Shake It! is a good Wario Land with a maddening, unbalanced difficulty.
History shows that some of the most gorgeous two dimensional platformers are some of the best. Wario Land Wii stuns with a great first impression; the opening scene is a fully animated cartoon (crafted by anime studio Production I.G.), in-game character models are crisp and look hand-drawn, and stage backgrounds are beautifully rendered, colorful palettes. The anti-hero will scale ancient ruins, explore the depths of the sea, endure in active volcanoes, and lush jungles through his adventure. Shake It! is sweetness for the eyes with its wide variety of beautiful scenery.
Those who played Good-Feel's 2010 title Kirby's Epic Yarn will recognize similarities between that game's stages and the company's Wario Land title, primarily in their simple construction. The main objective for each stage is the same: reach the end, free a Merfle, and frantically race back to the stage's entrance, escaping before time expires. Many areas are inaccessible until the stage escape when Wario, after climbing into and being spit out by a speed boost pipe, can violently dash into previously impregnable barriers which usually lead to finding a hidden treasure or puzzle.
Three treasures are tucked away in each stage; some are tricky to find, and others can only be reached whilst returning to a stage's beginning. Thankfully, for perfectionists, there is a check point at the end of every level. If Wario runs into a wall or even certain foes, he loses his speed, and the only way to regain it is to restart at the checkpoint. Losing speed may mean failing to speedily dash into strongholds, but it may also result in failing to complete challenges within a stage. A time trial begins immediately after Wario frees a stage's Merfle. Time trials are only one of many challenges you can complete per level.
Challenges include collecting a set amount of coins, not taking any damage in a stage, defeating the stage's "golden enemy", and more. These tasks have a masochist flavor, and they are made all the more cruel by giving you only one chance to complete them. And you must revisit some stages up to three or more times to conquer them all, because aiming to win some challenges will automatically mean sacrificing another.
Shake It! is hard, but not in a satisfying way. It will make you grit your teeth, grip the controller tightly, sweat profusely, and constantly face the temptation to body slam your Nintendo Wii. With the main objective of simply reaching a level's end being a cake-walk and the sub-objectives rage inducing, Shake It! suffers from a maddening unbalanced difficulty. However, this adventure is a fun romp, and the classic Wario formula with its unlikely protagonist provide great redemptive qualities.
More so than his plumber counterpart, Wario relies on his large, round frame and raw strength to defeat enemies and break hard-to-penetrate walls and blocks. Not since the excellent Wario Land 4 has he starred in his own platformer, but he retains most of his familiar moves. He shoulder charges, "butt stomps", and when an enemy is stunned, he can shake the baddy of all its goods and throw him into a nearby wall. A sack of health usually drops from a shaken foe, but there are bags of cash strung throughout the game's stages for Wario to grab and shake.
The shaking action is done via shaking the Wii remote up and down. Coins spurt out of the bags like water from a geyser, scattering all over the fray and disappearing quite quickly. Obtaining everything in the bag requires you to shake it under a ceiling or against a wall. I daresay this was meant for strategy, but it often feels tedious and unnecessary. However, it is hardly an issue, and seeing coins gush about adds to the game's cartoony persona.
When Wario is free-handed, shaking the remote causes him to smash the ground which can stun nearby enemies or rattle platforms and projectiles. Fitting to the title, shaking the controller is the primary form of motion control in the game, but motion controls are implemented in different ways throughout the levels. A few stages feature horizontally placed poles that Wario can grab, and, with the shake of the remote, swing and flip into the sky. You pilot Wario's submarine (also called the "Subwarine") in a few motion centered underwater stages, but Good-Feel should have refrained from implementing the Wii-mote's movement capabilities here.
These stages move at a fair speed, but the submarine is awfully slow. Furthermore, guiding the purple, mustached vehicle is extremely awkward. The sub's nose mimics the position of the Wii remote, facing up or down depending on how the controller is tilted or set. By way of the d-pad you can move the submarine back and forth and fire torpedoes at incoming enemies with the "2" button. It sounds simple, but maneuvering the Subwarine through tight spaces, moving from the top to the bottom of the screen, and firing at enemies while trying to dodge them, is frustrating. In terms of level design, this is the game's sole major disappointment because of missed potential.
One of the game's greatest strengths is its boss battles which revolve around motion controls and Wario's own capabilities. Though there are only five boss battles, each one feels entirely new and fresh. These foes are quite large and have a variety of attacks, causing you to learn their attack patterns and think about how you can give them a dose of their own medicine.
Wario Land: Shake It! is not for everyone. Newcomers and players looking for a breezy platformer may enjoy the core campaign, and series enthusiasts will embrace its personality. However, Good-Feel's Wario Land, being the most colorful entry in the franchise (a pro and con) is not as gritty as past iterations, but that is a subjective issue. To fully enjoy this Wario Land, one must face its sometimes-brutal challenges. A great sense of victory will come upon those who do strive toward conquering the game in its entirety, but some will wonder if it is worth all of the frustration.