Nintendo's previous WarioWare game for Switch, Get It Together, was divisive. While I enjoyed it well enough for what it was, it was a huge change of pace for the series, due to its focus on adding characters with unique abilities that were used to solve puzzles in different ways. For Wario's second microgame outing on Switch, WarioWare: Move It, Nintendo has ditched that to focus purely on microgames that function as quick non sequiturs, requiring you to figure out the goal and quickly execute a solution. And as the name implies, it also reintroduces this in the context of movement-based microgames using the Joy-Con controllers. That's right: waggle is back, baby.
WarioWare isn't exactly trying to hide the connection. The game revolves around posing in different "Forms" exactly like in the Wii game Smooth Moves, so the individual games rely on being in those poses as a starting point. The story revolves around Wario and his friends visiting a tropical island and being given Form Stones, which are said to be good luck. After getting frustrated that these stones aren't valuable gems and tossing them away, Wario goes through some misadventures on his way to discovering the Form Stones are, in fact and just as he was told, good luck. If he wants to have a good time on this island, he has to play along.
It's a metaphor, you see. Like Wario, you really need to play Move It on its own terms, adopting these silly poses and playing along, or none of it works. While you could conceivably cheat your way through and get by with wagging your hands, most of the games seem cleverly built around the poses in ways that only feel intuitive if you're actually playing by the rules. Also, if you're just going to cheat your way through, what would even be the point?
For example, the most basic pose is called Choo Choo, in which you hold your forearms out perpendicular to your body. This can have obvious applications, like pumping your arms in a circular motion like a train to make your Wario train cross a stretch of track, to less obvious ones like alternating strokes like a speed skater. Another pose has you hold one arm up near your ear and the other on your hip, which then gets transmogrified into towel-wiping a turtle shell that looks suspiciously like a teenage ninja. Another, in which you place one hand behind you and one in front of your face, can be used to peck worms from the ground as a bird, or to wag your raccoon tail to fly in an homage to Super Mario Bros 3.
Less intuitive than the Forms, though, is how you're supposed to actually hold the controller. Rather than palm it in the way you normally would hold a Joy-Con, we were told to essentially turn it around, giving our trigger finger access to the LR or ZR buttons while also able to reach the little-used SL and SR buttons. If you don't immediately recognize those names, it's because you hardly ever see them referenced, but they're the two nubby buttons on the interior side of the Joy-Con, which are usually covered when attached to a Switch. I eventually got used to the position, but when starting a new microgame I would often need some trial-and-error time to figure out how to reconcile the new Form position with how I was supposed to hold the Joy-Con in my hand. The game wouldn't start until I held the controllers in the right position, which would have the side-effect of sometimes breaking the intended frenetic pace of microgames.
And this being a WarioWare game, of course, there's no shortage of uproarious gross-out humor. The squat position, on top of providing a decent workout, is used to write things with your butt and stamp papers with your butt, and that's after the raccoon tail microgame has you shaking your butt to fly. Lots of butts, is my point. Like any party game, this is aimed at making you do silly things in front of your friends. I couldn't tell from my group demo how it would feel to do these things alone, but it does seem like you'd be missing a large part of the appeal.
And since group dynamics seem key to the experience, each of the modes was built with multiplayer in mind. A Story mode takes you through randomized assortments of games with boss fights like usual, but when playing with two or more players, you both alternate microgame challenges and and take part in co-op challenges. If one player fails out of a challenge, the other can swoop in for a save by pulling it off, which prevents the failure from blowing a pip of health. And sometimes, the games are just tiring to pull off, so it's nice to have the break provided by swapping microgame duties.
A separate Party mode is even more pointedly aimed at multiplayer, turning you into pieces on a game board. Like the regular game, you take part in randomized challenges, but these are made to be competitive--like a game of drawing straws but with nose hairs. The winner of each round gets to roll the dice and move their piece forward, and whoever has the most points when the first player crosses the goal line is the winner. That said, winning is far from the point here. The spaces you land on are chaotic, with effects like moving all the pieces to your current location or even spreading your points total among all other players. The effects seemed too randomized to be truly competitive in skill or strategy, so it's more of a thin framework through which to present the microgame frenzy.
One element that warrants mentioning is Wario's voice. As fans know, Charles Martinet recently stepped away from voicing the iconic characters he has become known for like Mario, Luigi, and Wario. Nintendo's upcoming slate of games no longer has his voice, instead turning to other voice actors who have not yet been identified. Having played some Super Mario Bros. Wonder, I came away feeling that the change didn't impact Mario too much. Martinet had developed his trademark "wah"s and "wahoo"s, but a soundalike did an adequate job. The difference with Wario, on the other hand, is much more noticeable in WarioWare: Move It, mostly because he just talks so much more. The opening cutscene included full sentences of dialogue, and while the new voice maintained Wario's portrayal as a growly, greedy little goblin of a man, the change was noticeable. It can't be helped, but it was mildly distracting.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same. WarioWare: Move It Is a new microgame collection, but more specifically, it's a very direct sequel to Smooth Moves. That game was made when Nintendo was riding high on the success of the Wii and putting motion controls into its various franchises, and it works as a WarioWare gimmick well enough. But that also means it's an homage to an era of motion-based controls that lent themselves to party games, which haven't necessarily aged as well as the more traditional frantic microgames compiled in WarioWare Gold. Still, Nintendo seems keen to recapture the party game magic, and maybe Wario's unique brand of gonzo humor and fast action can bring it back.