Short, but stylized, Wario Land: Shake It! is a fun throwback to the days of nostalgic 2-D puzzle platformers.
Wario Land: Shake It! begins with the avaricious anti-hero Wario simply hanging out at his expensive hideaway, living it up with his mounds and mounds of treasure. Wario is spontaneously enlisted by local pirate Captain Syrup, who has the power of a magical globe which is said to house the fabled Shake Dimension. Before he can journey to the Shake Dimension for more treasure, an odd little sprite named Merfle appears, begging for Wario to rescue the leader of the Merfles, Queen Merelda, from the clutches of the Shake King. To be expected, Wario could care less, until Merfle describes the Bottomless Coin Sack, which is said to possess infinite coins as long as the user shakes it. Eager to claim the Bottomless Coin Sack for himself, Wario travels through the Shake Dimension to stop the Shake King and save Princess Merelda, all while gathering as much loot as possible. The story is slim, yes, but Wario has such a clever personality that the story is able to hold up, albeit in a simple way. Don't expect a ton of depth; just sit back and watch Wario collect coins.
Wario Land: Shake It! controls with the Wii Remote horizontally. The player uses the D-Pad to move Wario, the 2 button to jump, and the 1 button to ram against enemies or obstacles. Wario can also grab stunned enemies or money sacks, and by shaking the Wii Remote, can earn health or coins respectively. By shaking the Wii Remote without an enemy or item, Wario can punch the ground to activate environmental objects or simply daze enemies. There are plenty more moves, many of which must be used in tandem to get the best results. These controls are very simple, but they work pretty well. The only serious issue is the shake commands themselves; they feel tacked-on. The game is incredibly competent on its own, but having to shake up every coin sack you see can get boring (and tiring). The design is oddly reminiscent of older handheld titles, which makes the motion controls feel even more unnecessary. It's a prime example of putting motion controls where they really don't belong. It makes Wario Land: Shake It! live up to its premise, but ultimately feels unneeded.
The game is divided into different levels, each with a trapped Merfle at the end. The goal of each stage is to traverse through the levels (usually running to the right) find the trapped Merfle and shake its prison till it breaks. After releasing the Merfle, Wario is put on high-alert, and he must run back to the beginning of the level before time runs out. Fortunately, the Merfle will direct Wario to the beginning of each stage with a useful arrow. This adds some urgency to the whole game, letting the player rely on fast-paced platforming instead of simply gathering treasure. It's a nice inclusion and can offer monetary rewards for Wario in the long run.
Wario can also use a variety of environmental objects to traverse throughout the Shake Dimension like the Max Fastostity Dasherator to speed up and break barriers, fire critters to blast through fire barriers, or simply jumping on enemies for an extra jump boost. The overall stage designs are superb; many of which require some thought or environment manipulation, or even using enemies' skills against them to get the prize. They can get frustrating at times, and having to go back to a certain spot because you missed a jump can be aggravating. However, once you successfully complete a puzzle or find a treasure, the entire ordeal proves rewarding. Wario Land: Shake It! proves to have some great level design worth exploring, and the reflex-testing challenges and clever puzzles really show the best that the modern side-scroller can do.
Quite possibly the biggest problem with Wario Land: Shake It! is the length. This is a short, short game. Completing all five worlds can last barely five hours. The game does possess some replay value in finding all of the treasures in each stage, completing each stage's Achievement-like Missions, or finding the many secrets spread throughout, but it would've been much better to have some more levels altogether. That being said, the game is very fun to play. Its accessibility and clever integration of puzzles and platforming must be commended, and the end result is a great combination that proves challenging and rewarding. It's just a shame that it doesn't last nearly as long as you'd expect.
It must be said that Wario Land: Shake It! is a great-looking Wii game not due to its technical abilities, but its creative ones. The entire game runs in a kooky cartoon animation design, completely hand-drawn, with Wario's animations characterized incredibly well. The opening cinematic is in a wild anime design, cute floating creatures and all, and really opens the game with style. Everything just seems to move so smoothly and fluidly. In-game, Wario has plenty of character, and his animations are full-on anime style, similar to those seen in comedy anime to be specific. It's hilarious to watch and manages to show off some creative use of the Wii's graphics capabilities. However, the enemy designs are overused and don't express nearly as much creativity as the rest of the game's characters. The bosses, on the other hand, are clever and extremely well designed, all while adding in their own variety of weirdness in between. Sound-wise, the game has some remarkably good level themes, many of which are very catchy. Also, the music changes up when running back to the start of the level. The voice acting is minimal, but hearing Wario sound off at victory only serves to show off his superbly designed character. The presentation is where Wario Land: Shake It! truly shines. From its incredibly fluid and stylistic design to its catchy level themes, Shake It! captures the wackiness of Wario's world.
+ Excellent graphic design
+ Solid and accessible controls
+ Clever puzzles are challenging, but rewarding
+ Lots of missions and treasures
- "Shake" controls feel tacked-on
- Puzzles can be frustrating at times
- Very, very short
Wario Land: Shake It! is a fun little side-scroller with plenty of strong level design and beautiful graphics, but its short length and tacked-on motion controls seriously hurt what could've been a must-have Wii title. The game's cartoony, anime-style graphic design is some of the best on Wii, proving to be entertaining and stylized all at once. The overall level construction is challenging and uses Wario's skillset remarkably well. Earning a treasure after a complex, reflex-testing trial is incredibly rewarding. However, the game just doesn't have much meat on its bones, and once you really start to enjoy the challenge of finding treasure through puzzles and platforming, the game's slim Story Mode ends. The "shake" controls also feel unneeded and gimmicky, despite the game's grandiose emphasis on them. It's admirable of Nintendo and Good-Feel to return to Wario's roots; their result is a cleverly designed game with plenty of style that just seems to suffer from its own ideas too much. Wario Land: Shake It! is a very fun and very good-looking game, but you're bound to wish that it was longer.