Jon Gracey's

Games That Rocked…Jenny Williams’ World – #48: WarioWare: Smooth Moves

In Wii on December 6, 2013 at 11:59 am

Title: WarioWare: Smooth Moves

Format: Wii

Released: January 12th, 2007

WarioWare Box Art

I’m not what you’d call a hardcore gamer. That’s not to say I’ve never played (there was many a month in my childhood when all my father saw of me was the top of my head, as I hunched over a boxy, grey console attempting to line up various descending boxes into neat rows), but they’ve never been as important to me as they have been to some of my friends. I suspect one of the problems is I have quite limited taste in games.

I’ve always enjoyed games that were heavy on the ‘fun’ factor and easy on the ‘blowing-people-to-smithereens-factor’. Games that were brightly coloured, cartoon-esque, with a heavy dose of surrealism called to me in a way that the zombies, criminals, bounty-hunters and trolls of other games never could (unless, of course, they were brightly coloured, cartoon-esque, surreal bounty hunters and trolls). I became so emotionally attached to Banjo-Kazooie, Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64 that I couldn’t really understand why all video games couldn’t be EXACTLY THE SAME as those close-to-perfect games.

So, whilst friends upgraded from console to console, game to game; I acted as though game design had peaked (and then finished) in that gorgeous summer of 1998, when I perpetually avoided homework by powering up the old Nintendo 64.

Every N64 Game

Yep. That’s every *single* N64 game

However, in 2007, I moved into a household that was majority boy (and majority gamer), giving me sudden access to the very latest in electronic and computing equipment, including the very new, the very cool, the object of many a breathless rave, Nintendo Wii.

When someone first explained the Wii to me, I wasn’t particularly fussed. In fact, I pooh-poohed it, telling them that if they wanted to play a game of tennis, why not just go out on a real tennis court with a real ball, real racquets and real opponents and play it out there? In reality? My limited imagination could not see a use for the Wii beyond sports games and could not see how anyone who wanted to play a sport would possibly want to do it through some kind of computerised substitution device. Furthermore, I couldn’t see myself ever (EVER) being interested in something like that.

But, of course, that all changed one autumn evening. At the start of Easter break I found myself for the first time in many weeks without homework, study or practice. I wanted a night off, I wanted to reward myself with a bit of fun, but didn’t know what. I didn’t want to watch TV; or go to the movies; it was too dark to go for a walk. Which was when my housemate (presumably sick of my whining) pulled out WarioWare: Smooth Moves. “It’s pretty fun”, he said. “You might like it.”

Classic understatement. WarioWare is the kind of frenetic fun that you associate with rollercoasters and those slightly scary, dizzy montages they do of funfairs in movies (or acid trips? Though I couldn’t possibly comment on that with any authority). Made up of hundreds of ‘micro-games’ that last about 5 seconds each, WarioWare hardly gives you time to breathe. As soon as one game finishes, you’re on to the next with maybe a surreal little seconds-long animation in between of cheerleaders cheering or Wario running or turtles marching (why?? Who knows, don’t ask questions, just go with it).

WarioWare Squat!

WarioWare certainly ticked all my boxes. Brightly coloured and manically surreal, a kind of ‘story’ links the micro-games together, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was, because it was in no way important. The main joy of the game is discovering what weird thing the game-makers will have you doing next. For 5 seconds, try to fly a paper airplane through a pathway, try to scan groceries, try to shear a sheep, try to pick a person’s nose, try to fan off a troll hanging on to a cliff, try to put in grandma’s dentures…and then, when you get the hang of it, do it faster!

Apparently, when the game was in development, the head director told his designers to just come up with as many ideas as possible based on ‘everyday situations’ and then send them in. The only stipulation was that the player had to be able to figure out exactly what was happening within a couple of seconds. Designers then worked individually on the ideas, giving each game a unique feel and look.

WarioWare Nose Pick

A useful and enjoyable aspect of the game, especially to a Wii Luddite such as myself, was the education it provided about what the Wii could do and all the different ways the controller could be used. The micro-games use a variety of different handholds and every time a new handhold was needed, it would be introduced in a semi-yogic-guru kind of way (you get me, right?) A screen displaying a drawing of the new hand-hold would be shown, along with a silly name and sillier description. For example, ‘The Remote Control: Hold the Form Baton straight with the tip pointing forward. This simple stance reflects one of life’s finest – and greatest – sports: channel surfing.’ A very slow, meditative voice reads the words out and because it’s so deadpan, you at first don’t quite see the weirdness – just my sense of humour.

These instructive screens (the slowest and calmest part of an essentially ADHD video game) also help to build anticipation for the next micro-game. I found myself hopping from foot-to-foot, giggling and light-headed, feeling that kind of anxiety you feel in a horror movie when the camera is tight on the back of the head of the heroine and you just know that as soon as it swings around you’re going to see that zombie/vampire/serial killer/clown creeping silently along behind her wielding some kind of terrifying weapon.

WarioWare The Boxer

The final great thing about WarioWare is its ability to bring a bunch of people together. Rather than a game that absorbs you completely and individually, this is the kind of game you want to share. You want to share the silly things you have to do, you want to laugh about the funny names for the hand-holds, you want to test each other’s skills and hold competitions. Unable to ignore my whoops of delight, eventually all my housemates gravitated to the living room, where we took turns on the controller, passing round obscenely coloured alcohols for the down-times. It was one of those fantastic nights that I’ll probably reminisce about misty-eyed to my grandchildren when they ask what a Wii was and why did everyone care so much.

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Jenny Williams is an Australian actor/writer/traveller/blogger who is currently based in London. You can follow her on twitter here and read here blog here. She’s gr8.

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