Wario Land: The Shake Dimension Hands-On

We shake it up in Wario's latest outing and find out if Wario is up to the task of rescuing innocent victims (as well as some gold) from the clutches of the evil Shake King.

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Wario made his Wii debut with the minigame-loaded WarioWare: Smooth Moves, earning a strong critical reception in the process. Thankfully, Nintendo's antihero is back for a second outing on Wii in the classic platformer mold with Wario Land: The Shake Dimension (or Shake It as it's known in the US).

We first got a look at the game at Nintendo's E3 booth (you can read up on the basic story and premise behind Wario Land in our E3 preview), and the publisher invited us along to check out the game in greater detail in London before the game's release later this month. After spending some time with the game, we were almost as reluctant to put it down as Wario would be with a gold coin.

Despite his portly figure, Wario can shift up a gear when he needs to...like when being chased by a giant stone head.
Despite his portly figure, Wario can shift up a gear when he needs to...like when being chased by a giant stone head.

The controls in Wario Land place an emphasis on shaking the Wii Remote--hence the game's title--and by doing so, you'll be able to perform a range of special moves. These include powerful ground punches and shaking items from enemies. Tilting the remote will allow you to throw certain objects or fire Wario from a cannon. The Wii Remote is held on its side, as you would when playing Virtual Console titles, with the 2 button used for jumping and the 1 button to perform a dash move.

We played through the opening introductory level, Aboard the Sweet Stuff, and proceeded straight to the first of five areas, called Ratl Ruins. The area consists of four regular platforming stages culminating in a boss battle at the end. Each area has a different theme, and Ratl Ruins focused on the ancient remains of a Mayan temple, with plenty of rope-swinging action amongst a lush backdrop of rushing waterfalls, as well as a pyramid.

Wario's quest is to rid the Shake Dimension of the evil Shake King and hopefully relieve him of a bottomless coin sack in the process. To do so, you'll need to defeat five bosses, leading you to the king's location. Along the way, you'll rescue a merfle--one of the cute inhabitants of The Shake Dimension--from each stage, which inevitably results in an intruder alarm (and countdown timer) being tripped. You'll then have to leg it back to the start of the level before the time runs out, with your trusty companion showing you the exit. Each stage has barriers that change after the alarm is tripped, so your exit path is at least partially different from the way you entered. Along the way, you'll get your hands on a range of booty, including bronze, silver, and gold coins, as well as some rare treasures. These treasures include a terracotta suit, a crystal skull, six-week-old curry, and even some peach sandals previously warn by an unnamed princess.

Once you've rescued the four merfles from each area, their combined powers will allow you to access the boss. The first one, Rollanratl, was a giant stone statue that tried to crush us with his stone head and roof-mounted totem poles. Luckily, like all bosses, he has an Achilles' heel, which Wario's unique shaking skills can exploit. Once you've defeated each area's boss, you'll need to take all your precious coins back to the ship where you can buy a map for the next area. The price for each map increases substantially from one area to the next, so you'll need to scrounge for more coins in later stages.

Wiggly Wilds, the second zone, includes plains, volcanoes, and even an underwater stage. It looks like Shake Dimension won't be a strict run-and-jump platformer with Wario taking to the depths in his subwarine. The controls in this level are a bit different, with the left and right D pad buttons used for forward and reverse propulsion. The 2 button is used to fire torpedoes, and tilting the controller steers the ship up or down. The next level, Mt Lava Lava, sees Wario inside a live volcano. There are a lot of unique touches in the game that make it fit the mould of a Wario game, such as being chased by a giant boulder, only to be wrapped around it and flung (with Wario's distinct wailing cry) through a wall to a previously unavailable area.

The game's Saturday-morning-cartoon look and feel definitely makes Shake Dimension feel like a Wario game. The artistic style also suits Wario's comical, zany personality. Some of Wario's animations are highly amusing to say the least; he can shake the living daylights out of smaller enemies--gaining health and coins in the process. He can also belly flop enemies and even race against the game's second boss, Hot Roderick, using a "unibucket" (essentially a single-wheeled cement mixer) with a front-attached boxing glove. Combined with some quirky characters and bright tunes, the game's cartoony style should suit gamers of all ages.

There's no end to what you can do by shaking the Wii Remote, including swinging from poles.
There's no end to what you can do by shaking the Wii Remote, including swinging from poles.

Wario Land: The Shake Dimension looks like it could take a treasured place alongside WarioWare: Smooth Moves and Super Paper Mario as one of the more quirky Mario universe Wii games. Wario Land: The Shake Dimension will be coming to Europe on September 26.

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