E3 06: WarioWare: Smooth Moves Hands-On

Wario brings his madness to the Wii, and the console will never be the same as a result.

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LOS ANGELES--One of the most promising titles we've seen for the Wii so far is WarioWare: Smooth Moves, a new entry in Nintendo's fun and addictive minigame franchise starring Mario's surly counterpart. The game captures the "anything goes" spirit that's been cultivated over the various entries in the series, which began on the GBA and has since expanded to include the DS and the GameCube, and it takes the motion-sensor-enabled installments and applies them to the Wii. So far the marriage between the whimsical minigame premise and the Wii controller is looking like a good one.

The demo we played featured the patented WarioWare insanity and introduced a whole new level of goofiness to the mix. The game takes the basic, hectic structure seen in the previous games and requires you to figure out and play assorted minigames in short bursts of time, and then throws in some performance art thanks to the Wii controller. This time out, the game revolves around how you hold the controller. Each minigame that will come up will quickly flash a named method for holding the controller. Once you see it, you'll have to quickly adjust your grip to match. You'll then have to figure out how to play the minigame using that grip before time runs out. In the demo we played, we came across several different named holding styles. The umbrella requires you to hold the controller horizontally as if it were the base of an umbrella. Finger food requires you to hold the controller as if it were an hors d'oeuvre. Handlebars requires you to hold the controller vertically as if it were the handlebars on a bike. Mohawk requires you to hold the controller on top of your head. Big cheese requires you to hold the controller at your waist. Waiter requires you to hold the controller flat on the outstretched palm of your hand. Dumbell requires you to hold the controller in your hand like a weight. Finally, sketch artist requires you to hold the controller like a pen.

So how do these work in a game? Ridiculously easily. The demo took the same elevator approach the GameCube game did and has you ascending floors by dealing with whatever minigames pop out at you. Following are some examples of how that works. The elevator door will open and you'll see "umbrella" flash onscreen. After a few seconds you'll see a banana covered in flies and you'll be told to shake them off. You'll make this happen by shaking the controller. Another game will flash finger food before dissolving to a locked door that requires you to turn the key and open it before time runs out. Another will flash handlebars and you'll be required to inflate a balloon before time runs out by "pumping" the controller and moving it up and down. A minigame that requires the Mohawk holding style requires you to literally do a squat. The big cheese grip game requires you to do an actual hula dance. The waiter grip minigame we saw required you to manipulate a marble puzzle by tilting your hand to guide the marble into the center hole. The dumbbell grip game requires you to do two quick curls with an onscreen weight. The sketch artist grip game requires you to trace an object. The games are fast, fun and, as you'd expect, wind up making you look like a bit of a goofball, which is ultimately fine.

The game uses the classic stylized art aesthetic from the previous games. You'll see all manner of surreal imagery laid out before you, some hand-drawn, some actual photos that, believe it or not, actually manage to work as a cohesive whole. Which is quite an achievement considering this means that gorillas, lions, trapeze artists, and fruit are all blended into something cool.

Based on what we played, WarioWare: Smooth Moves is looking like a nifty showcase for the versatility of the Wii controller and yet another testament to the development team's ingenuity. The game manages to feel fresh and familiar at the same time. Look for more on WarioWare: Smooth Moves later this week at E3.

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