seconds. 90 x 5 seconds = "Wanh, I want more cookies, Mama!"

I get that the developers wanted to limit the player's development tools so they'd rely on ingenuity and comedy to create great microgames, as opposed to toiling away for hours at making the next Super Mario 3. I just think they went a little far with the limits. The original WarioWare was controlled with the D-pad and buttons, and later WarioWare games featured a variety of other control options, as well as a full 256-color palette. None of that limited the comedic effect or ingenuity found in the microgames in those titles.

Still, the pros far outweigh the cons in this game. Making your own WarioWare game is even more fun than it looks. It's especially cool to download the game's multitudes of free DLC microgames and stack them up against your own creations. So far, we've gotten games created by the likes of Cave Story's Pixel, World of Goo's Ron Carmel, Metroid's Yoshio Sakamoto, Super Smash Bros.' Masahiro Sakurai, Super Meat Boy's Edmund McMillen, and Bit.Trip RUNNER's Alex Neuse. There is a strange sort of "living the dream" joy in creating your own, potentially superior game, and sandwiching it in between the games of these great developers.

Speaking of which, if you want to try out my debut microgame, F*ck Face, drop me a PM. I'll hook you up.

Oh yeah, a score...

Score: 8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

WarioWare D.I.Y. Showcase (WiiWare)
Developer: Intelligent Systems/Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: March 29, 2010
MSRP: 800 Wii Points

WarioWare D.I.Y. Showcase is a relatively cheap application that allows you to download WarioWare D.I.Y. DLC and upload games, comics, and songs directly from the DS version of the game. It also contains some new comics, songs, and over 70 new microgames. There are no game creation tools here, but for just $8, I didn't expect something on par with the $35 DS game.

There are some advantages to using D.I.Y. Showcase on the Wii over D.I.Y. on the DS. For starters, you can send games you've created directly to anyone who also has Showcase on their Wii. No storeroom shenanigans involved; just pick the game, record, or comic you want to send, pick who you want to send it to, and you're off. It's a feature that really should have been in the DS version, but at least it's here.

Another cool feature is the ability to take songs from D.I.Y. DS and transform them into playable levels in Balloon Fight. For those who don't know, Balloon Fight is a simple 2D side-scrolling flight game from Nintendo's first years in the home console market. In WarioWare D.I.Y. Showcase, any record can be played as a level, where each note can be collected for points as the player flies from left to right. Each time you collect a note, the note plays. It's like Balloon Fight meets Guitar Hero. Though it's impossible to play a level well enough to play back the song perfectly, it's still a fun and weird enough challenge to give it a try.

The other big advantage to D.I.Y. Showcase over D.I.Y. DS is the ability to play games in local competitive multiplayer with up to four people. You can't play games you've created in this mode -- only games that came packed in with the program. It's still a cool bonus that adds dimension to the sometimes repetitive microgame action, while also working as the perfect "gateway game" to those in the family who might not immediately take to the microgame concept.

My two big problems with the "game" come from what it comes packed with, and what it can pack. As with D.I.Y. on the DS, D.I.Y. Showcase comes with some built-in microgames. There are 72 in all, and as with D.I.Y. DS, they're not all that great. The storage problem also comes up again. You can only store 72 games. Why so few?

None of that really matters, though, because having D.I.Y. Showcase means I can play F*ck Face on the big screen. It's purely a vanity thing, but it's still amazing to hold a controller in your hand, look at your TV, and play something that came out of your own brain. That alone was worth my $8.

Score: 8.5 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

[UPDATE: Reader Rabspat noticed that I have something wrong here. You can in fact use D.I.Y. Showcase's multi-player mode to play your own microgames. In this mode, you play a mixed-up combination of pre-made microgames with the homemade microgames, and the order is random. As such, I didn't actually get to any homemade microgames on my first few plays of this mode. Chalk it up to bad luck and crappy research. My mistake! Adding 0.5 to the score!- Jonathan Holmes, Staff]

Jonathan Holmes, Bad Joke Uncle
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